In the midst of conversations about suicide and suicide prevention sparked by the deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, new statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a rise in suicide across the United States from 1999 to 2016.
Nearly 45,000 people died by suicide in 2016 alone. The CDC reported that every state but Nevada had a rise in suicide. Idaho’s is one of those states in which the suicide rate rose by 38 to 58 percent.
The report said that often people think suicide is a result of a mental health condition, but there isn’t enough evidence to know for sure. Fifty-four percent of suicides happened among people who had no diagnosed mental health condition.
Contributing factors to suicide include relationship problems, a crisis in the past or upcoming two weeks, a physical health problem, a criminal legal problem, loss of housing, job or financial problems and a problematic substance abuse.
“An actual death by suicide is definitely statistically rare,” The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Suicide Prevention Manager Kim Kane said. “Of course even when one death happens, that ripple effect on the family and the community doesn’t make it feel rare.”
Although it’s rare to have suicides, Kane said she wants people to remember that there’s always help and always hope for someone who may be feeling suicidal. It can start with developing good coping skills and strength.
One program that helps with this is Sources of Strength, an organization dedicated to prevent suicide in youth by helping them build protective influences, according to their website.
“We believe that many strengths are more powerful than one, and our united goal is to activate and mobilize these strengths in ways that positively change individuals and communities,” according to their website.
Sources of Strength focuses on strengthening mental health, family support, positive friends, mentors, healthy activities, generosity and medical access for those who are struggling.
Kane said programs like Sources of Strength, which the IDHW uses in their suicide prevention trainings, help Idaho.
Kane said Idaho is in the top 10 states for high suicide rates. The reason for such high rates come from factors unique to the Northwest.
“There’s number one, our culture, which is a culture of rugged individualism,” Kane said. “That culture in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. But the issue with that culture is the culture doesn’t tend to lend itself very well to help-seeking. And the other part of the problem is the easy access to the most lethal means.”
Kane said that 60 percent of suicides in Idaho in 2016 came from firearms. Another problem with suicides in Idaho comes from inadequate access to mental health care.
Kane said that especially for college students, it’s important to help friends, but not alone.
“If they’re worried about a friend, they’ve got to connect that friend to another trusted adult and not keep that to themselves,” Kane said. “If they really want to be a positive and supportive friend, they’ll know that they can’t handle someone in emotional crisis and solve that for their friends themselves, just like they couldn’t if their friend broke their leg.”
There are many resources to help those with suicidal thoughts. For help, people can reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or chatting online at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.