Suicide can be prevented. Local mental health services are available.
Suicide is a growing public health concern, and a leading cause of death in the United States. In 2019, more than 47,500 Americans died from suicide, while 1.4 million attempted suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of suicide has risen in nearly every state, including Nebraska, which had a 16% increase in suicides from 1999 to 2016.
Since 1999, the suicide rate has gone up more than 30% in half of the states. Suicidal thoughts also have increased. In 2019, about 12 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, and 3.5 million planned a suicide attempt.
The numbers are alarming, but we can hope to prevent suicide by bringing awareness to the community and working together to address the issue.
“Everyone has a role in preventing suicide,” said Dr. Venkata Kolli, a psychiatrist at Columbus Psychiatry Clinic. “Not all suicides are preventable, but a significant amount are.”
First, it’s important to understand factors that can contribute to suicide risk. Kolli said those risk factors could include:
- Mental health problems, including clinical depression and anxiety disorders.
- Chronic illnesses and diseases.
- Misuse of alcohol and other drugs.
- Isolation or being disconnected from family and community.
- Lack of access to mental health services.
- Access to firearms. About half of all suicides in the United States are by use of firearms.
- The stigma associated with mental health.
- Prolonged stress, which can include a financial crisis, relationship problems and other life events.
- Culture and religious beliefs. Some teach that suicide is an acceptable way to end a problem.
Suicide affects people of all ages, though young people are more vulnerable than older people. “One age group is particularly concerning, and that is those who are 10-34 years old,” Kolli said. “You are talking about very healthy people, but death by suicide is the second most common cause of death among people in that age group.”
According to the CDC, other groups with high suicide rates include veterans, those living in rural areas, American Indian/Alaska Natives and non-white populations, and lesbian, gay or bisexual youth. Females attempt taking their own lives more often than males, but males complete suicide more often than females.
Kolli said someone who is contemplating suicide could exhibit signs.
“Everyone is different, but generally, the person feels helpless and hopeless,” he said. “They also isolate themself from other people.”
Others might experience a feeling of being trapped and overwhelmed. Someone exhibiting high-risk behaviors also could purchase a firearm, make a will or buy life insurance.
Suicide and suicide attempts can leave an emotional toll on communities by affecting the lives of families, loved ones and co-workers. They also have a significant financial impact on society. The CDC estimates that suicides and suicide attempts cost the nation more than $70 billion per year in medical costs.
Kolli said people who have suicidal thoughts should seek help by talking to others, contacting a family doctor or calling a suicide prevention hotline. It is vital to connect with other people.
The CDC also recommends steps that can be taken on the state and local level to prevent suicide. That includes addressing provider shortages in underserved areas, reducing access to lethal means for those at risk of suicide, teaching coping skills, promoting community connectedness through activities and supporting people at risk with crisis intervention.
Kolli said people experiencing suicidal thoughts should note that the vast majority of people who have attempted suicide are glad they survived.
“People should understand that if they are going through a dark patch or if it seems like they have a very, very dark cloud overhead, that it is going pass,” he said. “Something needs to be done to push the cloud away. That might mean seeking professional help or seeking out support.