Between the years 1999 and 2016, the rates of suicide have increased across all groups of people in the U.S. This, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has held true in every state in the Union except for one.
They say that regardless of race, age, gender, economic status or any other categorical factor suicide rates have gone up during the 17-year span studied. In over 50% of the suicides, the individuals did not show any signs of a mental health disorder. That is to say, they were sudden, unpredictable, and unpreventable.
During the period studied most recently, the state of Montana had the highest suicide rate at 29.2 suicides for every 100,000 people. The national average is 13.4 per 100,000. During that same period, North Dakota’s suicide rate rose by 57%.
The CDC has declared suicide to be a major public health concern and it has risen to the 10th leading cause of death for Americans aged 15 to 35. In 2016 alone over 45,000 Americans ended their lives in suicide.
CDC official Anne Scott said, “The data are disturbing. The widespread nature of the increase, in every state but one, really suggests that this is a national problem hitting most communities.”
Others blame the economic recession that started in 2008 and the opioid addiction crisis for this spike in the rates of suicide. But one of the most disturbing connections made by the study was that it was the inland states and rural areas where the majority of the increase in suicides has taken place, and the categories most affected by the spike was white men and white boys.
A 2017 study drew a link between the rate of foreclosures and suicides. But statistically, the connection is equally correlative with the rise of opioid addiction which has been growing since the start of the second Iraq war.
According to the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Joshua Gordon, these new statistics should not be taken without consideration of a widespread lack of mental health support for men and boys. He said, “When you do a psychological autopsy and go and look carefully at medical records and talk to family members of the victims, 90 percent will have evidence of a mental health condition.”
Gordon commented that he thinks cultural attitudes are to blame. According to him, white men are more likely than others not to report mental health problems, and that due to social conditioning- Hispanics are even less likely to do so.
The CDC says that suicides are caused by strained personal relationships more than any other factor. Other major contributors to the likelihood of suicide are trouble with employment and finances, poor physical health, substance abuse, and addiction.
According to experts like Gordon, the greatest misconception is that a person must have been diagnosed with a mental disorder to be considered a suicide risk. This, he says, is a mistake. Most people who choose suicide are otherwise completely mentally healthy. The greatest warning sign is not overtly poor mental health, but a poor overall quality of life.
More than anything else, a severe imbalance in the way or quality of an individual’s life is the greatest predictive factor. Those with a stark lack of social support, problems at work or at home, and drug use.
The warning signs become apparent when a person is too dependent on one or a few factors for their sense of wellbeing. Someone who is disproportionately involved in work and has few other outlets may be at risk. Someone who has only a spouse for emotional support, few to no friends, and no other outlets may be at risk. You could look at it as a symptom of putting all of one’s sense of wellbeing eggs in one emotional support basket.
One of the most startling revelations has been that efforts to raise suicide awareness have had the opposite to the desired effect. That is to say- the more aware of suicide people are- the more likely they are to look at suicide as an option.
It could be that the best way to prevent suicides is to monitor the quality of the lives of the people around us and leave the word “suicide” out of the conversation as much as possible.
Only Nevada showed a decrease in suicided rates, at a 1% reduction. Could Nevada be doing something right that the rest of us should know about?
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