Why are we suddenly talking so much about suicide?
Because we, like many other newspapers around the country, have been stunned by the onslaught of deadly cases in the last year.
The rate at which people are taking their own lives in America has jumped to a 30-year high, federal analysts say. The big picture shows suicide up 24 percent over a 15-year period. It’s especially staggering among women and middle-aged people.
In Ohio, one in every 8,000 residents takes their own life. That might seem like a tiny number, but while reading our weekly dose of police reports these incidents seem horrifically common.
If you don’t think it happens in our comfortable, mid-sized, well-to-do, Bible Belt, family-friendly neighborhoods, think again. We recall far too many cries for help recorded by local police officers.
There was the Amherst teen who in January said his last goodbyes to friends by text before taking a handful of pills. There was the Oberlin College student found cutting his arms in March, and later that month a reportedly transgender person who tried to hang herself in Oberlin. There was the suicidal woman in April who was found breaking objects in her Wellington home.
Across all three communities we can document any number of threats of self-harm — and that doesn’t include the barrage of drug overdoses that may or may not be intentional attempts to end it all. As a matter of averages, there are 117 suicides each day in our country. For every suicide, there are 25 more attempts.
Here are some alarming facts:
• Half of suicides (49.9 percent) are by firearm. Another quarter (26.7 percent) are by suffocation, with 15.9 percent by poisoning.
• This isn’t a problem of dramatic teenagers and 20-somethings, despite what TV dramas would have you believe. The most suicide-prone age group is 85 and older, with the 45-to-64 range right behind. Those groups have suicide rates of roughly 19 per 100,000 while teens are closer to three per 100,000.
• 42,773 people died from suicide in 2014, up from 29,199 in 1999.
• Unmarried, middle-aged men are about 3.5 times more likely to kill themselves. Experts have speculated that social isolation due to an increased divorce rate, coupled with the disillusionment of Baby-Boomers facing financial hardships has contributed to the rise.
• Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. for all ages, but it stands alone as the only one that overtly involves choice. Others include heart disease, malignant tumors, chronic respiratory problems, unintentional injuries, brain hemorrhaging, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, pneumonia and flu, and kidney disease.
But because of the shame and stigma and tears, attempted and achieved suicides are not talked about, which only deepens the problem.
That’s the kicker — that suicide could be prevented far more often if we just opened up about it. Depression affects 20 to 25 percent of American adults every year but just half who suffer a major episode get treatment.
May is Mental Health Month. Let’s all start talking.