Suicide Prevention Awareness Month comes at a particularly difficult time this year. It seems suicide has become more prevalent among people the press follows, which may or may not be a sign of what happens across the wider population. On a more factual level, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 16,764 suicides in which guns were used this year. While this is the primary way people take there lives (about 53% of suicide involve guns), there are others that make the total much larger.
The number of people who say they have had “serious thoughts about suicide” has doubled in number since before the pandemic, according to the CDC. The figures were counted through June 2020.
Suicide was the 12th largest cause of death among Americans in 2020. The total reached 45,979. The numbers are staggeringly high among people ages 15 to 24 and among men. There were approximately 1.2 million suicide attempts the same year. And, there is data which point to the fact that some suicides are not reported.
The largest change in the cause of suicides and suicide attempts in recent years my be social media. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, “Multiple issues continue to fuel it, among them young peoples’ social media-influenced feelings of inadequacy, increasing rates of substance abuse, financial stress caused by inflation and an increasingly divisive political landscape.” The effects of substance abuse, rising financial pressure, and extreme political action will not disappear soon.
The arsenal for suicide prevention, unfortunately, has not proved to be very strong. The stigma of admitting to suicide problems has not gone away, and may not. People close to those in trouble are encouraged to look for signs and offer help. If that has yielded any growing results, they have been unreported. Whether suicide help services have made a difference is also hard to prove, one way or the other.
If suicides are to be brought down in the U.S., the evidence is that the push to do so will be to be much harder and broad based.
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