Suicide is 10th Leading Cause of Death in U.S.; Someone Commits Suicide Every 14 Minutes

Lighthouse Network’s Dr. Karl BenzioSays Mental Illness is a Risk Factor for Suicide, But Friends and Family Can Help
May 12, 2014

Philadelphia, PA—Every 14 minutes, someone in the United States chooses to end his or her life—105 lives every day. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America, and a main risk factor for suicide is struggling with mental illness.

May is National Mental Illness Awareness Month, and Dr. Karl Benzio, founder, executive director and a psychiatrist at the Lighthouse Network, an addiction and mental health counseling helpline, says that many suicides can be prevented with intervention from friends and family along with the right treatment and counseling options.

Benzio notes that the two biggest risk factors for suicide are depression and addictions, two very treatable issues. Unfortunately, most people struggle in understanding the Behavioral Health system in order to receive Christian care. Benzio started Lighthouse Network to be the ‘Good Samaritan,’ helping at-risk individuals and their families find excellent Christian and medical care.

“Many who have committed suicide or attempted to take their own life see no way out of the pain, depression and hopelessness they are feeling,” Benzio said. “Counseling and treatment CAN help, especially treatment options with a Christian and biblical focus. For example, the Bible is full of hope, as evidenced in verses such as Jeremiah 29:11: ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ When we discover, acknowledge and treat mental issues and mental illness, we have a greater chance of preventing suicide from happening, and restoring hope for our loved ones.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2010, 38,364 suicides were reported. In that year, someone in the country died by suicide every 13.7 minutes. Benzio notes, however, that this number may actually be much higher.

“There is a well-supported belief that suicides are underreported by as much as four to twelve times,” Benzio says. “Even if we take the conservative estimate that they are underreported by five times, this means suicide would become the second-leading cause of death in the United States, assuming cancer deaths are broken down into individual types of cancer. This alone is an astounding reality and underscores just how many Americans are affected by suicide in some way.”

Benzio explains that this underreporting includes passive suicides, defined as situations in which people stop wanting to live and, as a result, may stop taking medications such as heart pills or insulin. The death might be noted as a heart attack but in reality is a passive suicide.

Risk factors for suicide include struggling with a mental disorder such as depression or bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder, alcohol or substance abuse or dependence, schizophrenia, borderline or antisocial personality disorder, conduct disorder, psychotic disorders, anxiety disorders, or impulsivity and aggression. The risk factors can be heightened for those who deal with two or more of these.

Also at risk are those who have attempted suicide before, have a family history of suicide, or have a serious medical condition and/or pain. Environmental factors also play a part, from a highly stressful life event such as losing someone to financial loss or trouble with the law. Prolonged stress due to adversities such as unemployment, relationship conflicts, harassment or bullying can also figure into suicide.

Benzio shared additional facts about the mental disorders that can sometimes—but not always—contribute to suicide:

  • 9 percent of adults will struggle with significant depression this year—13.4 percent of females and 6.7 percent of males.
  • 17 percent of adults will experience a major depression in their lifetime; 28 percent will experience a minor depression.
  • Depression is the number one disease burden for women.

He added that one of the most important ways friends and family can help a suicidal loved one is to know the warning signs, such as these shared by the CDC:

  • Talking about wanting to kill themselves, or saying they wish they were dead
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as hoarding medicine or buying a gun
  • Talking about a specific suicide plan
  • Feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Feeling trapped, desperate or needing to escape from an intolerable situation
  • Having the feeling of being a burden to others
  • Feeling humiliated
  • Having intense anxiety and/or panic attacks
  • Losing interest in things, or losing the ability to experience pleasure
  • Insomnia
  • Becoming socially isolated and withdrawn from friends, family, and others
  • Acting irritable or agitated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge for being victimized or rejected

Lighthouse Network offers resources and help for those struggling with suicidal thoughts as well as for friends and family members who believe a loved one is struggling. The free Lighthouse Life Change Helpline is available 24 hours a day at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE.

For the past 65 years, Mental Health America and its affiliates across the country have led the observance of May as Mental Health Month. The theme for 2014 is “Mind Your Health” in an effort to tie mental health to physical health and educate the public about ways the mind and body interact.

Lighthouse Networkworks to guide struggling people through storms to achieve peace and find answers for those who have a hard time defining their problems. Lighthouse Network also offers the free, 24-hour Lighthouse Life Change Helpline toll-free at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE.

Lighthouse Network’s web site,,provides information to those struggling to find help for their addiction problems, as well as to family members searching for help for a loved one. Topics addressed include alcohol abuse, addictions, and other mental health or life management issues.

Lighthouse Network offers several resources for those struggling with addiction and their families, such as Stepping Stones, a free daily devotional for managing life’s stressors and storms and equipping readers with healthy decision-making skills. Visit to read the devotionals and sign up to receive them daily via email.

For more information on Lighthouse Network, visit or call the Lighthouse Life Change Helpline toll-free at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE.

To schedule interviews with Dr. Karl Benzio at Lighthouse Network, contact Deborah Hamilton at, 215-815-7716 or 610-584-1096.

Lighthouse Network is a Christian-based, non-profit organization that offers an addiction and mental health counseling helpline providing treatment options and resources to equip people and organizations with the skills necessary to shine God’s glory to the world, stand strong on a solid foundation in the storms of their own lives, and provide guidance and safety to others experiencing stormy times, thus impacting their lives, their families and the world.

Dr. Karl Benzio, M.D. is the founder and executive director of Lighthouse Network. With a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, Benzio went on to medical school and then specialized in psychiatry. His experiences include teaching pastors, ministry leaders and students counseling and conflict resolution skills in Uganda and Kenya; leading a behavioral health team into post-Hussein Iraq to equip health care specialists with treatment and assessment skills and successfully testifying for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives opposing legislation for Plan B contraception administration and for President George Bush’s Council on Bioethics regarding Right of Conscience. He is currently a member of Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council. His specialties include Adolescents, Addictions, Decision-Making, Infusing Spirituality into Practical Treatment Modalities and the Ramifications of Decision-Making on Social Policy.


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