Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Rx for suicides: Increase mental health services

One of the public health issues Americans have become more aware of is suicide, and once again, Baby Boomers seem to be in the forefront.
    Studies show that there has been a dramatic spike over the past decade in suicides. In 2010, more people killed themselves than died in car accidents.
    The rise is highest, nearly 30 percent according to the Centers for Disease Control, among people between the ages of 35 and 64. Rates for men went up by nearly 50 percent, to 30 per 100,000. For women in their early 60s, the base rate is 7 in 100,000.
    It’s easy to presume why. Boomers have always been tagged with being more consumed by youthful notions of limitless possibilities and nearly limitless time than earlier generations.
    They came of age in the maelstrom of the 1960s, convinced they could change the world. Boomers have paid a price with higher rates of obesity, prescription drug and alcohol abuse, divorce and depression, but they have believed there is always a second chance.
    That belief has been sorely tested as they’ve piled up the decades.
    The CDC is sure there has been an increase in suicide rates but not sure why. Historically, rates rise in times of economic uncertainty like the years since 2008. Handguns, the most frequent means of self-inflicted death, are widely available. None of this explains, however, why rates of suicide have been higher for boomers than for other generational cohorts.
    It’s easy to grab for the obvious, but the truth is that the reasons for suicide are not easy to know. Those left behind are left to ask, “Why? What could I have done to prevent this?”
    There seem to be some hints. Suicide is skyrocketing among military personnel. Suicide is more frequent in places where people describe themselves as happy than not. Rural areas, where physical proximity to others is lower than average, experience a greater percentage of suicides than do crowded urban communities.
    Increasing our mental health resources is the best way to address the kinds of pain that make self-inflicted death seem like an attractive option, whatever the cause and whomever it afflicts.
    If we are seriously seeking a solution, a first step is to fully integrate mental-health services into all our health-care systems, and to make sure everyone knows how to access those services.

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