The topic of suicide has been in news of late, because of the recent deaths of noted celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. But suicide rates had been increasing way before their deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that suicides have increased by more than 30% in less than two decades and that suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, who is the CDC's principal deputy director, believes that the problem of suicide relates not just to how mental health professionals treat the problem. More to the point, she says that mental health institutions alone cannot solve the problem.
Why Mental Health Professionals Cannot Stop All Suicides
According to the CDC, in 2016 around 45,000 Americans committed suicide. At the same time, in about half of these cases the victim was not suffering from any mental health issue that anyone was aware of. This means that mental health professionals could not have helped these people. Another problem is that it is often difficult to detect when someone is suffering from mental illness.
Sometimes medical professionals fail to diagnose depression and other mental illnesses. Other times such diagnoses never occur because the sufferers keep the symptoms to themselves out of fear of being stigmatized. Loved ones often fail to see symptoms for the very same reason.
This means that, to decrease suicide rates, it is up to society as a whole to change. It must do this by creating an environment where people want to seek help and will not feel stigmatized by doing so. If people see depression and other mental health issues as real diseases they will be more likely to treat them like they would treat other diseases.
Why Middle-Age People Are Especially Susceptible to Suicide
Both Spade and Bourdain were part of an age group that is especially susceptible to suicide: those who are middle aged. According to Schuchat, not only do people in this age range have the highest rates of suicide, but they also are suffering the greatest increases in suicide rates.
Schuchat further says that middle-aged people also have more drug overdoses than people in other age groups. She says that people in this age group likely have these problems in higher numbers because economic problems can affect them disproportionately. This means that there needs to be an outreach specifically to people in this age group.
How the Mental Health Profession Can Improve the Prevention of Suicides
While suicides should not be considered purely a problem with mental health institutions, that does not mean that they cannot improve as well. There needs to be more intervention at the early stages of mental illness instead of just when someone reaches a critical stage.
There also needs to be more community support programs that provide direct help in both schools and workplaces. Countries that have extensive community programs, such as the United Kingdom, have been shown to reduce suicide rates, even if they do not reduce the occurrences of mental illness.