Yesterday on The PediaBlog, we looked at the rising death-toll from mostly preventable accidents in children and teenagers. Traffic accidents, firearm violence, and opioid overdoses are causes we see and hear about all-too-often when we find enough courage to open a newspaper or tune-in to the evening news. Last week, while Americans were transfixed on two celebrity suicides, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published the most recent statistics on suicide in the United States. Among some of the startling lowlights from data collected by the CDC between 1999 and 2016:
> In 2016, nearly 45,000 persons age 10 or older died by suicide.
> Suicide is now the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. and is one of just three causes that are rising. (The other two are Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdoses.)
> From 1999 to 2016, nearly every state (49 of 50) saw increases in rates of suicide. (Nevada’s usually high rate actually fell 1%.)
> Nationally, suicide rates increased by 25%. Delaware saw the smallest increase (6%) and North Dakota experienced the biggest (57%). Suicide rates jumped by more than 30% in twenty-five states, including Pennsylvania (34.3%).
> Men accounted for 3 out of 4 suicides.
> Suicides were highest in non-Hispanic whites.
> The age group with the highest suicide rate was 45-65 years old.
> A firearm was used in about half of suicide deaths during the this period.
> More than half (54%) of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.
> The most common factors contributing to suicide among people with and without known mental health conditions include relationship problem (42%), crisis in the past or upcoming 2 weeks (29%), problematic substance abuse (28%), physical health problem (22%), job/financial problem (16%), criminal/legal problem (9%), and loss of housing (4%).
Benedict Carey provides some perspective on this public health crisis:
Suicide rates have waxed and waned over the country’s history and tend to reach highs in hard times. In 1932, during the Great Depression, the rate was 22 per 100,000, among the highest in modern history. The rate in the new C.D.C. data was 15.4 per 100,000.
The past three decades have presented a morbid puzzle. Rates have risen steadily in most age and ethnic groups, even as rates of psychiatric treatment and diagnosis have also greatly increased.
The reasons are many, experts sid. The biggest increases have been in states like Oklahoma, Montana and Wyoming where gun ownership, drug use and economic hardship are common. Among middle-aged people across the country, marriage rates have declined, and social isolation has increased.
The CDC reminds everyone of suicide’s 12 warning signs…
1. Feeling like a burden
2. Being isolated
3. Increased anxiety
4. Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
5. Increased substance use
6. Looking for a way to access lethal means
7. Increased anger or rage
8. Extreme mood swings
9. Expressing hopelessness
10. Sleeping too little or too much
11. Talking or posting about wanting to die
12. Making plans for suicide
… and the 5 things everyone can do to prevent one.
1. Ask someone you are worried about if they’re thinking about suicide. [Asking about suicide does not increase the risk.]
2. Keep them safe. Reduce access to lethal means for those at risk.
3. Be there with them. Listen to what they need.
4. Help them connect with ongoing support like the Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).
5. Follow up to see how they’re doing.
If you need help for yourself or someone else, please contact the
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Talk: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)