U.S. suicide rates have risen in recent years, while rates in other nations continue to fall. Our suicide rate increased 33 percent from 1999 through 2017, and this rate has increased more sharply since 2006. Suicide ranks are now the fourth leading cause of death for people ages 35 to 54, and the second for 10- to 34-year-olds. It remains the 10th leading cause of American deaths overall. Suicides have increased most sharply in rural communities (like mine), where loss of farming and manufacturing jobs has led to economic declines over the past quarter century.
What can we learn about why our suicide rate continues to climb? According to the American Psychological Association (APA) The reasons for why suicide rates rise or fall is challenging, in part because the causes of suicide are complex:
“Suicide risk factors include health factors such as depression, substance use problems, serious mental illness and serious physical health conditions including pain, environmental factors such as access to lethal means and stressful life events including divorce, unemployment, relationship problems or financial crisis and historical factors including previous suicide attempts, a family history of suicide and a history of childhood abuse or trauma.”
“At the individual level, there is never a single cause of suicide. There are always multiple risk factors,” says Christine Moutier, MD, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “That confluence of multiple risk factors makes it a trickier business to explain a population-level rise.”
What can you do about this?
Those who have attempted suicide say,
“All I wanted was for one person to see my pain and say something kind.”
Any intervention can prevent suicide. I remember back in 2004, when I was divorcing (loss of 75% of my income!), I lost my job and then career, and I could find not one more job in any area at age 49. I set up an appointment with our Unitarian minister just to talk and I told her, “I just need one thing to go right!” Because it felt like everything was going to shit.
I learned two important lessons from this breakdown to breakthrough moment in my life. Action is the greatest antidote to despair and suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary predicament. The action I took, although it seemed a bit crazy at the time, was to start my own offline dating service. This led to meeting lots of others who were feeling lost and confused in the middle of their lives. Eventually it led to meeting Mike, my midlife best friend and lover. He then helped me begin a new career as a writer, which led to my blog “Midlife Crisis Queen” and my books.
If you are feeling lost and depressed start anywhere. Make your mess your message and spread the word, all is not lost just because you feel unhappy right now!
And remember, You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!
5 thoughts on “In 2018, 1.5 million Americans attempted suicide”
“Make your mess your message”. Brilliant!
Our family has been closely touched by suicide several times now. It never gets easier. And always, there is the thought…if only I’d called. If only I’d done…
Heartbreaking to lose even one. Thank you for this article, Laura!
And for sharing your experiences.
So many lives are being touched by suicide right now Diane. I want everyone to know there are things YOU can do to limit this gigantic waste of life and talent.
My husband’s family has been touched by suicide twice. One was the end result of a serious mental illness (one of his cousins) and there is so much our country still needs to do in the mental health field. The other one concerned a man who was father to a developmentally disabled grown son living with him and his wife. As I understand it, the father was diagnosed with a serious illness. He waited till his son and wife were out of the house and took his life with a gun. What could have helped prevent this? Perhaps he was in total despair and needed the assurance that his wife and son would be cared for. I can only speculate; we lived a couple of thousand miles from them. I don’t know if he did it for the insurance money. If he did, that is even more tragic.
Alana: You bring up some important points here. I agree that suicide should be an option for anyone if they so choose. Compassion is the key. If given lots of love and support and a person still chooses suicide that is completely their right. My concern is for those who have so much to live for, like I did at age 49, but feel temporarily lost and hopeless. These people need our help to see that life always changes, or as Richard Gere said to me (through TV) back in 2004: “Hang on it all changes.”
It’s always so hard on families and friends of the person who chooses it. It’s heartbreaking.