CDC: Suicide was the 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2018

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The CDC reported this week that there was an increase in suicide deaths in the U.S. in 2018, and that the incidence of suicide death is up among all demographic groups.

There were 48,344 suicide deaths in the U.S. in 2018, 14.2 per 100,000 population. That’s up 1.4 percent from the 14.0 suicide deaths per 100,000 population in 2017.

Suicide was the 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2018, according to the report.

The numbers come against a backdrop of understanding that we really don’t know a lot about suicide – its root causes, even if the numbers are accurate, or even close.

The focus at the outset, mental health advocates say, needs to be on prevention.

“As the rate of suicide continues to climb in this country, year over year, it is necessary to focus on the few effective suicide prevention strategies we’re aware of,” said Jonathan Singer, president of the American Association of Suicidology.

“We’re at a tipping point, where we understand some fundamental, effective prevention methods, but must develop population-level implementation,” Singer said. “This includes the potential of implementing non-traditional, alternative methods of intervention like community-based strategies that expand the scope of suicide prevention beyond mental health responses.”

A necessary step in that process will be developing better systems for gathering data about suicide deaths, attempts and ongoing suicidal experiences. Researchers concede that the current data-gathering systems are lacking, and that there is an urgent need to collect complete data so that they can better understand what is happening, and for what in terms of suicide prevention efforts ongoing is working.

“Among the very few things we have evidence for showing an impact on suicide rates, like crisis lines, training of healthcare professionals, and maintained contact with people experiencing thoughts of suicide, access to lethal means is one of the most important for us to focus on,” said Colleen Creighton, CEO of AAS.

“By putting space and time between someone experiencing thoughts of suicide and their method, namely firearms, we greatly increase their chances of survival,” Creighton said. “We see very promising research surrounding firearms safety legislation and its potential to reduce suicide rates at population levels.”

Story by Chris Graham

Augusta Health Kris McMackin CPA
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Augusta Free Press