S. E. Williams
Contributor

“And when no hope was left in sight on that starry, starry night. You took your life as lovers often do; But I could have told you, Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.”

  • Don McLean

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control reported America’s suicide rate has increase 25 percent over the last twenty years. 

In 2016 alone, close to 45,000 lives were lost to suicide. It is among the top ten leading causes of death in the nation and in a recent CNN interview, CDC Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schucha stated, “The problem is getting worse.”

During the period 1999 through 2016, 49 states experienced increased rates of suicide—Nevada was the only exception with a 1 percent decrease. The suicide rate in California increased by 14.8 percent.

The trend becomes more alarming when one considers that suicides have contributed to a decrease in life expectancy in America. 

Interestingly, more than half of all suicide victims were never diagnosed with mental illness. According to the National Violent Death Reporting System, among those who committed suicide in 2015, nearly 54 percent had no history of mental illness. 

Those who commit suicide also have a method of choice. Nearly half of all suicide victims used firearms to take their lives, hanging or suffocation was the next most frequently selected option, followed by poisoning. 

Every demographic is touched by the tragedy and heartbreak of suicide. Although suicides rates have increased among women, men continue to take their own lives at a rate that is three to five times higher.

The risk of suicide among America’s veterans is ten percent higher than it is for the general population. They account for at least 18 percent of all adult suicides even though they are only 8.5 percent of the adult population.

Although the above data is enough to raise the “red flag of national concern,” an enhanced sense of urgency is sparked when one considers the CDC assessment that suicide is among the leading causes of death for older children and even worse—every day in America, a child under twelve-years-old commits suicide. 

The CDC confirmed that between 1999 and 2015, more than 1,300 children across the country between five and twelve years-of-age, killed themselves.  

Historically, suicide rates among Blacks for all age groups are lower than it is for Whites. In addition, while the suicide rate among White teens is still 50 percent higher than it is for Black teens, this pattern does not hold true for suicide rates among Black children between the ages of five and twelve. Suicide rates among these young people has exceeded that of Whites among both girls and boys.  

A recent study by JAMA Pediatrics looked at data for the period 2001 through 2015, and found that Black children took their own lives at nearly twice the rate of White children.

 

The study was unable to offer a cultural context for its findings. Jeffrey Bridge, an Epidemiologist for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research and author of the report said, “We can’t assume any longer that suicide rates are uniformly higher in White individuals than Black.”

In the report Bridge stressed how previous research on this topic has focused on suicides by Whites, “So. we don’t even know if the same risk and protective factors apply to Black youth.”

He added, “Our findings underscore the need to explore potential race-related differences in mechanisms of suicide and to develop more effective suicide detection and prevention efforts for Black children.”