Mental health is central to everyone’s well-being, particularly adolescents, teens, and young adults. Our youth are active in their communities where they initiate growth, lead and contribute. However, in many cases, some young people face additional challenges that can take a toll on their well-being, including suffering from mental illness. This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) has chosen youth as the focus of World Mental Health Day 2018 with its theme, “Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.”
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Each September 10, the International Association for Suicide Prevention sponsors World Suicide Prevention Day. Here in the United States, overall suicide rates have increased significantly since 1999 in almost every state, but suicide affects some groups far more than others. As we observe World Suicide Prevention Day, I’d like to call attention to the effect suicide has on tribal communities.
American Indian and Alaska Native youth ages 15-24 die by suicide at a rate four times the overall rate for this age group. Alarmingly, these suicides often occur in clusters—multiple suicides within a social group or small community in a short time.
It is one thing to hear in the abstract that America suffers from a stubbornly high rate of suicide and suicide attempts. But when it hits home—as it did for me years ago when a young neighbor, struggling with serious mental illness, died from suicide—we realize we have to ask some tough questions.
Suicide claims approximately 800,000 lives across the world each year. In the United States, more than twice as many people die by suicide than homicide, and more people die by suicide than from automobile accidents. We should not accept these lives lost to suicide as irreversible facts.
Suicide is a heartbreaking, serious and preventable public health crisis.
In 2014, 9.4 million adults aged 18 or older reported that, in the past 12 months, they had thought seriously about trying to kill themselves. In that same year, 2.7 million made plans to do so, and 1.1 million made a nonfatal suicide attempt. This information, the latest report on SAMHSA’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), paints a stark picture of the number of adults in this country who are in crisis.
In 2013, there were more than 41,000 deaths as a result of suicide in the U.S. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death, claiming more lives each year than death due to motor vehicle crashes. Especially alarming, it is the second leading cause of death for young people age 10 to 24.