With the current celebrity suicide deaths and the following media coverage, it may have come to your attention that suicide is a rising public health problem. Rates of suicide have increased alarmingly, and the CDC estimates an approximately 25% increase in deaths by suicide in the last two decades. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the 15-34 year age group and the fourth leading cause of death in the 35 -44 year age group. Often clusters of suicides follow highly publicized deaths from suicide. This phenomenon called ‘suicide contagion’ has been well studied and documented.
Mental illness, including but not limited to depression is the most common reason for a death by suicide. Such deaths can be prevented by timely and evidence based interventions to treat mental illness.
What are some warning signs?
Most people considering suicide mention it to someone. You may notice that someone you know is not acting quite like himself/herself. They may express a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, and their future outlook may be bleak. It is not unusual for people to plan out suicidal actions in advance, write notes to friends and family and give away things that are important to them. A history of past suicidal thoughts and actions is a significant risk factor.
What can you do to help?
Reach out to those who may be struggling. 6.7 % of American adults suffer from at least one depressive episode in their lives. Check on your friends and family from time to time, even if you may not have obvious reasons to be concerned. Get in touch with someone you have not heard from in a while. If someone expresses hopelessness or suicidal thoughts, talk to them and let them know help is available. Most people fear judgment, so show them concern and understanding instead. The stigma associated with mental illness is very much alive, and this often gets in the way of seeking help. Encourage them to get help, insist if necessary and help them make appointments with psychiatrists and therapists. Stay in touch with people, and not just via social media- social isolation and loneliness are contributing to this epidemic.
Live Mentally Healthy,
Dr. Sayanti Bhattacharya