American suicide rates have been increasing since year 2000 and are at a 30-year high. Increases have occurred across all races, genders, and ages, but teenage girls and middle-age men have had the highest rates of increase. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and each time it occurs, survivors can’t help but wonder how it may have been prevented.
According to the CDC, suicide rates are rising. They state that men are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than women, but women are three times more likely to attempt suicide. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states that 121 suicides occur daily, and for each death, there are 25 attempts from youth and 4 elderly attempts. They also state that most attempts go unreported or untreated.
Data reported by the CDC shows that Whites and Native Americans have the highest rates of suicide with considerably higher rates and rises in rates that other races. The age group who take their lives the most are adults between ages 45-64 and adults over 85. While the rates are highest for adults, the greatest rate of increase occurred among teenage girl (ages 10-14) and middle-age men (ages 45-64). Teen girls experienced a 200 percent increase, and middle-aged men had a 43 percent increase.
Survivors can’t help but wonder why so many people would take their lives, and there are many theories. NPR reported the theory that people may not be able to access antidepressant drugs that would help them manage suicidal tendencies. While others blame psychotropic drugs for increasing the risk of suicide. This brings to question if antidepressant drugs would even be needed in a healthy society.
CDC epidemiologist, Dr. Alex Crosby, told New York Times that increase in suicide rates can be correlated to a worsening economy. He said, “When the economy got worse, suicides went up, and when it got better, they went down.” Dr. Crosby states his finding were made by studying economic and suicide data from the 1920s and onward.
The CDC studied suicide rates across different geographical areas, and they found that rates are higher in rural areas. They state that opioid misuse is more common in the areas with the higher rates, and opioid misuse increases risk for suicide. Studies also show 44% of military veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars reside in urban areas, and they have high suicide rates.
One of the things that survivors can’t help but wonder is if the person who committed suicide would have done so if they knew they were loved, and studies show that the closeness of a family decreases suicide rates for teens. Studies show that adopted children commit suicide 4 times more than children who stayed with a birth parent. Researchers found that family income, age, race, and parents’ education were not factors in teenage suicide rates. Factors that did matter were being depressed, smoking cigarettes, engaging in delinquent behavior, having a low self-image and being female.
Dr Gail Slap conducted a study using data from more than 6,500 students in grades 7-12. She found that adopted teenagers attempted suicide at a rate of 7.6% while 3% of their peers attempted. She reported that, within her sample, 17% of adopted adolescents received counseling while 8% of their peers did. The study used families where all mothers were in their first marriage, and the children were likely to have not experienced divorce.
Dr. Slap found that mothers of teenagers who attempted suicide described their children as “bad-tempered” more frequently. She told Reuters Health, “The main message of this study is that communication, seeking common ground, warmth, love and the sense of satisfaction the adolescent has with the (family) relationship, even when angry or rebelling, is critically important.”
Surprising, the CDC did not site known contributors of depression such as malnutrition and food additives, poor sleep, toxicity, poor relationships, and lack of exercise as contributors to suicide. The increased use of social media which can cause loss of self-identity and inauthentic relationships which lead to depression. Social media can give someone the feeling that there are so many other happy people, while they are left with nobody.
We all know the stories, and all of them are heart-breaking: the parents with an empty nest, the teenage girl who feels “unpretty,” the woman with post partum depression, the rural farmer trapped by Monsanto, the military veteran, the teenage who can’t see that they just started life, the parents and children broken by CPS, the rape victim, the bullied adolescent boy, the psychologist who feels the pain of their clients, the “awake” individual who feels the burdens of reality, the middle-aged and elderly who are battling with declining health and a future in a nursing home –all of these and more are included in the statistics, but the statistics don’t tell their stories. They all left survivors wondering how their loss may have been prevented.
Recent celebrity deaths are among the most puzzling suicides. To the average person, celebrities seem to have it all, so why would they take their own life? Such cases bring to question if maybe they needed something that money can’t buy, or maybe they felt like they were living their life for everyone else and not themselves? Maybe their status made it harder to find companionship? What they do show is that feelings of despair reach all walks of life.
While there is no concrete answer as to why Americans continue to increase the rates in which they are harming themselves, we can only hope that the mental-health of the nation will start improving.