New Data Shows the Suicide Rate Went Up Again. Here's Why There's Still Hope.
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the U.S. suicide rate went up again in 2017, the most recent data available. The suicide rate has increased 33 percent since 1999, yet funding continues to lag behind other leading causes of death.
After hearing news of (another) year of rising suicide rates, it’s easy to feel hopeless. It’s frustrating to know that despite all the progress made around suicide prevention awareness, it hasn’t influenced the suicide rate, at least not yet.
As frustrating as this news is, it doesn’t mean things are hopeless. We asked suicide prevention advocates, mental health professionals and researchers to let us know what gives them hope in light of the CDC’s new data.
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. The public is paying attention.
“The biggest thing that gives me hope, without a doubt, is the sheer attention suicide prevention is getting from the general public… It’s quite clear that we’re not f***ing around anymore.” — Chris Maxwell
“The biggest thing that gives me hope, without a doubt, is the sheer attention suicide prevention is getting from the general public. We’re not quite there yet in terms of funding for research on effective prevention, intervention and treatment strategies just yet — but I think this comes next. We’ve seen a massive groundswell of support from those with unprecedented levels of reach — media, music, entertainment industries — all lifting up the voices of those who’ve been affected by suicide. It’s quite clear that we’re not f***ing around anymore.” — Chris Maxwell, Communications Coordinator at the American Association of Suicidology.
2. The conversation is getting better.
“The way suicide and its prevention are being discussed — largely without judgment, with prevention and hope as its focus and with an eye on outcomes-based solutions. ‘What are we going to do to stop the increases in rates of deaths and attempts and how are we going to get it done? How are we going to start holding those people and organizations responsible for reducing rates and supporting people to live lives worth living accountable?’ These are some of the questions we’ve been needing to ask for a long time.” — Chris Maxwell, Communications Coordinator at the American Association of Suicidology
3. We’re starting to better understand the role of firearms in suicide prevention.
“Means safety is the single most powerful tool we have to prevent suicide and I think we are taking positive steps towards actually taking advantage of that knowledge.” — Michael D. Anestis
“What gives me the most hope that we can reverse this trend is that far more individuals and groups are taking vocal, evidence-based stands on the role of firearms in suicide and pushing for investment in research and the implementation of means safety. In the past year, AAS [the American Association of Suicidology] has developed a policy statement on firearms and suicide, created a firearms committee and put out a statement when the NRA told doctors to ‘stay in their lane’ on gun violence. None of that was happening even last year, so the progress is far from enough, but it is meaningful and building in momentum. Means safety is the single most powerful tool we have to prevent suicide and I think we are taking positive steps towards actually taking advantage of that knowledge.” — Michael D. Anestis, Ph.D., author of “Guns and Suicide: An American Epidemic“
4. There is work happening now that could lead to solutions in the future.
“The work being done in areas like means safety, technological advancements increasing predictive risk capacities to near-futuristic levels and work being done with experimental pharmaceuticals (like ketamine and psilocybin mushrooms), have all shown incredibly promising, novel ways we can start to look at saving more lives and giving people hopeful, productive futures.” — Chris Maxwell, Communications Coordinator at the American Association of Suicidology
5. Although there’s much we don’t know about preventing suicide — there are things we do know.
“Knowing these things, and knowing that there is a vast community of people who are talking about saving lives and making lives worth living, gives me hope.” — Jonathan Singer
“What gives me hope is that we know how to save lives. At a state level, we know that reducing access to firearms reduces suicide deaths. At a community level, gatekeeper training has been shown to reduce suicide deaths. In schools, early education programs like the “Good Behavior Game” and suicide prevention programs like “Signs of Suicide” have been shown to reduce suicidal thoughts and non-lethal attempts. At an individual and family level, we know that interventions like attachment-based family therapy and dialectical behavior therapy have been shown to reduce suicidal ideation and attempt. We know that social isolation kills and that social connection, especially to family, saves. Knowing these things, and knowing that there is a vast community of people who are talking about saving lives and making lives worth living, gives me hope that we will see the suicide rates decrease in the next few years.” — Jonathan Singer, author of “Suicide in Schools: A Practitioner’s Guide to Multi-level Prevention, Assessment, Intervention, and Postvention.”
6. More knowledge can lead to more compassionate care.
“[We need] emergency rooms to be more compassionate to those who attempt suicide. I’ve been in a situation where I was suicidal, and the hospital staff made me feel even more suicidal, and I know this has happened to many others. Why aren’t emergency room staff more educated on mental health and how to treat someone? This needs to change, because I feel the more educated and compassionate they are, [the less likely people will be afraid] to seek emergency medical attention for suicidal thoughts in the first place. What gives me hope? That this nation is starting to see how serious this problem is. I’m seeing more articles about it, I’m seeing more people speak up in our communities and even amongst actors, singers, etc. People are finally realizing how big a problem this is, and that’s a huge start to working on tackling this issue.” — Jasmin Pierre, suicide attempt survivor and founder of The Safe Place
7. We no longer need to rely on hope alone.
“We no longer need to rely on hope… The United States can have a reduced rate of attempt and death in our lifetimes.” — Tony Wood
“We no longer need to rely on hope. I am not alone in my belief that methods successfully employed in other areas of public health can prevent suicide and reduce the rate of attempts and death. If it were funded at a level equal to our annual national investment in research of vitamin supplements, for example. This is not out of reach. The United States can have a reduced rate of attempt and death in our lifetimes. The breakthroughs we’ve seen in cancer and heart disease lead the way to a coordinated multidisciplinary effort focused on outcomes that will transform how affected individuals and their families recover from the crisis as well as treatment that exceeds our wildest expectations. This report should act as a wakeup call.” — Tony Wood, co-founder and COO of Qntfy.
What gives you hope? Let us know in the comments below.
Getty image via marchmeena29