TW: This post talks about suicide
It was an emotional week for many people. The death by suicide of Kate Spade, the highly regarded international fashion designer, was followed only days later by the similar death of acclaimed writer, TV documentarian and beloved food guru Anthony Bourdain.
The sad news came amidst a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the suicide rate in the U.S. has risen by 25% between 1999 to 2016. Currently, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., totaling some 45,000 incidents annually. It turns out that there are now twice as many suicides as homicides in the U.S.
Yet meaningful conversations to address this complex problem are only just starting to happen in the U.S. One example is the bipartisan effort in Congress in collaboration with suicide educational and awareness organizations to get things started.
Alan Fruzzetti is a clinical psychologist and program director at the boys intensive treatment program at the Harvard Medical School affiliate McLean Hospital in Massachusetts
The growing epidemic of suicide is just a part of a global pandemic of self-inflicted deaths. A 2017 World Health Organization (WHO) report states that there were 800,000 suicides world-wide that year. That averages out to one person every 40 seconds.
There are many identified factors that likely contribute to this near overwhelming and ongoing calamity, including the severe systemic stress related to the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent cuts in public mental health services, making available treatments far less available.
Another major challenge to dealing with the crisis is the stigma that is persistently attached to mental illness, Statements such as she/he “struggles with their demons”, a medieval epithet that suggests the afflicted person was possessed by the devil. People need to be as comfortable talking about mental illness as they are about any other chronic disease that is treatable and/or manageable such as diabetes or asthma.
Just as there has been a rapid rise in the number of people that died by suicide over the past 10 years, so too has there been a growth in organizations and individuals dedicated to providing support and information to people experiencing a life-threatening mental health crisis. Borderline Personality Disorder is one of many conditions that has experienced this increase in advocacy, awareness and support. You can find out more about them here.
Finally, if you have a loved one grappling with depression and you are not sure how to have a supportive and constructive conversation with that person, there is an excellent article in the NY Times that offers helpful information.