With all this attention being given to opioids, we are overlooking another silent killer that’s responsible for even more deaths: suicide.
In 2015, nearly 45,000 Americans took their own lives. Why aren’t we talking about this, and where’s the national public health campaign to start driving these numbers down?
Suicide rates in this country are on the rise, having recently hit a 30-year high.
Men remain more likely to commit suicide than women, White and First Nations people are by far more likely than other racial or ethnic groups to do so, and firearms are the most common method used for the deed.
Between 1999–2014, the overall suicide rate increased by 24%. Among women ages 45–64, though, it increased a shocking 63%, while among men ages 45–64 it increased a staggering 43%, over the same time period.
What is driving this epidemic?
Clearly, there are some serious issues facing middle-aged Americans today.
The Great Recession hit this group incredibly hard, with retirement savings accounts being decimated in a very short period of time.
Pensions have been thrown out the window by most large employers, and so the promise of a comfortable retirement at age 64 is more elusive than ever.
Faced with growing debt, a shrinking job market, and the prospect of not being able to retire as planned, it isn’t unimaginable that more people are taking their lives now than before.
Notice the addition of chronic pain as a risk factor?
I find it interesting as the CDC was publicizing new guidelines on the use of opioids to treat chronic pain, suicide risk among pain patients was increasing as well.
It is clear that an unintended consequence of these rules will be higher rates of suicide among chronic pain patients, an issue that I am sure will be getting more attention in the coming months and years.
So, what can we do about it?
Several programs have been termed, “Evidence-based Practices” for suicide prevention and treatment, after being proven effective through rigorous study.
But the gold standard, as one would imagine, remains comprehensive prevention and awareness programs that increase the likelihood of seeking help, while reducing the stigma associated with reaching out or talking about the issue.
Identifying those who may be at risk and connecting them with effective treatment is critical and can help to prevent suicide before it happens.
It is time we stand up and demand action be taken to address the growing epidemic of suicide in the US.
If we do nothing, these numbers will only continue to increase. Let’s not wait for the Surgeon General or CDC to declare an epidemic, let’s take action now.