eTCTA Header
January 2018 Edition
T ennessee's Suicide Rate Hit Record High in 2016

While suicide rates in Tennessee went up only slightly in 2016, the new figures are the highest recorded in Tennessee in over 35 years of record-keeping and the suicide rate remains above the national average.

The Tennessee Department of Health's Office of Health Statistics reports there were 1,110 recorded suicide deaths in Tennessee in 2016, up from 1,065 the past year (representing a 4% increase). The crude suicide rate went up from 15.6 to 16.2 per 100,000 (representing a 4% increase.)

Firearms remain the most common means of suicide death in Tennessee, accounting for 677, or 61%, of the recorded suicide deaths in 2016. 222, or 20% of the deaths, were hangings or suffocations and 144, or 13% of the deaths, were poisonings or overdoses. All of these proportions are roughly the same as last year's figures.  

Whites account for 79% of the general population of Tennessee but 91% of the suicide deaths. Males are also disproportionately represented, making up 49% of the population but 77% (857) of the suicide deaths recorded in 2016. The ten counties with the highest rates for last year and the ones with the highest five-year average are displayed in the charts accompanying this article.  

For the record, the latest figures from the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) give a national rate of 13.8 per 100,000 as of 2015, with Tennessee's rate that year placing it at 22nd among the states. Nationally, there were 44,193 suicide deaths in the U.S. in 2015, the latest year national data is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This comes out to 122 suicide deaths each day and one death every 13 minutes. Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States and is responsible for 1.6% of all deaths recorded in 2015. Firearms were the leading mode of death, involved in 22,018 suicide deaths, or 50% of the total. The complete set of national figures and state rankings is available via the AAS website (

County suicide numbers and rates for the last ten years are available on the TSPN website (see  

TSPN is planning to use these figures and others as a part of its annual Status of Suicide in Tennessee report, slated for release in late January. Details about this report will be available in a later edition of the TSPN Call to Action.

The 10 counties in Tennessee with the highest
five-year average suicide rate, along with
TSPN regions.
"Suicide and the Health Risks of Lack of Sleep"
A recent blog post published by the Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention (ICRC-S) discusses the potential effects of sleep deprivation on suicide risk.
The link between sleeplessness and poor overall health is well-documented. But several studies have associated a lack of sleep, either due to short sleep duration, sleep deprivation, or chronic nightmares with increased risk of suicidal ideation and/or attempts. Decreased amount of sleep or inability to sleep is a widely recognized warning sign for suicide, especially if contextualized against other behavioral and environmental factors.
See the entire blog post at Our thanks to Michael R. Nadorff, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Director of Clinical Training at Mississippi State University, for his contribution to the blog.
ICRC-S offers in-person and online webinars promoting the latest developments in suicide prevention research and outreach, all from the perspective of public health and injury prevention. More information about ICRC-S is available at the website proper (
Loss Survivor Moment

Sheila Wade contributed the following poem to the March-April 2017 edition of Out of the Shadows , our newsletter for suicide loss survivors. She dedicated it in honor of her brother Darryl Weems (1971-2016).

Dear Brother!

Dear Brother! Think we can erase your memory away?
Oh No! I think we will always relive that terrible day.
Words spoken, texts that were sent
Promises made, obviously meant
I wish you could have broken the spell
That made years of your life a living hell!
Obviously living in misery was not worth the fight
As personal things happening to you just weren't right!
The close calls with death that were taken lightly  
Makes me wonder if those who saw it, were not bothered any slightly?
I cannot allow your memory to be discarded
So I will continue to remember you thru true feelings imparted!

TSPN is actively soliciting your poems, essays, and artwork for future editions of the TSPN Call to Action. These may be sent to us at with the subject line "Newsletter Submission."