Mississippi’s suicide rate in 2021 reached its highest level in 20 years, based on the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System.
Mississippi’s age-adjusted suicide death rate for 2021 – the rate that controls for differences in population age distribution – was 16.18 deaths per 100,000 people compared to the national rate of 14.04.
“These are someone’s loved ones. Someone’s child. Someone’s sibling. Someone’s spouse or partner,” Meghan Goldbeck, executive director of the Louisiana and Mississippi Chapters of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told Mississippi Today. “Suicide just devastates families, and it’s really horrible.”
The state’s rates remained below 15 deaths from 2016 to 2020. The lowest rate for the state was in 2016 at 12.68, slightly below the national rate of 13.46.
Based on the CDC data, 480 Mississippians took their own lives in 2021 an increase from 410 in 2020. Deaths by suicide increased nationwide, as well, with over 48,000 people taking their lives in 2021 compared to nearly 46,000 the previous year.
Suicide deaths in the state totaled 10,007 years of potential life lost in 2021, according to the CDC.
“In our state, we know we are not immune to the challenges faced by people who wrestle with thoughts of suicide. Yet, we also know we are a community that honors the values of compassion, resilience and the unshakeable belief in brighter tomorrows,” Wendy Bailey, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, told Mississippi Today.
Bailey said the department has a suicide prevention training initiative called “Shatter the Silence.” Training is offered to youth, older adults, military, law enforcement and first responders, postpartum mothers, faith-based youth, faith-based adults, correction officers and general adults.
Trainings vary from topics about stigma related to mental illness, resources to help someone with a mental illness, warning signs for suicide, and what to and not to do when someone has suicidal thoughts.
Over 10,000 people were trained in Shatter the Silence during fiscal year 2023, with two-thirds of participants involved in the youth training.
Bailey said the department wants to bring suicide discussions and resources to the forefront to provide hope for those impacted, for “hope is the lifeline that can save lives.”
Based on separate data from 2020, more than half of Mississippians who died by suicide used firearms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fatal Injury and Violence Data.
Firearms accounted for more than 70% of all suicide deaths across various age groups in the state. The next most common methods were suffocation (including hanging) at about 23% and poisoning (including drug overdose) at nearly 5%.
Mississippians aged 30-34 had the highest numbers of suicides at 47 in 2020. Forty-six people aged 25-29 died by suicide.
According to the CDC’s top 10 Leading Causes of Death for 2020, deaths by suicide in Mississippi were the:
- Third leading cause of death for people ages 15-24 with nearly 75% of deaths by firearms.
- Third leading cause of death for people ages 25-34 with almost three-fifths of deaths resulting in fatalities by firearms.
- Sixth leading cause of death for people ages 35-44 with almost 70% of deaths due to firearms.
- Eighth leading cause of death for people ages 45-54 with over half of suicide deaths resulting in firearms.
Goldbeck said the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and its chapter in Mississippi aim to spread suicide prevention education on risk factors and warning signs across the state.
She said it is necessary to reach people in all demographics because “suicide affects every single on of us.”
In the state, Black individuals’ suicide numbers slightly increased from 70 in 2019 to 73 in 2020. White people experienced a drop from 360 to 333 deaths in 2020.
For American Indians/Alaskan Natives and Asains, the data was recognized as “unstable values,” meaning the number of deaths was less than 20.
“I think we are moving toward a society that is expanding their knowledge about mental health, but it’s really going to take the community coming together for each other,” Goldbeck said.
From the Mississippi Department of Mental Health: If you or someone you love is having thoughts of suicide or mental distress, call or text 988, or chat online at 988lifeline.org. Communications are confidential, and a trained counselor can connect you to resources.