A recent article in the Syracuse Post-Standard cited the alarming rise in teen-age suicides and homicides beginning with COVID-19 which has continued to the present.  https://www.syracuse.com/us-news/2023/06/suicides-and-homicides-among-young-americans-jumped-early-in-pandemic-study-says.html
Given other reports on our current mental health crisis, it’s probably a good time to update what we know about suicide.


To begin, an important change which has taken place in suicide discussions is the words that we use to talk about it.  Instead of saying that someone committed suicide,  a better way to express it is to say that the person died by suicide .

While this might seem like a trivial distinction, the change emphasizes the fact that, in most cases, suicide is not a free choice or conscious act. In addition, the traditional expression of committing suicide denotes needless stigma and shame.



To begin, there is no one reason why people die by suicide. The factors which lead to it are complex. In reviewing the data, there are six major reasons which stand out . https://www.psychologytoday.com/…/the-six-reasons…

1) Depression  (e.g. Utter hopelessness)
2) Psychosis  (e.g. Tormented and driven by voices/orders)
3) Impulsivity  (Loss of reasoned control, e.g. from drugs, alcohol, or mania)
4) Unintentional (e.g. Cries for attention/help which are uninformed about the lethality of their method)
5) Accidental  ( e.g. drug overdose or auto erotic asphyxiation)
6) Philosophical  (e.g. a reasoned decision based on a terminal illness)


1) If you have suicidal thoughts, you must be crazy.   Increased understanding and discussions are needed to correct this erroneous notion and to reassure the public that having these kinds of thoughts and impulses from time to time is normal and does not mean that one is seriously emotionally disordered. Updating our Understanding of Suicide | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)
2) Teens are the most vulnerable population for suIcide
Although the suicide rate among trans and gay teens is rising, the most vulnerable groups are adults over the age of 85 and white men age 45-64. Suicide statistics | AFSP,
3) Talking or asking a person about suicide increases the chances that a person will act on it.  This myth, although widely held, is completely false.  In fact, data shows that openly talking about suicide with someone who is struggling actually reduces the likelihood of its happening.  For many, raising the “taboo” issue comes as a relief and opens the door to getting help. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/8-common-myths-about-suicide
4)  Nothing can be done to prevent suicide.  Again, this belief is out of touch with the successes of modern psychiatry and psychotherapy. Medication and counseling are quite effective, although not perfect, in preventing most suicides for those who are in treatment.
5)  Suicide happens without warning.  While many belief that suicides just happen, in fact, when each case is closely examined , warning signs are usually found.  To that end, here are some things to be aware of with anyone who may struggle with depression or other emotional concerns:


Going forward, it is important to understand  some common red flags about persons who contemplate suicide. When trying to assess whether disturbing thoughts or behaviors represent a real problem ( for yourself or a loved one) here are some simple questions to ask.
— How often do suicidal  thoughts or impulses occur, occasionally or persistently ?
— Has a specific plan which includes method , place date and time  been discussed ?
— Has a person’s distressed mood been suddenly become calm or serene ?
— Have personal items been given away to friends?
— Is the emotionally struggling person under medical care for his/her problem ?

(Note Bene: These questions are general in nature . When in doubt about a specific situation, always discuss your concerns with a mental health professional.)


Unfortunately, while increasing public understanding is important ,that alone, is not enough.  As more people have sought out mental health treatment, the inadequacy of our health care system to handle the need has been exposed.  Broader insurtance coverage and greater mental health resources are needed, especially  for low-income populations. https://slate.com/…/after-kate-spades-suicide-people

With more understanding and accepting attitudes regarding of mental health problems, as well as increased mental health resources, tragedies like suicide can be greatly reduced.

Rev. Michael Heath LMHC, Fellow AAPC                                        Fayetteville NY              6 18 2023