Preventing, Understanding and Discussing Death by Suicide
Over the pasts few decades, awareness of suicide prevention in the United States has expanded. Independent volunteer prevention programs like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, various counseling programs, and government programs on the local, state, and federal levels like the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline have all taken shape to help those in need. While these programs have saved countless lives, it is hard to know someone that hasn't been affected by suicide whether it be family, friends or coworkers. A recent Stella employee survey revealed that just over 51 percent of it's employees have lost a loved one to suicide.
Though awareness surrounding suicide has become more prevalent, it is still a leading cause of death in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control, "Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States with 45,979 deaths in 2020." Suicide rates saw an increase of 30 percent between the years 2000–2018. The rate decreased in the years 2019–2020 but still remains on the list of highest mortality rates in the country.
Who is affected the most by suicide and suicide attempts?
While all different types of people are affected by suicide and suicide attempts, some groups are more at risk than others. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, the groups most affected by suicide are:
Middle-Aged People and Older Men
Upwards of 80 percent of all suicides in the U.S. are among middle-aged men and women, 45-54. Men 85 and older have the highest suicide rate in the country due to possible isolation, a history of violence, and more.
Young American Indian men face a greater risk of suicide and suicidal ideations due to isolation, historical trauma, poverty caused by systemic issues, cultural stress, and more. American Indian men in the Northern Plains seem to face the greatest risk.
Alaska currently holds one of the highest suicide rates in all fifty states. Young Alaskan men are especially at risk due to substance abuse and isolation.
Two other very important groups affected by higher percentages of suicide listed by SAMHSA are veterans and members of the LGBTQ+ communities.
According to the 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, over 6,000 veterans took their own lives in 2019. That's around 14 percent of the 45,000 plus people that committed suicide that year. "Veterans ages 55-74 were the largest population subgroup," the VA reported. "They accounted for 38.6% of Veteran suicide deaths in 2019." Many veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress injury that can further lead to debilitating mental health conditions.
The LGBTQ plus community faces an insurmountable challenge with homophobia, hatred, and acceptance from outside parties. This can lead to suicidal ideations and suicide attempts for those receiving the hatred. The CDC says, "Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are at even greater risk for suicide attempts, especially before the age of 25." LGBTQ plus youth have an even higher risk of suicidal ideations and attempts due to their unsafe environments.
Suicide and trauma
Symptoms of trauma and post-traumatic stress injury can often run hand in hand with suicidal ideations or attempts. There is evidence that trauma, particularly brought on by sexual abuse in childhood and veterans that have seen combat, does "increase the risk of suicidal thoughts," according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair. "In this research, combat trauma survivors who were wounded more than once or put in the hospital for a wound had the highest suicide risk." Veterans can carry the weight of combat long after they've returned home from war. The guilt often leads to suicidal ideations. More studies continue to explain that those with PTSI, or PTSD, have higher suicide ideations or attempts – Partly, due to the lack of preventions or ability to express emotions in a safe environment.
Treatment of suicidal ideations and attempts
Around five people die by suicide in one hour in the United States, that's one person every 11 minutes, and the number of those that thought about suicide is even higher, 12.1 million people seriously considered taking their life, and just over three million planned an attempt, and 1.2 million attempted taking their life. The emotional and physical impact of suicide or suicide attempt is astronomical on their loved ones. It can lead to post-traumatic stress injury, depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Suicide and suicide attempts can also make a large impact financially. "In 2019, suicide and nonfatal self-harm cost the nation nearly $490 billion in medical costs, work loss costs, the value of statistical life, and quality of life costs," the CDC reported last year.
There are various modalities used to combat suicidal ideations. And though, there is no one size fits all approach to solving suicidal ideations, some of the most popular avenues are cognative behavioral therapies that reduce the ideations through patients actively working on coping mechanisms, Antidepressants, antipsychotic medications, anti-anxiety medications that can help reduce symptoms, and support from loved ones.
Over the last couple of decades, new treatments like the stellate ganglion block (SGB) and ketamine have given hope to many with suicidal ideations. SGB is an injection of local anesthetic into the stellate ganglion that helps restore normal biological function. Some evidence has shown that it can efficiently reduce symptoms of trauma, like hypervigilance, trouble sleeping, and anxiety, that can lead to suicidal ideations.
One person that received SGB treatment by Stella said, "None of the memories have disappeared but I no longer feel them or relive them every second of every day. I was at a point where I couldn't stop feeling suicidal, it was absolute torture to even imagine having to live another day stuck in my own head. I no longer feel suicidal."
According to a study byThe BMJ, ketamine has a rapid relief effect on those suffering from depression and severe suicidal ideations. More patients involved in the study reached a full remission of suicidal thoughts within three days time compared to those with a placebo. Like SGB, ketamine is not a cure, but a big step forward on the path to recovery.
How is Stella handling suicide prevention?
Stella's number one priority is to help those in need suffering from certain mental heatlh conditions – Conditions that can often lead to symptoms like suicidal ideations or even attempts. The tireless advocates, care coordinators, and medical professionals work daily to ensure opportunities for healing like the stellate ganglion block and ketamine treatments are available to those in need.
Like a lot of mental health companies, Stella has actively opened up a conversation about mental health, combating the stigmas surrounding those suffering. The more open people are, the more resources become available to those that may not know where to search. The Stella blog has opened up a dialogue about the signs and symptoms of trauma, depression, anxiety, and more. The Story of Our Trauma podcast offers insight from those experiencing similar situations, like Ron Self, a veteran affected by a suicide attempt. And our testimonial page has shared personal stories of successful solutions to those combating symptoms.
What else is being done to prevent suicide and suicide attempts?
More than 90 percent of people who survive an attempted suicide never go on to die by suicide, according to the CDC. But 90 percent is still far too many people. Recent large-scale programs from the federal government have been initiated, like the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, to help with suicidal ideations that can lead to suicide attempts.
The 988 Lifeline
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7 suicide prevention counselors from over 160 centers in the United States. The Biden Administration increased federal funding from $24 million to $432 million to include resources for select groups of people like the ones mentioned in the previous section. It is available and open to anyone that is in emotional distress or facing suicidal ideations.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a volunteer organization that has been around since 1987 and has remained a valuable resource for those looking for help with suicidal ideations. The organization actively funds research and education surrounding suicide, advocates for policies at a federal level, and supports those that have been impacted by the suicide of a loved one.
Suicide remains a leading cause of death in this country, but with awareness and active dialogue, we can lower the number of those with ideations, plans and those that take their own life. The resources are available, and if you or a loved one is suffering from suicidal ideations, please connect with the 988 Lifeline.