MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Suicide is a problem that is getting worse in the United States. A new study shows that suicide rates have increased in nearly every state. And in half of them, the rise is dramatic. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports.
NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: Every year, tens of thousands of Americans kill themselves.
DEBORAH STONE: It impacts youth. It impacts middle-aged adults, older adults. It impacts people regardless of race, ethnicity.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Deborah Stone is a scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She and her colleagues recently analyzed suicides from 1999 to 2016. They found that in every state but Nevada the suicide rate is up.
STONE: Half of states actually saw rates of suicide increase more than 30 percent.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: The biggest increases were in the central northern states like North Dakota. Its suicide rate went up almost 58 percent. Now, suicide is often associated with a mental health problem like depression. But the researchers say about half of those who killed themselves were not known to have a mental health condition.
STONE: And instead, these folks were suffering from other issues such as relationship problems, substance misuse, physical health problems, job or financial problems.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: The CDC report discusses measures to prevent suicide, including programs for more stable housing and economic support. It also talks about the need to reduce access to, quote, "lethal means." But it does not directly discuss limiting access to guns, the most common method used in suicide. Stone says they didn't separate out guns because the increase in suicide rates is seen across the board.
STONE: So it's not just about firearms. It's also about other methods.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: But nearly half of all people who kill themselves use a firearm. And Mike Anestis says we can't tiptoe around the gun connection. He's a suicide researcher at the University of Southern Mississippi.
MIKE ANESTIS: American suicide is predominantly a firearm issue. And so anytime you want to resolve something that involves firearms, we need to talk about firearms explicitly.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: He wasn't surprised by the study's findings but says a report like this is still really important because it gets the public's attention. Bob Gebbia agrees. He's the head of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
BOB GEBBIA: We need to make our families and communities much more knowledgeable about this.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: So they know the right questions to ask and places to reach out for help. Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR News.
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