The United States is arguably one of the greatest countries in the world. We live free and exist in an environment that is rife with opportunity. There is no dictator, no tyrannical government.
And yet, every single day, far too many people succumb to suicide. According to a federal data analysis, suicide in our country has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years, with increases in every age group except older adults. The rise was substantial among middle-aged Americans, an unexpected surprise since suicide rates in this group had been stable or falling since the 1950s.
The suicide rate was particularly steep for women, age 45 to 64, jumping by 63 percent over the period of the study; for men in that age range, the rate rose by 43 percent. This was the sharpest increase for males of any age.
The overall suicide rate rose by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The increase was so profound that it elevated the nation’s suicide rate to 13 per 100,000 people, the highest since 1986.
The increase was seen in every age group, except those over the age of 75 and every racial group, except black men. There was an alarming increase among girls 10 to 14, whose suicide rate, while still very low, had tripled. The number of girls who killed themselves rose to 150 in 2014 from 50 in 1999.
I think these statistics should encourage us to pause and think about why this is transpiring. What is it about our society and culture that leaves so many of us contemplating suicide as a solution? America is a great country and how we live in this great country certainly has it costs. If we compare ourselves to less competitive, more collaborative countries who are arguably less wealthy, less productive, and maybe have socialized medicine (which tends to focus more on prevention), we notice a huge difference in reported quality of life by the citizens of those countries.
Clearly, what motivates people to end their own lives is as complicated as it is individualized. Some do so intentionally, while others are so deep in their disease that at that exact moment of making such a critical decision, they have completely lost the power of choice. This is precisely why we as treatment professionals, family members, teachers, friends and loved ones need to know the signs and how to intervene for someone who is at risk, knowing that just because we try to help will not necessarily change the outcome. But what we do know, is that intervening certainly increases the likelihood that a person might reconsider, get help, stay alive and go on to recover.