Suicide on the rise

  • Published
  • By Jaclyn Urmey
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing Director of Psychological Health

The nation has been shaken very recently by two celebrity suicides. Sadly, these deaths are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to suicides across the country over the past several years. I’m sure many can name even more celebrities they know who have chosen to die this way, as well as friends and family who are not celebrities.


The increase in suicides in the US has been termed a trend by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this month. According to the CDC’s press release dated June 7, 2018, almost 45,000 citizens age 10 or older succeeded in taken their own lives in 2016 alone. It is currently the 10th leading cause of death. Rates increased in all but Nevada. Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Vermont have suicide rates that increased over 40% in the past 15 years. New Jersey increased 19%, New York increased 29%, and Pennsylvania increased 34%. More than half of those who committed suicide did not have a known mental health diagnosis. Consistent influences include relationship problems, substance misuse, employment, financial, legal, housing and physical health issues. A great number of suicides occurring two weeks after the onset of a stressor or within two weeks of anticipating a stressor. Most used firearms to facilitate their own deaths.


Suicide hotline calls increased substantially following the news of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade’s suicides. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline acknowledged a 65% increase in calls at their 150+ crisis centers throughout the nation. Although not unusual, this type of response highlights the importance of prevention. The rapper Logic’s MTV Video Music Awards performance in 2017 focused on the call centers phone number, which is 1-800-273-8255, and featured other rappers, Alessia Cara and Khalid. Calls to the center surged after the performance, with countless lives being deterred from suicide and turning toward connection and help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline welcomes all: “We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.”


Many are researching for ways to stop suicides. Some approaches focus on continuing with suicide prevention education, and others involve improving coordinated health care for those who talk to their doctors or are experiencing a physical ailment, such as chronic pain. Improved risk assessments by professionals are a focus of the Lifeline, with the policy that each caller be asked specifically about suicidality.  Even the direct question “are you thinking of suicide?” is asked.


Many people are afraid to ask that question because they fear if the answer is ‘yes’ that they are not certain what to do next. No one should allow that fear to stop them from asking that question. People who are contemplating suicide want to be asked because the majority of people don’t want to die; they just want the stressor to be alleviated or go away. People can bank on the likelihood that most people won’t ask them that question, which can appear as though there is no one standing in the way of them trying to commit suicide. When that ultimate loneliness and desperation hits, it is very difficult for someone to take a step back without help.


If you or someone you know answers ‘yes’ to that question, the Lifeline as well as peers and/or family can help you walk through the next step. No one is meant to go through this alone. That’s why prevention is so important. It’s take a village to raise a child, some say. But it also takes a village to stay connected and get help. Connection is a very important piece to suicide prevention, and letting people know that you not only care for them, but that you understand them can help someone change how they think about a problem in their life and avoid contemplating suicide as the way out. Let’s see what we can do to turn this trend around and help everyone see that they add value to this world and to the lives of which they are a part.


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