The suicide rate among men and women ages 18 to 54 years fell 6 percent since 1990. In 1990-92, the rate was approximately 15 out of every 100,000 adults. It was down to about 14 out of 100,000 in 2000-02. At the same time, 3,000 out of every 100,000 people reported that they had suicidal thoughts, and 500 of every 100,000 actually attempt suicide. These numbers come from National Comorbidity Surveys from 1990-92 and 2001-03.

Possible reasons for the study’s findings are that suicide-related behaviors would have increased instead of remaining static without treatments that have successfully lowered completed suicides, or that new treatments are up dramatically, but the pain remains.

But Ronald Kessler, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, rejects these theories, explaining that most patients receive inadequate treatment and that increased treatment is too late or ineffective.

To reduce suicidal behavior, Kessler and his colleagues want to see improvements in the quality of care and in letting suicidal people know help is out there for them. He characterizes available treatments as a “hodge podge,” varying widely among primary care physicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists, although guidelines admittedly exist.

Kessler says that although advocate groups and celebrities encourage people to seek help, there is still much work to be done in the fight against suicide.