US Suicide rates increase 24% between 1999- 2014 ,the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in April.
More startling? Suicide rates fell between 1986 and 1989.
It’s taken me from April to today to be able to write or comment about this tragic rise. I’m not entirely sure why, but part of it is that I’m not sure how to express what I’m feeling. The rise in suicide is a community health crisis; the tragedy is unfathomable and words can’t describe the angst for those left behind.
What I find myself dwelling in, though, is the decades before the decision of taking one’s life was made. The years of depression or anxiety, day after day of loved ones trying to help, trying to find the right resources, trying to get answers to questions. The angst and the anguish; the helplessness and the hopelessness. We must do more; much, much more.
History tells us how public will can have tremendous influence in community health. Consider seat belt use: laws, education, and technology have increased seat belt use from 11% in 1982 to nearly 85% in 2013, saving hundreds of thousands of lives (CDC).
Then there’s smoking: Fifty years ago, 42.4 percent of U.S. adults smoked; in 2014, the number is 17.8 percent in 2014 and still dropping (CDC)
NPR’s Jackie Goldstein’s Community Based Care Can Reduce the Stigma of Mental Illness provides a great history of mental illness in our country and how we’ve managed (and mismanaged) those who struggle. Often with good intent but ineffective actions, those with mental illness struggle with getting the care they need for 3 main reasons: access to care, financial concerns, and stigma.
And this is where there is hope. There are a lot of really smart people in healthcare, figuring out how to improve access and financial constraints. What makes me equally as hopeful, though, is that you and I, individually and together, can effect stigma.
Stigma reduction is a big reason Davidson LifeLine exists. Every time we talk about it, we move the needle to increased mental health awareness. Each time we say the words depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or suicide, we take an opportunity to create symmetry between mental health and physical health; to level the playing field for diabetes and depression, both chronic diseases that need intervention and care.
And as we talk about it openly, isolation decreases just a little bit at which point hope and care are closer by.