Everyone Should Focus On and Contribute to Suicide Prevention
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. On average, there are 123 suicides each day across the nation. This adds up to nearly 45,000 deaths each year. And for every suicide, 25 other individuals attempt to take their lives.
According to research published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year, an increasing number of teenagers reported in 2017 feeling sad or hopeless, having suicidal thoughts and missing school due to fear of violence or bullying, compared to the number sharing such experiences in 2007. In addition, one in five students reported being bullied in school; and one in 10 females and one in 28 males reported being physically forced to have sex.
These statistics are alarming and they give us reason to pause. What strikes me the most is that behind each statistic is a very real human life, a person with a family, friends and colleagues. Whether famous like Kate Spade, Robin Williams or Anthony Bourdain or unknown, each life matters to us all.
Many underlying factors can lead to the development of mental illnesses and risk of suicide. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sums it up well: “It most often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition.”
Some stressors are associated with extensive screen time – use of apps, video games and social media. Although they offer several benefits, they can also have negative impacts on the health of children and adolescents. Social media may lead to cyber bullying and, certainly, in-person bullying is a major concern for the emotional and social development of our youth.
All of us – parents, teachers, healthcare providers – whatever our roles may be – can and should do everything we can to maximize children and adolescents’ protective factors, minimize risk and ensure access to mental health and other services when they are needed.