The suicide rate in America is increasing. That not only makes it an important public health issue. It has also become an election year issue.
Antonio Delgado is a congressional candidate in New York. His tweet explained that, “Suicide rates increased in nearly every state from 1999 through 2016, including an increase of 29% in NY. We must commit funding to help those suffering from mental health conditions and let them know that they are not alone.” Illinois congressional candidate Sara Dady reported that, “Suicide rates are up across gender and age in the US. Take a minute on World Suicide Prevention Day today and tell someone that they are important to you – it could save a life.”
First, let me assure you that the numbers I just cited are correct. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate rose in all but one state, with increases across age, gender, and ethnicity. It is also worth noting that in more than half of those suicides in 27 states, the people had no known mental health conditions before they ended their lives.
Second, suicide is being viewed not only as a mental health problem but as a public health one. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. Suicides account for more than twice as many deaths as homicides.
Finally, there are many reasons for suicide. Mental health professionals point to the economic downturn ten years ago. The dramatic rise in opioid addiction is another reason. A third concern is “suicide contagion.” That is the idea that exposure to suicide may increase the chance of suicide for some.
Suicide has become a major public health issue, and that’s why we are hearing more about it in political campaigns.