About 49,500 people took their own lives last year in the U.S., the highest number ever, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted on Thursday.
Available data suggest that the suicide rate in 2022 – 14.9 deaths for every 100,000 people – is 5 percent higher than the previous record high of 14.2 deaths for every 100,000 people from 2018.
Experts caution that suicide is complicated and that recent increases might be driven by a range of factors, including higher rates of depression and the limited availability of mental health services.
But a main driver is the growing availability of guns, said Jill Harkavy-Friedman, senior vice president of research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Over half of the suicides involved firearms, CDC figures showed.
A recent Johns Hopkins University analysis using preliminary 2022 data revealed that the country's overall gun suicide rate rose 1.6 percent from last year to an all-time high.
"Nine in 10 Americans believe America is facing a mental health crisis. The new suicide death data reported by CDC illustrates why," U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
He added that many people still believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness.
The U.S. launched a national crisis line last year, meaning anyone in the U.S. can dial 988 to reach mental health specialists.
Nearly 5 million calls, texts and online chat messages have been answered through the helpline in the year since its launch, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CNN reported.
(With input from agencies)
(Cover: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. /CFP)