Dr. Helen

Rising Suicide Rates

I was saddened today when I read that chef Anthony Bourdain had hanged himself in a hotel room. Yet, suicide is often contagious and with the recent suicide of Kate Spade, it is not a surprise that other people would follow suit. Recent studies show a large increase in suicides:

More than a decade of steadily rising rates have made suicide the nation’s 10th leading cause of death and one of only three causes of death — including Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdoses — that are increasing in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a report that examines trends in suicide at the state level from 1999 to 2016, the CDC says suicide rates have increased in nearly every state. In half the states, the agency found the rate rose more than 30 percent.

In releasing the report — the same week fashion designer Kate Spade was found dead by suicide — CDC officials noted that more than half of those who died by suicide — 54 percent — did not have a known diagnosed mental health condition….

“But our research shows something more alarming — these increases are occurring in places that have been struggling for many years: places where incomes have been stagnant and poverty rates have been high. The pressures on middle-class and low-income families are considerable … and it’s taking its toll.”

To address these problems, he said, “the answer is not suicide hotlines. We need to focus on things that reduce stress on American families, and that includes economic assistance, jobs and access to education.”

First among the strategies the CDC recommended to states in 2017 is to “strengthen economic supports,” including bolstering financial security, adopting policies to stabilize housing, improving access to mental health care, and creating programs on problem-solving and coping skills.

Suicide hotlines are the last resort; learning to cope and deal with the thoughts and situations leading to suicide is key. The problem is, this is a sticky and difficult area.

Our society tells people they are victims,  and strength and fortitude are frowned upon for the most part or called toxic masculinity. Many people in today’s culture don’t know how to go on, and think suicide is the answer because living is too hard. Unfortunately, I worry that many altruistic types will think the answer is more benefits and liberal causes. But giving handouts isn’t the answer, building human resilience is.

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