Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. It occurs most often in people between the ages of 45 to 64 years old. Age is not the only factor that seems to influence the rate. Gender, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, race and employment status also play a part. Thousands of people lose their lives to suicide, and many of these deaths are preventable. There are foundations, hotlines and support groups for those who are in need of help.
Although it is a leading cause of death, there is not a lot of research regarding suicide. This is due, in large part, to the stigma that surrounds the topic. In 2012, the National Institutes of Health spent approximately 49 million dollars on suicide research. That figure may sound like a large one, but when compared to spending on other diseases it is not. HIV and AIDS research totaled just over three billion dollars in 2012. Diabetes had over a billion dollars spent in research, and breast cancer research had 712 million dollars spent. All of these diseases are important. Each contributing to the decline in health among Americans, and each with the potential to lead to death. Money should not necessarily be taken from one field of research to fund another. More should be spent, all together, to ensure that as much research as possible is completed in each field.
Action does appear to be taking place to improve suicide research and prevention in the future. The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the United States Surgeon General released a detailed strategy, with 13 goals and 60 objectives, aimed at reducing suicides over the next 10 years. Major points of the strategy include reducing the amount of stigma associated with the topic, improving education and awareness, increasing available data and changing healthcare systems to further prevent suicide occurrence.
The Obama administration has also made changes to try to reduce the death rates as well. They announced in 2010 that an increase of 55.6 million dollars in grants would be directed to suicide prevention programs. The programs varying and include national, state, tribal and local levels. The administration also worked with the Department of Veteran Affairs to release public service announcements directed toward current and former military members. The message emphasized family involvement, and reaching out for support. There is a lag in most data surrounding suicide information, with 2010 being the most recent information for many of the statistics related to the topic.
Data does exist to show the trends in suicide rates. While the, above mentioned, middle age group has the highest rate, the second largest is in elderly people, age 85 and older. For all ages men are at a higher risk, four times more likely to kill themselves then women. Caucasian people had the highest rate among races, followed by Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. The Western states, with the exclusion of California, are have the highest numbers in the nation.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death, and one that does not have to be. Everyone can help in decreasing these rates and saving lives. Education on the topic is available. The information is good for people of all walks of life to read. Even if suicidal thoughts are not something that a person has experienced themselves, it is likely that someone they know has. Recognizing the signs, and knowing what resources are available can help save a person from an unnecessary death. Reaching out for help, and not having to fear a negative response, is a right that every person should have. The links below have resources available for further information and assistance.
Opinion by Latasha Alvaro