Giving Compass’ Take:
• Public health researcher and epidemiologist Monica H. Swahn explores possible reasons for the dramatic rise in suicides in the United States, including drugs and cultural problems.
• How can suicide be addressed as a public health problem? What other factors must be addressed along with suicide to make an impact?
• Learn how you can help support mental health research.
Suicide rates in the U.S. have increased nearly 30 percent in less than 20 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported June 7. These mind-numbing statistics were released the same week two very famous, successful and beloved people committed suicide – Kate Spade, a tremendous entrepreneur, trendsetter and fashion icon, and Anthony Bourdain, a distinguished chef and world traveler who took us on gastronomic journeys to all corners of the world through his TV shows.
Why are the suicide rates increasing so fast? And, are the increasing suicide rates linked to the seeming increase in demand for drugs such as marijuana, opioids and psychiatric medicine?
Suicide prevention is usually focused on the individual and within the context of mental health illness, which is a very limited approach. Typically, suicide is described as an outcome of depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns including substance use. And, these should not be trivialized; these conditions can be debilitating and life-threatening and should receive treatment. (If you or someone you know need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255).
The CDC report noted that among those suicide deaths which had a toxicology test, nearly 80 percent had one or more substance in their system, with alcohol being the most common, followed by opioids, benzodiazepines, cocaine, amphetamines, marijuana and antidepressants. More troubling, “the mortality rate from drug poisoning, alcohol poisoning, and suicide increased by 52 percent between 2000 and 2014,” according to a separate report by Carsey Research.
Americans stand out from people in other countries with respect to their focus on individualism. Americans believe that success is determined by our own control and that it is very important to work hard to get ahead in life. Perhaps it is this focus on our own achievements, successes and work culture that have created an environment that is no longer sustainable – it has become too stressful.
Read the full article about America’s suicide rate by Monica H. Swahn at The Conversation.
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