This week marks the first full week of Mental Health Awareness Month. I am pleased to share that we have started this week with SAMHSA’s 14th Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. The focus of this event was on suicide prevention in our youth. We chose to focus on this issue because of the disturbing and unacceptable rate of suicide in young Americans. Suicide is one of the ten leading causes of death in the United States and the numbers who die by suicide have only increased in recent years.
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There has never been a better time to focus on suicide prevention in youth. SAMHSA’s 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) showed that young adults ages 18 to 25 have the highest rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts of any age group. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, showed that in 2017, suicide was the second leading cause of death among children, youth, and adolescents ages 10 to 24, behind automobile accidents.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data on the ten leading causes of death in the United States recently. Tragically, suicide—too often a consequence of untreated mental illness and substance use disorders, and as such a preventable condition—remains on that list as the 10th leading cause of death for adults and the second-leading cause of death in our youth. Suicide rates increased from 29,199 deaths in 1996 to 47,173 deaths in 2017.
What are the contributors to the state of mind that ends in a person taking their own life? What can government do about this? What responsibility do we have to each other to take actions that will alter this course? These are questions of great importance, because rising deaths by suicide say something about the conditions under which our people live and die and about our society at large.
When individuals enter the field of healthcare, they are driven by a passion to assist others in achieving their best state of wellness. No matter their respective professional backgrounds, all health providers recognize the value of strong screening and assessments. We spend time and effort in screening to ensure that quality care can be delivered. Ideally, care that is both person-centered and that results in individualized treatment planning that meets the needs of the unique patient.
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.