Means restriction works in part because suicide is often an unplanned act. The time between the onset of a suicidal impulse and the moment a person acts on that impulse can be as short as five minutes. A person who dies by suicide has traditionally been portrayed as someone at the end of a long and tortured battle with depression, but that is not usually the case. Although having a mental illness is a strong predictor of suicide risk, most people with mental illness Never attempt to commit suicide.
Reducing access to means allows time for the impulse to pass, and the person may never want to try again. A study found that only about 7% of people who have attempted suicide commit suicide within five years.
SUICIDES ARE NOT UNIFORMLY distributed all over the world. According to the latest estimates from the World Health Organization, almost 80 percent suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries, where most of the world’s population lives, but high-income countries tend to have higher suicide rates. The general drop in suicides around the world also hides pockets of the world where rates are rising – countries like Zimbabwe, Jamaica, South Korea and Cameroon.
One high-income country is an exception to the downward trend: the United States. Although the rates in the country decreases throughout the 1990s, around the turn of the century, they began to rise again. Between 2000 and 2018, the suicide rate jumped 35 percent. Suicide is the second highest cause of death in young Americans aged 10 to 14 and 20 to 35.
You might shout: the answer is guns! And you would be mostly right. In the United States, more than half of all firearm deaths are suicides. In 2021 alone, more than 26,000 people deaths by suicide using a firearm, out of just over 48,000 total recorded suicide deaths. Research found that states with higher rates of home gun ownership also have significantly higher suicide rates. According to a paper 2022 looking at the country’s rising suicide rate.
Gun-related suicides are “completely preventable”, says Alexis Palfreyman, an honorary fellow at University College London who studies mental health, suicidology, violence and sexual and reproductive health and rights. She cites Brazil, which enacted restrictions on firearms in 2003, including making it illegal to carry or possess an unregistered firearm, raising the minimum purchase age to 25, and instituting background checks for purchase. This led to a 27 percent reduction in firearm suicides. “It’s such a shame that we don’t seem to think it’s worth saving lives to do it,” Palfreyman says of the United States.
Other factors may contribute to rising suicide rates in the United States, including structural racismfinancial strains (driven by income inequality, personal debtAnd unemploymentto name a few problems), the opiate epidemicand a societal structure that presents significant social isolation. Overall, mental health disorders are on the rise in the United States, which may also help explain the trend. But with guns implicated in more than half of suicides, it’s impossible to deny that guns play an outsized role.