The Third-Leading Cause of Death for 15 to 24-Year-Olds


This week was National Suicide Prevention Week, and the Level 1 Trauma Center at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas had a special focus on suicide prevention to reduce injury.

On average, one person dies by suicide every 16 minutes, and suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-old Americans.

A study published in 2009 in the American Journal of Public Health showed that suicide passed motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death by injury. In addition, non-fatal, self-inflicted injuries also are a major concern. In 2011, 487,700 people were treated in emergency departments for self-inflicted injuries.

“Individuals who attempt suicide and don’t succeed are at risk for injury ranging from broken bones to brain damage to organ failure,” said Ann Marie Warren, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist at Baylor Dallas. “In addition, people who survive often have depression and other mental health problems.”

Suicide affects everyone, but some groups are at a higher risk than others. According to The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, suicide among males is four times higher than among females and represents 79 percent of all U.S. suicide deaths. However, females are more likely than males to have had suicidal thoughts, and three times more women than men report attempting suicide.

Several factors can put a person at risk for attempting or committing suicide.

“Some of the risk factors for suicide include having an underlying mood disorder, such as major depressive disorder or schizophrenia, impulsiveness, feelings of hopelessness, having had a major physical illness, financial stress, or having a loss of an important relationship,” Dr. Warren said.

For individuals who are struggling, creating a circle of trust is paramount. The emotional support of a friend, loved one, or a peer can really make a difference during difficult moments. Using a support network creates a better coping mechanism for all the different emotions a person can go through during a crisis.

Social media also has become a place for people to share how they are feeling and to hear and read stories of others who feel the same way. Connecting to people through technology lets people know that, in this big and at times daunting world, they are not alone.

“The best thing someone can do if they are having thoughts of self-harm is to reach out for help,” Dr. Warren said. “The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) provides free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for anyone in crisis.”

To raise awareness for National Suicide Prevention Week, the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention has laid out a plan of action with the Suicide Prevention Resource Center that guides the development of various programs and seeks to bring about social change.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also encourages people to learn the warning signs of suicide and get involved in community efforts to develop and test prevention strategies.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, or thinking about suicide, we encourage you to call 1-800-273-TALK to find out what lifeline resources are in your area.

More information about depression and suicide prevention is posted in Baylor’s TraumaSTAT Facebook group, which is dedicated to the prevention of injury and to the treatment of trauma. TraumaSTAT is supported by team members of the Level 1 Trauma Center at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas including trauma surgeons, nurses, therapists, psychologists, clinical researchers and injury prevention educators.

About the author

Dr. Ann Marie Warren
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Dr. Warren is a clinical psychologist at Baylor Dallas' Level 1 Trauma Center. She provides psychological intervention for patients who sustain severe injuries and is the principal investigator for research that focuses on how trauma impacts patients.

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The Third-Leading Cause of Death for 15 to 24-Year-Olds