US Suicide Rate Keeps Climbing: Here Are 2 Major Reasons Why


The suicide rate in the United States keeps climbing and experts have identified two major reasons behind the rising number of suicides among Americans.

Since 1999, U.S. suicide rates have increased by 25 percent, with over 40,000 Americans taking their own lives in 2016. Two separate reports have identified possible reasons behind the alarming trend.

The Risk of Suicide Contagion

Fashion designer Kate Spade was found dead in her apartment in Manhattan in what appeared to be suicide. A few days later, chef and food storyteller Anthony Bourdain was found in his hotel room in France unresponsive, also suicide.

According to mental health experts, high-profile celebrity suicides lead to what is known as suicide contagion. This is when the suicide of one person or multiple people contributes to increased suicidal behavior among others, especially to those who are already harboring suicidal thoughts or are already at risk of suicide.

John Ackerman, the Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research in Ohio's Nationwide Children's Hospital, said that people suffering from depression and are at risk of suicide are already trying to learn how other people experience it.

"Especially when you've got high-profile people who are successful and who the world views as having a lot going for them and they die by suicide, it can generate feelings of hopelessness," Ackerman said.

In the United States, there was a near 10 percent increase in the number of suicides, equivalent to an addition of about 1,800 deaths, in the four months after the suicide of comedian Robin Williams in 2014. Ackerman and other mental health experts are concerned that the suicide rate will again climb after the deaths of Spade and Bourdain.

Public Mental Health Crisis

Columbia University's John Mann, a psychiatrist studying the causes of depression and suicide, said that there was a much bigger, all-encompassing reason for the increasing suicide rates in the United States.

"We have a serious, national problem in terms of adequate recognition of psychiatric illnesses and their treatment. That is the single most effective suicide-prevention method in Western nations," Mann said.

Almost three in four Americans who have a psychiatric illness when they took their own lives were not receiving treatment at the time of the death. Mann said that making mental health care more affordable may help decrease the U.S. suicide rates, but the government has made significant cuts in public mental health funding over the past decade.

The latest budget cut by the Trump administration will also remove the Medicaid program, which is the major source of public funds in mental health treatment that serves more than 70 million low-income and disabled Americans.

No 'Magic Formula' for Suicide Prevention

According to mental health experts, helping people process loss and cope with difficult emotions are important in suicide prevention.

"We can't take for granted that everyone learns this by some magic formula," said the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention's Dr. Jerry Reed. "We learn how to read, how to write. We also have to help people learn how to cope."

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