Suicide has become a leading cause of death and a world-wide epidemic. There are over a 100 death by suicides per day within the United States, and a recent study links a rise in unemployment rates to a rise in suicides almost 1:1. Suicidal thoughts, also known as ideations, are estimated to effect 8.3 million Americans per year, with 2.2 million of them making a plan.
Co-occurring disorders such as mental health disorders, family history of suicide, pain, or alcohol or drug use are known to be high risk flags for individuals. Military service members and Veterans are some of the most at risk for suicide, almost two times more likely to commit suicide than civilians. This is largely due to repeated trauma, frequent deployments, family stressors and knowledge of firearms. Co-morbid conditions associated with the military and Veteran population; an increase in Traumatic Brain Injury, military sexual trauma, PTSD, pain, and substance abuse.
Mental health stigma makes it difficult for those experiencing suicidal thoughts to seek treatment. Many worry that they will lose their jobs, friends, families, or be seen as weak. The result is often the same, an increase in feelings of isolation leading to more suicidal beliefs. Those with mental health concerns suffer in silence rather than risk this stigma. Just over the past year we have seen this nation rocked by high-profile suicides and violent epidemics relating to mental health. So what has been done?
Suicide prevention is a nationwide effort. National suicide hotlines, crisis centers, Emergency Rooms are utilized to assist individuals or their families in a time of crisis. Programs to enlist help from primary care doctors, nurses, social workers and other “front line jobs” such as teachers, drivers, and supervisors act as a filter. Workers are fighting to expand access to mental health services, even in hard to reach areas through mediums like telehealth, online forums, and community based clinics.
Education, warning signs, decreasing stigma and increasing awareness are the only ways to fight in the shadows of suicide. We have policies mandating the connection to mental health services, mandated training and outreach services and this crisis response system is life-saving, but early intervention can help thousands, if not millions of others from not getting to that point.
So what next?
Courtney Kidd, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer