Suicide is a bigger killer than car crashes, according to an alarming new study.
The number of people dying from suicide has drastically increased, while car accident deaths haven lessened, making suicide the leading cause of injury death.
Suicides via falls or poisoning have risen significantly and experts fear there could be en more going unrecognised, specifically in cases of overdose.
‘Suicides are terribly under-counted,’ said Ian Rockett, author of the study, published on Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health.
‘I think the problem is much worse than official data would lead us to believe. We have a situation that has gotten out of hand.‘
He added that his goal is to see the same attention paid to other injuries as has been paid to traffic injuries.
The results were compiled using National Centre for Health Statistics data gathered from 2000 to 2009.
Researchers noted a 25 per cent decrease in car accident deaths, medicalxpress.com reported, while deaths from falls rose 71 per cent, from poisoning 128 per cent and from suicide 15 per cent.
Higher automobile standards were credited for the traffic deaths drop, with harsher penalties for underage drinking and failing to wear seat belts named as contributing factors.
Previous research has suggested that suicide rates go up during recessions and times of economic crisis.
‘Economic problems can impact how people feel about themselves and their futures as well as their relationships with family and friends,’ Feijun Luo of CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention told Bloomberg.
‘Prevention strategies can focus on individuals, families, neighborhoods or entire communities to reduce risk factors.’
The shift makes suicide the most frequent cause of injury deaths, followed by car crashes, poisoning, falls and murder.
The study also looked at gender and race, concluding that fewer women die from the top four causes than men, while Hispanics have fewer car crashes and suicides than whites but a higher murder rate.
In 2009, more than 37,000 Americans took their own lives, a number that the government and private groups such as Facebook are fighting to lower.
A suicide prevention programme is being launched under the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, backed by $56 million of federal money.
The Act was signed by George Bush in 2004, in memory of suicide-victim Garrett, son of former U.S. Senator Gordon Smith.
Speaking at a September 10 news conference Smith said: ‘Our goal is, in the next five years, we will save 20,000 human lives.
‘This issue touches nearly every family. It is something we can do something about. It’s the work of angels.’
Lanny Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, said while much is known about how to prevent suicides there are ‘centuries of stigmatic attitudes‘ that need to be overcome.
‘Both global and national increases in the number and rate of suicides should concern all of us,’ he added, pushing for a ‘collaborative effort to turn these many lives from despair and hopelessness to ones of meaning and brighter futures’.