By Christa Banister
Whether someone is a celebrated chef with Michelin star status or the fry cook at McDonald’s, the most talented rock star circling the globe or an aspiring musician with a small YouTube following, a successful fashion designer with a Park Avenue address or a college graduate with a six-digit student loan crammed into a one-bedroom, no one is immune from the pressures and heartache of everyday existence.
Disappointment, depression, low self worth, loneliness and anxiety aren’t exclusive to a particular demographic or income bracket, and that’s precisely why suicide awareness and prevention needs to be a regular part of the national dialogue. Every 12 minutes in the United States, another human life is lost to suicide.1
Now the tenth leading cause of death in America for adults — and the second leading cause of death among adolescents and teens — suicide also has a harrowing ripple effect. For every person who ends his life, it’s estimated that at least six people are significantly impacted by that loss. Naturally, they’re looking for answers, explanations, little clues they may have missed along the way, wondering if they could’ve done something, anything, to prevent it.
Why Are Suicide Rates on the Rise?
Since 1999, suicide rates in the US have increased substantially across nearly every state, sex, race and age demographic, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).2
Citing several statistics that clearly point to a growing national public health concern, there was no clear conclusion on why suicide rates have climbed so dramatically or a specific blueprint for what makes someone suicidal. Why, for instance, did North Dakota lead the country with a 57.6 percent increase in its suicide rate since 1999? Why did Delaware have the lowest increase at just shy of six percent? Why are gun owners in certain rural areas more likely to choose suicide than their urban counterparts?
Another surprising revelation was that more than half the individuals who took their own lives didn’t have a previously diagnosed mental health condition.3 In 45.1 percent of these cases, a significant change in relationship status — a breakup, for example — was a contributing factor. A family history of suicide, depression and substance abuse were also cited, along with socioeconomic concerns including physical health issues, financial difficulties and legal problems that may — or may not — be combined with substance abuse.
What psychologists do agree on, however, is that a feeling of utter hopelessness, that life will never get better, is a reliable predictor of anyone contemplating or following through with suicide.
Spotting the Warning Signs
In the age of social media where everyone’s constantly “sharing,” there’s still a stigma surrounding mental health issues, something that psychologists agree deserves greater public attention and awareness. As a result of these false perceptions, someone who is struggling and considering suicide may brush off what he’s feeling or fear speaking up about what she’s going through — even with trusted friends or family.
But it’s the very act of communicating with loved ones that often leads someone to seek help, which is why the importance of reaching out is emphasized again and again. If someone doesn’t specifically say he is considering suicide, however, the CDC has cited several warning signs worth noting.
If someone talks about feeling “like a burden,” feeling “trapped” or in “unbearable pain,” that’s a possible clue. If someone is increasingly more angry or agitated, experiencing extreme mood swings or not quite behaving like themselves by sleeping too much (or too little) or abusing substances more frequently, that’s also a major red flag. More brazen indicators may include someone posting or talking about wanting to die, expressing interest in accessing firearms or actually making plans for suicide.
In 2016 alone, nearly 45,000 individuals died as a result of suicide. If you or someone you know and care about may be considering suicide, don’t hesitate to reach out to people who want to help at Black Bear Lodge. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
1 Ferentz, Lisa. “Suicide: A Cause Celebre That Goes Beyond Celebs.” Psychology Today, June 18, 2018.
2 Mammoser, Gigen. “Are We Heading Toward a Suicide Crisis in America?” Healthline, June 13, 2018.
3 Krans, Brian. “Being Successful Doesn’t Make You Immune From Suicide.” Healthline, June 11, 2018.