May Is Mental Health Awareness Month and it couldn’t have come at a more crucial time.
Consider that currently in the US:
– 1 in 4 Americans are living with Mental Illness.
– 22 Million Americans have a substance use disorder.
– Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years.
– Treatment Guidelines for ADHD in Children and Adolescents continue to be ignored (More on this in an upcoming post).
ALARMING INCREASE IN SUICIDE
As mentioned above, Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years according to a recent report released by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services.
Increased instances of suicide from 1999 to 2014 were found in every age group except older adults. The rise was particularly steep for women and quite substantial among middle-aged Americans. The rise among middle-aged Americans is particularly alarming when one considers this group’s suicide rates had been stable or falling since the 1950s
The suicide rate for middle-aged women, ages 45 to 64, jumped by 63% over the period of the study (1999-2014), while it rose by 43% for men in that age range (the sharpest increase for males of any age). The overall suicide rate rose by 24% during this same period, according to the report.
The increases were so widespread that they lifted the nation’s suicide rate to 13 per 100,000 people, the highest since 1986. This rate rose by 2 percent a year starting in 2006, double the annual rise in the earlier period of the study (1999-2005).
42,773 people died from suicide in 2014, compared with 29,199 in 1999.
Researchers also found an alarming increase in suicides among girls 10 to 14, whose suicide rate is still very low amongst groups, but has tripled according to the report. The number of girls in this age group who killed themselves rose to 150 in 2014 from 50 in 1999
White middle-aged women are another group who saw their suicide rate increase tremendously, over 80%
African-Americans were the only racial group that saw a decline in their suicide rate. However, this decline was only found for one age group; African-American men and women over 75.
In terms of gender, again the above mentioned increase in suicide amongst women has narrowed the gap between the genders due to the women’s rates increasing faster than men’s. That said, men still kill themselves at a rate 3.6 times that of women. Although suicide rates for older adults fell over the period of the study, men over 75 still have the highest suicide rate of any age group — 38.8 per 100,000 in 2014, compared with just four per 100,000 for their female counterparts.
The rise in suicide rates has happened slowly over many years. According to the Federal Health Researchers responsible for the study, they said they chose 1999 as the start of the period they studied because it was a low point in the national suicide rate and they wanted to cover the full period of its recent sustained rise. The federal health agency’s last major report on suicide, released in 2013 found a sharp increase in suicide among 35 to 64-year-olds. But the rates have risen even more since then — up by 7% for the entire population since 2010, the end of the last study period.
There is some debate as to the reason(s) behind the increased suicide rates. For example, researchers at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, have identified a link between suicides in middle age and rising rates of distress about jobs and personal finances.
Other recent research has highlighted the plight of less educated whites, showing surges in deaths from drug overdoses, suicides, liver disease and alcohol poisoning, particularly among those with a high school education or less. The new above mentioned report did not break down suicide rates by education, but researchers who reviewed the analysis said the patterns in age and race were consistent with that recent research and painted a picture of desperation for many in American society.
Policy makers say efforts to prevent suicide across the country are spotty. While some hospitals and health systems screen for suicidal thinking and operate good treatment programs, many do not.
Funding may play a role as well. While the NIH’s funding for suicide prevention projects had been relatively flat — rising to $25 million in 2016 from $22 million in 2012 — it was a small fraction of funding for research of mental illnesses, including mood disorders like depression.
Social changes could also be raising the risks. Marriage rates have declined, particularly among less educated Americans, while divorce rates have risen, leading to increased social isolation. in 2005, unmarried middle-aged men were 3.5 times more likely than married men to die from suicide, and their female counterparts were as much as 2.8 times more likely to kill themselves. The divorce rate has doubled for middle-aged and older adults since the 1990s,
Dr. Julie Phillips, a Sociologist at Rutgers who has studied the suicide amongst middle-aged individuals, suggests another possibility as to the increase of suicides among male baby-boomers. She points to the disappointed expectations of social and economic well-being among less educated white men from that generation. “These men grew up in an era that valued ‘masculinity and self-reliance’ —characteristics that could get in the way of asking for help.”
Yet another possible explanation may be an economy that has eaten away at the prospects of families on the lower rungs of the income ladder. Dr. Alex Crosby, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has studied the association between economic downturns and suicide going back to the 1920s and found that suicide was highest when the economy was weak. One of the highest rates in the country’s modern history, he said, was in 1932, during the Great Depression, when the rate was 22.1 per 100,000, about 70 percent higher than in 2014.
“There was a consistent pattern,” he said, which held for all ages between 25 and 64. “When the economy got worse, suicides went up, and when it got better, they went down.
Other experts were quick to point out that the unemployment rate in the latter period of the study had been declining, and therefore questioned how important the economy was to suicide.
If you or anyone you know is in a crisis, it’s imperative that professional help is sought. This situation is an emergency and requires immediate action. Call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
To schedule a consultation for non-emergency or non-crisis intervention, contact me.
If the matter is an emergency, do not contact me – precious minutes save lives!
Instead, please call 911 or go to your nearest Emergency Room!
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255)
(Even and especially if you or the person you are concerned about is not care not considering hurting yourself as you’ll get in touch with a counselor regardless when you call)
You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.
These professionals are available 24/7 (Spanish Speaking Professionals are available).
A wealth of information on suicide prevention and related topics from domestic abuse, bullying, dealing with distress from events of mass violence, and much more can be found at their website: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
There is no shame in having a problem, especially if you do something about it. Calls to the the hotline are FREE and CONFIDENTIAL.
For more information, either call the above number or visit them online at:
In fact, the following message from their site indicates that you SHOULD call if you or someone you know are in crisis:
“If you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the Lifeline. People have called us for help with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and even loneliness.”
National Suicide Prevention Hotline – Retrieved from: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 2007;46(12):1532Y1572.