The analysis found that slightly more than half of people who had committed suicide did not have any known mental health condition. But other problems — such as the loss of a relationship, financial setbacks, substance abuse and eviction — were common precursors, both among those who had a mental health diagnosis and those who did not.
Other studies have found much higher rates of mental health disorders among people at high risk of suicide, experts noted.
“The reason most suicide decedents don’t have a known mental disorder is that they were never diagnosed, not that they didn’t have one,” said Dr. David Brent, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburg. “The differences in the prevalence of life stressors was very small, so it is hard to attribute suicide to life stress per se.”
Access to guns can make it more likely that an impulsive or intoxicated person will attempt suicide even if he or she has no clear mental health problem, Dr. Brent added.
“We have worked really hard to explain to the public that suicide is not simply a matter of too much stress, but that it involves the identification and treatment of mental disorders as one important component,” he said.
In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Dr. Schuchat and Deborah Stone, the lead author of the C.D.C. analysis, stressed that other factors were critical to preventing suicide.
Effective strategies, she said, included teaching coping and problem-solving skills for those at risk, establishing more social “connectedness,” as well as safe storage of pills and guns.
[If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of additional resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.]