Facts About Depression and Suicide

Suicide Rates

Every seventeen minutes, someone in the United States dies by suicide.

Suicide ranks third among causes of death for Americans under the age of twenty-one, and it is number two for college students.

In 1995, more young people died of suicide than of AIDS, cancer, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, birth defects, and heart disease combined.

Suicide was, according to the World Health Organization, responsible for almost 2 percent of deaths worldwide in 1998, which puts it ahead of war and way ahead of homicide.

Statistics on Depression

Between 20% – 30% of adolescents report symptoms of depression. While depression once was considered an “adult” affliction, the mean age of onset today is 15.

Almost 9 percent of high school students have attempted suicide in the past year.

Early diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders increase the likelihood that the teenager can lead a productive adult life.

Most prevalent adolescent disorders are treatable.  But delivery of treatment is by no means assured.

Schools are the de facto mental health service delivery system for children and adolescents. But the level of services available is poor, and varies widely.  Of 2,000 schools surveyed as part of a study titled, “Treating and Preventing Adolescent Mental Health Disorders, What We Know and What We Don’t Know,” published in 2005, slightly more than half had full-time access to a mental health professional.

Primary-care physicians — who can serve as a gateway to specialized treatment — often are inadequately trained to identify and diagnose mental health problems.  Many physicians expressed low confidence in their abilities to detect mental disorders among adolescents in their care.

Mental Health Terminology: Words Matter

“When a stigmatized group of people such as those with mental  illnesses, is struggling for increased understanding and acceptance, attention to the language used in talking and writing about them is particularly important.”[i]

The general rule is to use person-first language. The basic concept behind person-first language is that the mental health condition (or physical or other condition) is only one aspect of who the person is, not the defining characteristic.

Preferred Language                                                                            Instead of

She is a person who receives help/treatment for mental health or substance use problem or a psychiatric disability

She is a patient

He is a person with a disability

He is disabled/handicapped
She is a child without disabilities

She is normal

He has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder

He is living with bipolar disorder

He is (a) bipolar
She has a mental health problem or challenge

She is a person with lived experience of a mental health condition

She is mentally ill/emotionally disturbed/ psycho/insane/lunatic

He has a brain injury

He is brain damaged
He experiences symptoms of psychosis/He hears voices

He is psychotic

She has an intellectual disability

She is mentally retarded
He has autism

He is autistic

Is receiving mental health services

Mental health patient/case

Attempted suicide
Died by suicide

Unsuccessful suicide
Committed suicide

A student receiving special education services

Special education student

Person with substance use disorder
Person experiencing alcohol/drug problem

Addict, abuser, junkie

Experiencing, or being treated for, or has a diagnosis of, or a history of, mental illness

Suffering with, or a victim of, a mental illness


[i] Wahl, O.F. 1998. People first language matters. The Bell (newsletter of Mental Health America, formerly the National Mental Health Association).


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