Updated: Aug 5, 2022
Suicide levels are higher than ever before!
According to the CDC:
"Suicide is death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die."
Suicide rates are much higher in recent years. Young people in particular are committing suicide at much higher rates, and this was true even before the pandemic. Although getting things back to normal as the pandemic wanes is important for everybody's mental health, the causes of increased suicide definitely predate the pandemic and will require looking at other causes.
Suicide rates increased by 30% just between 2000–2018 and there have been additional increases since then. Although all age groups are effected, suicide is now the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34. Suicide rates are now higher than at any time in the past.
Currently there are around 45,000 deaths each year that are attributed to suicide. However, suicide deaths are probably under reported. If there is no suicide note, the death is rarely counted as a suicide.
Deaths of Despair include suicides and death as a result of alcoholic liver disease, and drug abuse. A kid I went to school with died from alcoholic liver disease before he even celebrated his 35th birthday. He was informed by his doctors, multiple times, that he MUST quit drinking. He refused to sober up, and literally drank himself to death at a very young age. This would be a typical Death of Despair and really is a form of suicide .
When we expand Suicides to include Deaths of Despair, the annual death rate here in the U.S. is estimated to be about 3-4 times as high as the suicide rate, IE about 150,000 to 200,000 per year. When you compare this to just 40,000 deaths from car accidents each year, and less than 20,000 from gun murders, you see that Suicide and Deaths of Despair should concern all of us.
You can help prevent suicide!
The CDC websites states:
"Many factors can increase the risk for suicide or protect against it. Suicide is connected to other forms of injury and violence. For example, people who have experienced violence, including child abuse, bullying, or sexual violence have a higher suicide risk. Being connected to family and community support and having easy access to health care can decrease suicidal thoughts and behaviors."
You should look for warning signs. You can't always tell when a loved one or friend is considering suicide, but there are some common signs:
Talking about suicide: making statements such as "I'm going to kill myself," "I wish I were dead" or "I wish I hadn't been born"
Getting the means to take their own life: buying a gun or stockpiling pills
Stopping or reducing social contact and wanting to be left alone
Mood swings: emotionally high one day and discouraged the next
Preoccupation with death, dying or violence
Feeling their situation is hopeless
Increasing their use of alcohol or drugs
Changes in their routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
Risky or self-destructive behavior: using drugs or driving recklessly
Giving things away or getting their affairs in order
Saying goodbye to people as if they won't be seen again
Personality changes: being severely anxious or agitated, especially if they have any of the warning signs listed above
If you see any of the above warning signs you should ask about suicidal thoughts. Some people are hesitant to ask friends or loved ones about suicide but it is the consensus of mental health experts that:
"Asking about suicide won’t cause or increase suicidal thoughts, or cause the person to act on them. It may help them feel less isolated and scared. It may also allow you to see how you can help."
If you are concerned about somebody, even in the absence of any warning signs, you can simply ask:
"Have you had thoughts of suicide or self harm?"
If the answer is "no", asking the question may still lead to a valuable conversation. If the answer is yes, here are some follow up questions:
"Are you currently thinking about suicide?"
"Do you have a plan?"
"Have you taken any steps to prepare for suicide?"
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you should consider this an emergency.
If somebody is suicidal, take these steps
Even if they answer no to the above questions, if they talk or behave in a way that makes you believe they might attempt suicide, don't try to handle the situation alone:
Get help from a trained professional as quickly as possible. The person may need to be hospitalized until the suicidal crisis has passed.
Encourage the person to call the suicide hotline number. In the U.S., they can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) or just call 988 to reach a trained counselor. (Use that same number and press "1" to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.)
Remember as of July 2022, simply call 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. No need to use the old 800 number. Calling 988 now works in all 50 states.
If the person in crisis won't call the hotline, YOU can call for them.
Good news: 988 is for people in crisis even if they aren't suicidal. To reflect this broader focus the new name is: Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. By calling 988 compassionate, accessible care and support is available for anyone experiencing mental health-related distress—whether that is thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress.
Does calling the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline really help? Yes, the Lifeline works. Numerous studies have shown that most Lifeline callers are less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking to a Lifeline crisis counselor.
Many suicides are preventable! Let's all do our part.
Take care and BE HEALTHY!