• Shawn Wilson, Ph.D.

Rising Suicide Rates Leads to Questions not Interventions

Last week two separately well-known and loved celebrities committed suicide. These deaths have shocked many, as fans ask how these suicides could have happened. Unfortunately, these deaths may not be as surprising when considered in the context of recent research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that shows suicide rates have raised more than 30% in half of the states over the past two decades.

This rapid rise in suicide is extremely troubling and impacting areas we might not traditionally associate with suicide. For example, the highest increase in suicides was in North Dakota, which saw a 57.6% increase in suicides over the past two decades. These figures highlight the nationwide impact of suicide.

Several news outlets have discussed reasons why suicide rates are on the rise. For example an article by BBC News (a similar article was posted by NPR and other news outlets) notes that suicide is often triggered by relationship issues and financial troubles. Other factors can include when people are isolated from appropriate mental health services (such as in rural communities) and the impact of the opioid crisis. Another contributor to suicides is access to firearms; two-thirds of gun-related deaths in America are due to suicides. Yet another incredible figure: 54% of individuals who commit suicide had no known prior history of mental health problems. While current statistics may underrepresent the true prevalence of mental health problems in those who later commit suicide, it is clear that suicide is both a mental health and public health problem.

Ultimately, there is no one factor that can be addressed to successfully address the current suicide epidemic we are experiencing. Suicide is a multi-faceted problem that will require multi-faceted solutions. What we know is that suicide is on the rise. The next step is for the government to provide adequate funding for both mental health services and mental health research. Interventions for suicide can be immensely successful. However, these interventions cannot be provided if the appropriate resources are not in place.

It has been disheartening how often I have felt the need to write about suicide based on recent research and media coverage. However, the answer to combatting suicide is not to ignore the issue. By highlighting suicide facts and interventions, we can hopefully help at least some of those who are contemplating suicide.

While the battle for mental health funding may seem overwhelming and out of our control, there are other ways we can help prevent suicide on a more personal level. Importantly, we can educate ourselves about warning signs of suicide and how to refer people to the appropriate care. Please read some of the resources below to learn more.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Even one death to suicide is one too many. If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there are resources available such as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255), the Trevor Project for LGBT+ youth (866-488-7386), or 911 if it is an emergency.

Article links:

CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6722a1.htm?s_cid=mm6722a1_w

BBC News: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44416727

NPR: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/06/07/617897261/cdc-u-s-suicide-rates-have-climbed-dramatically

The Clinically Relevant Insights Blog, part of ShawnWilsonPhD.com, shares news and research regarding psychology and wellness.

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© 2020 by Shawn Wilson