From Durkheim to Kraepelin, suicide has been recognized as a social and psychiatric ill. Among clinical scientists in the United States, interest in suicide grew substantially in the 1980's as rates among older adults increased. However, major advances in the science of mental health seem unlikely to reduce the prevalence of suicide as long as case recognition at the community level continues to be problematic. Public policy promoted to reduce social risk factors coupled with greater attention to psychopathology is the logical outgrowth from the most recent data. Differences in suicide rates by nation add weight to the argument.