Last year, America lost over 38,000 citizens to suicide.[i]
If we consider the 1 + 4 model, that one person deeply and intimately affects the lives of 4 people closest to them – family members, friends, colleagues – this loss is shattering.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst teenagers and young adults.[ii] Nearly 16% of students in grades 9-12 report having seriously considered suicide; and 7.8%, or about one in thirteen, have attempted suicide one or more times in the past twelve months.[iii]
In 2012, we lost more service members in the U.S Army to suicide than those killed in combat.[iv] Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), one of the signature wounds of this war may be a risk factor, but what are the factors leading 54% of active-duty services members, those who have never seen combat or deployed, to inflict deadly self-harm?[v] Are there broader societal issues that must be explored, in addition to the unique culture and lifestyle of the military? And are they at risk after their service ends?
Just as perplexing, no report exists for the number of wives, husbands and children of service members and veterans who have also died by suicide, yet we know they too have taken their own lives.
America will lose 22 veterans a day to suicide – that is one veteran every sixty-five minutes.[vi] The Department of Veterans Affairs has only recently begun collecting data about veteran suicides. In 2010, then Secretary Shinseki engaged governors in all 50 states to request support, collaboration and information sharing to improve the VA’s ability to track and report the suicide mortality rate of veterans. The 2012 Suicide Data Report by the VA’s Mental Health Services and Suicide Prevention Program contains information from the first 21 states to contribute data and does not include some states, such as California and Texas, with larger veteran populations. Prior to 2010, information about suicide deaths of veterans was provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and was limited to data from 16 states. What is the real rate of veteran suicide? Who is affected? And what are the contributing factors that put our veterans at risk?
Making the headlines are former football players, boxers and other sports stars who have struggled with debilitating brain and/or bodily injuries who have taken their own lives. As mentioned, a growing body of research is showing the connection between suicide risk and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).[vii]
But what is the bigger picture? Suicide among middle-aged men, as a whole, is increasing. Why? We will explore the role of socio-economic factors, co-occurring events, mental illness, injury and more.
Older men, in particular those who are white and 75 years or older have the highest rate of suicide; their disproportionately high rate is three times that of the general population.[viii] Several factors that increase risk of suicide among older men include presence of a mental disorder, physical illness, functional decline, and social disconnection including the loss of a life partner.
We will explore these reports, questions and more in Power of One: Preventing Suicide in America.
Stay connected for Background, Part II.
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[i] Education Development Center, Inc. for the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
[iii] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Surgeon General and National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action. Washington, DC:HHS, September 2012
[iv] U.S Department of Defense, Department of Army News Release No. 978-12, December 13, 2012
[v] U.S. Department of Defense, Suicide Event Report, 2011 Calendar Year Annual Report, https://t2health.org/sites/default/files/dodser/DoDSER_2011_Annual_Report.pdf
[vi] Suicide Data Report, 2012. Department of Veterans Affairs, Mental Health Services, Suicide Prevention Program; Janet Kemp, RN PhD, Robert Bossarte, PhD. http://www.va.gov/opa/docs/Suicide-Data-Report-2012-final.pdf [vii] Suicide After Traumatic Brain Injury, A Population Study. T W Teasdale, AW Engberg, http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/71/4/436.full
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