19:02 GMT17 June 2021
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    Suicide rates have increased across the US over the past two decades, and more than half of US states have seen suicide rates skyrocket by more than 30 percent, according to a June report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    According to the report, in 2016 alone, around 45,000 people committed suicide. 

    "Suicide in this country really is a problem that is impacted by so many factors. It's not just a mental health concern," Deborah Stone, principal deputy director of the CDC and the lead author of the study, told NPR in June.

    "There are many different circumstances and factors that contribute to suicide. And so that's one of the things that this study really shows us. It points to the need for a comprehensive approach to prevention," she added.

    The northern region of the US saw the largest increase in suicide rates compared to the rest of the US, with North Dakota seeing the steepest rise of 57.6 percent since 1999. Delaware saw the smallest increase of 5.9 percent, while Nevada was the only state that did not experience an increase in suicide rate.

    "First, there is no doubt that the numbers are increasing, but there are fluctuations with the numbers every year as well," Dan Reidenberg, executive director of the nonprofit organization Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, told Sputnik.

    "So while there has been a small increase over the last few years, the rates have increased 30 percent nationally between 1999 and 2016. However, we do not know how much of that ‘increase' is simply due to better reporting and better data sets than previously existed," he added.

    The US financial crisis of 2008 and the current opioid crisis, in which an unprecedented amount of Americans are dying from opioid addictions, may also have contributed to the rising suicide rates.

    "The economic tsunami that hit in 2008 and the recession led to many problems, including unemployment, lost housing, lost healthcare, lost retirement, etc., which all definitely impacted the numbers of suicides," Reidenberg added.

    The media's role in suicide cannot be ignored either, according to Reidenberg, who claims that the media has both positive and negative impacts on suicides, though he says its influence is more positive on the whole.

    "The more the media reports on suicides without following best practices, suicides occur and increase, and in recent years media are reporting on this more frequently. Entertainment is also including suicide in storylines, and often that impacts suicides. This is where contagion really factors into suicide rises."

    "Social media has both positive and sometimes negative impacts on suicides. Positively it helps with connections, support, resources, opportunities for early identification and intervention. Negatively, we have had some online harassment/bullying that has led to suicidal thinking and attempts, social comparisons, excessive online time, etc.," Reidenberg told Sputnik.

    According to the CDC, more than half of people who lose their lives by suicide do not have a diagnosed mental health condition at the time of their death, suggesting that suicide is not caused by one single factor.

    "Instead, these folks were suffering from other issues, such as relationship problems, substance misuse, physical health problems, job or financial problems and recent crises or things that were coming up in their lives that they were anticipating," Stone told NPR. 

    In addition, the report revealed that more than half of all suicides are committed with firearms, followed by hanging or suffocation, followed by poisoning.

    "So it's not just about firearms, it's also about other methods of suicide such as hanging, suffocation, poisoning and the like," Stone told NPR. "We are concerned with all aspects of suicide prevention, including access to lethal means, and so we do include that in a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention."

    The report also recommends that states address suicide prevention in a comprehensive way that involves cooperation between multiple sectors of society. Communities should work to reduce access to firearms, especially among people who are at risk of suicide, and aim to promote supportive environments so that people feel connected.

    According to Reidenberg, a lot more research is needed to better understand and prevent suicide. 

    "We need a lot more research to better understand suicide to prevent it. In the meantime we tell people to see a doctor if they are thinking about suicide, and sometimes the doctors aren't available; and even if they are, 99 percent of them are not trained in suicide risk assessment," Reidenberg noted.

    "We can't send someone to a hospital that has no beds or treatment programs and expect them to recover. Finally, there is some reason to wonder if we have gone too far in the direction of de-stigmatizing suicide. If we take away all stigma around it, we could be taking away that barrier against it," Reidenberg continued.


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