The CDC recently released concerning data about suicide rates in the US up to 2016. The numbers show that overall the suicide rate in the US has risen 25% in the last 20 years, and that in the past 10 years, suicide rates among those between 10-17 years old have increased by more than 70%.
Based on the most recent data, suicide is the second leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10 and 34 (unintentional injury is the leading cause and probably includes some accidents and drug related deaths that may have been intentional). Rates of death from most other causes have dropped during this same period.
These trends should cause a national outcry and ought to result in a concerted call to action.
The CDC report also provides clarifications about some of the drivers of this disturbing trend and makes some suggestions about what might be done to improve this tragic situation.
Most surprising, the report shows that more than half of those who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition. Among those who died, relationship problems, recent personal crises, physical health problems and substance abuse were common. Job and financial problems, concerns about loss of housing and legal problems were also seen in many of those who died.
The report also highlighted that suicide rates vary dramatically from state to state. It seems that a combination of limited access to mental health care, social and economic challenges, and easy access to firearms account for a large portion of these variations.
The key takeaway from the CDC report is the need for a public health approach to suicide prevention.
Among the observations the CDC included, the report stated that suicide is more than a mental health problem. In fact, suicide often results from the amplifying distress of mental health problems (including substance misuse) and life/environmental circumstances.
As a result, the CDC is now highlighting recommendations that include not just improvements to our mental health care system (which are certainly direly needed) but also steps to address psycho-social concerns such as:
- job, economic and housing insecurity,
- isolation, loneliness and alienation,
- restricting access to means for self-harm (safe storage of firearms and medications) and
- poor problem-solving and life skills.
JED’s Comprehensive Approach
We at The Jed Foundation are deeply troubled by the alarming trends in adult and youth suicide presented in the CDC report. Nevertheless, we are encouraged to see that the public health approach to suicide prevention, which we have been advocating since our inception, is beginning to be accepted and adopted by the national mental health policy leadership.
While our Comprehensive Approach was originally developed as an approach to improving suicide prevention on college campuses, it has been recognized that our model can be applicable in most other well-defined communities, including towns and cities.
As you can see in the graphic above, JED’s Comprehensive Approach incorporates the elements that the CDC is currently advocating. We highlight the importance of:
- Supporting protective and resiliency building factors through the development of life skills and positive social connections.
- Supporting early intervention through helping people learn when they need professional help and how to identify others at risk.
- Improving access to a broad array of clinical services, including crisis services.
- Increasing awareness of the importance of limiting access to means for self-harm.
Learn more about our Comprehensive Approach here.
JED has been playing a leading role in educating young people and communities about mental health and we have also been making major efforts to improve awareness around how the media, and arts and entertainment world can communicate safely around suicide.
Our hope is that with the growing awareness of the need to be strategic and comprehensive in our approach to promoting mental health and preventing suicide, that we as a movement will be able to stem the trends we are now witnessing and begin to substantially decrease these tragic events. We hope that JED continues to play an increasingly central role in national efforts to solve this terrible problem.
Read more from Dr. Vic on the CDC report here.
If you or someone you know needs help now, reach out to a mental health professional or trusted adult, text 741741 or call 800-273-8255.
If you have any questions about our work, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.