According to the CDC, suicide is a leading cause of death in this country. In 2016, almost 45,000 Americans committed suicide. To add troubling news to troubling news, the suicide rate has risen 30 percent since 1999. This is a problem that is only getting worse.
In another recently released report, the CDC ranks professions based on rates of suicides. Considering my own job, one of the more shocking details of the report is that “entertainment and the media” sit at number three on the CDC’s list ranking professions based on rates of suicides. If broken down between genders, males in entertainment and the media rank number two and females rank number one.
(Those numbers seem confusing — if entertainment and the media rank at number two when only factoring males, and number one when only factoring females, how is the profession number three overall? That seeming disparity reveals another troubling trend contained within the suicide rate data.)
Men are far more likely than women to commit suicide, but since there are so many women in entertainment and the media, their numbers drag the industry’s overall number down. Contrast that with the construction industry, which earns the unfortunate ranking of number one among men, yet has very few women working in their industry. Due to the low number of women in construction, no data for suicide rates among women is available, so the men’s suicide rate dominates and causes the industry to rank number one overall.
Looking deeper into the numbers, in 2015, among men in the entertainment and media industry, the suicide rate was 39.7 per 100,000 civilian noninstitutionalized working persons. Among women, it was 15.6 per 100,000. In the construction industry, men had a suicide rate of 53.2 per 100,000 in 2015. As already mentioned, no data was available for women in the construction industry due to their low involvement in the industry.
While statistics are instructive and, frankly, interesting, they often run the risk of overshadowing the human element. Sadly, suicide is a mass killer in our society that rarely receives the level of discussion that other mass killers receive. This Christmas season, how many people are donating to charities that fund cancer research or that are connected to children’s hospitals? How many of us are concerned with ferreting out known causes of diseases like cancer from not only our own life but from the lives of our loved ones?
We should be doing what we can to fund cancer research and combat childhood mortality rates. Likewise, as best we can, we should be seeking to lower our risk for cancer. Yet, how many of us apply that same standard to fighting suicide? You see, one of the frightening things about the CDC report is that it’s revealed that “many people who die by suicide are not known to have a diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death.”
Considering that suicide is the number one cause of death in this country, we should educate ourselves about its causes and warning signs.
If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call 911 or 1-800-273-8255.
Ed. note: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that suicide was the leading cause of death in the U.S. and reported the occupational suicide rates as a percentage of the population rather than a per-thousand rate. The article has been updated to reflect the accurate statistics.