Preventing Suicide Among Young Adults: Statistics and StrategiesReading Time: 6 minutes
Close to half of young adults struggle with their mental health, and more than a third of that group don’t receive the treatment they need. Moreover, at one point during the past two years, 25.5 percent of young adults (ages 18–24) seriously considered suicide. Yet only about 4 in 10 adults who attempt suicide receive mental healthcare.
These mental health and suicide statistics underline the vital importance of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month 2022 in September. During this month, mental health organizations, companies, and individual providers work together for suicide prevention. That includes preventing suicide among young adults—one of the most at-risk demographics.
Events and campaigns to raise awareness and funds will take place throughout the month, with a focus on World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10 and Suicide Prevention Week, September 4–10.
New Research on Suicide and Depression in Young Adults
Many young adults continue to struggle with the repercussions of the pandemic, resulting in high levels of depression, loneliness, anxiety, and trauma. In fact, young adults experience mental health challenges at higher rates than any other age group.
Even before the pandemic, suicide statistics for young adults were alarming. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the suicide rate for ages 20–24 has reached its highest point since 2000, rising 57.4 percent over the last decade. Correspondingly, research shows a 71 percent increase in serious psychological distress among young adults over the past 20 years.
Additionally, 2022 data from Mental Health America (MHA) shows that 5 percent of adults experience serious suicidal thoughts. That’s more than 11.4 million people around the country—an increase of 664,000 individuals from last year’s data set. MHA report that the national rate of adults experiencing suicidal ideation has increased every year since 2011.
Furthermore, 10 percent of college students seriously consider attempting suicide, and 1,100 college students die by suicide each year. Moreover, for specific ethnic and cultural groups, rates of suicide are even higher. For American Indian and Alaska Native youth, the rate of suicide is 2.5 times higher than that of their peers. Asian American and LGBTQ young adults also have disproportionately high rates of depression and suicide.
Researchers theorize that a variety of factors are contributing to this dramatic rise in young adult suicide. These include social media overuse, cyberbullying, poor sleep habits, concerns about the future of the country and the planet, and a decline in the amount of time this age group spends face-to-face with friends.
TWLOHA and Newport Partner to Help Prevent Suicide Among Young Adults
To help support young people around the country, Newport is partnering for the sixth year in a row with To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA). TWLOHA is a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. The TWLOHA mission statement includes the commitment “to encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery.” Newport’s partnership with TWLOHA aims to rally supporters across the country and the globe to take action to reverse the rising rate of suicide among young adults and teens.
The theme of TWLOHA’s 2022 suicide awareness campaign is “You Are Not a Burden.” As the campaign poetically states, “Your truth, your fears, your pain, and your doubts do not make you a burden—they make you human.” The goal of the campaign is to raise $250,000 to provide scholarships for treatment and recovery and to expand the resources in the organization’s FIND HELP Tool. To donate or become a fundraiser, visit the campaign page.
We are grateful for all that TWLOHA does to raise awareness, promote prevention, and erase the stigma of suicide. Remaining idle is not an option when so many are struggling with thoughts of self-harm and hopelessness amplified by the pandemic. Newport is proud to play a part in helping people access much-needed treatment so that they can see the importance of living another day.
CEO, Newport Healthcare
10 Risk Factors for Suicide Among Young Adults
A specific set of factors can contribute to the risk of young adult suicide. Risk factors do not cause suicide, but they contribute to a person’s likelihood of making a suicide attempt.
It’s not only depression and suicide that are linked. Anxiety and suicide are also closely related, as anxiety disorders can cause intense distress and hopelessness, leading to suicidal ideation and attempts. In addition, specific events and circumstances can increase the risk of suicide in young adults.
The top reasons for suicide among young adults include the following:
- Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders
- A history of substance abuse
- Exposure to violence, abuse, or other trauma, either chronic or acute
- Social isolation and loneliness
- Losing a family member through death or divorce
- Financial or job loss
- Conflict within relationships
- Starting or changing psychotropic medications
- Feeling stigmatized
- Lack of a support system.
Is someone you know struggling? You might ask them …
- What kinds of things do you obsess over?
- How do you feel about the future?
- Have you ever thought about suicide?
- How can we support each other better?
- Tell me how you’re really doing.
Suicide Warning Signs and How to Take Action
With so many young adults struggling with their mental health, family members and loved ones need to be particularly vigilant. Here are some of the warning signs of depression and suicidal ideation.
- Talking or posting on social media about suicide or wanting to die
- Sharing that they are feeling a sense of hopelessness or being trapped
- Increasing use of drugs and/or alcohol
- Losing or gaining weight; changes in eating habits
- Extreme changes in sleep habits; insomnia or sleeping too much
- Gathering drugs, sharp objects, firearms, or other items that could be used to commit suicide or self-harm
- Withdrawing from friends and family members
- Doing online searches for methods of committing suicide
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye, and giving away possessions they care about
- Trouble concentrating at work and/or a drop in academic performance
- Unexplained physical issues such as headaches and stomachaches
- Risk-taking or self-destructive behavior
- Suddenly becoming calm or cheerful after a long period of being depressed and sad.
If you see any of these signs, take the following actions:
- Do not leave the person alone.
- Remove anything that could be used in a suicide attempt, including ﬁrearms, alcohol, drugs, razors, or other sharp objects.
- Call the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
In addition, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline runs a network of suicide hotline crisis centers. Moreover, they provide information about taking suicide precautions.
Suicide Prevention in Young Adults: Accessing Effective Mental Health Treatment
If a young person is at risk of suicide, it’s vital that they receive care immediately, at an ER or from whatever provider is available. When the immediate crisis is averted, the next step in finding the right treatment for suicidal young adults is a comprehensive assessment to uncover the underlying mental health issue. That might be anxiety, depression, trauma, or another disorder.
Once a diagnosis is determined, a mental health professional can support a young adult and their family in identifying the right level of care. Treatment options for depression and suicide risk include weekly therapy, outpatient treatment, and residential care. The severity of the diagnosis will inform what type of treatment a young adult needs in order to achieve long-term healing.
Treatment for Suicide and Depression and Anxiety at Newport Institute
At Newport Institute, our treatment for suicidal young adults goes beyond the immediate crisis situation. We support young people to heal the root causes of suicidal ideation and to build resilience and healthy coping skills. Hence, a treatment plan for suicidal ideation addresses the whole person and their
Our integrated approach to care includes the following evidence-based modalities:
- Family therapy to help young adults heal childhood trauma and/or family ruptures while establishing autonomy and making connections outside the family
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to identify self-defeating thoughts and assumptions that make life more difficult
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which provides specific skills like mindfulness and emotional regulation, which can be used right away and become stronger with practice.
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) to support transformation and healing by resolving any initial resistance young adults may have to treatment
- Creative arts therapy, such as art therapy and music therapy, give young adults ways to process their emotions through self-expression
- Adventure therapy, supporting young adults to build trust, mastery, and collaboration skills
- Yoga and mindfulness to promote self-awareness and help bring young adults into the present moment
- Positive coping skills, such as using the breath and reframing negative thinking.
In summary, understanding the causes, warning signs, and risk factors for suicide among young adults can help prevent tragic loss of life. With the support of loved ones and with access to the mental healthcare they need, emerging adults can look forward to a hopeful future.
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