The numbers are stark. In 2009, the number of deaths from suicide surpassed the number of deaths from motor vehicle crashes nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That includes a significant increase in suicide rates among middle-aged adults: Between 1999 and 2010, suicide in those aged 35 to 64 years rose 28.4 percent. Increases cut across race lines as well, with suicide rates in white Americans increasing by 40.9 percent.
Rates increased for all U.S. regions by at least 23 percent, but none more than the Midwest. Our region increased in suicide rate by more than a third: 35.6 percent.
We hope more recent data would show something different, and it’s up to us to make sure future data does.
More than that, these numbers need to remind us of the human stories that are ended prematurely every day by depression and suicide.
While depression still carries a great stigma, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Indiana/Ohio Director Lisa Brattain hopes victims realize it is often an illness caused by brain chemistry rather than a choice.
“An illness is an illness; depression is treatable and suicide is preventable,” she said. “We just need to be armed with the right tools to do that.”
WebMD recommends contacting a medical professional for diagnosis if one suffers consistently for at least two weeks from symptoms including persistent sadness and pessimism; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness or hopelessness; loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, including sex; difficulty concentrating and complaints of poor memory; insomnia or oversleeping; fatigue; thoughts of suicide or death; slow speech or movements; and headache, stomachache and digestive problems.
In addition, we need to recognize these signs in those close to us in order to help them start on a road to recovery. Ignoring a problem like this will not make it go away.
Many primary care doctors can deal with depression and suicidal thoughts, though psychologists and counselors usually offer greater expertise. Once diagnosed, victims can set up a treatment plan including antidepressants, counseling and psychotherapy.
While there is a difference between clinical depression and simply being depressed, we hope those who need help will not hesitate to admit the issue and ask for assistance. Reach out to a doctor, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or a friend.
Together we can lower our saddest statistics and keep many more human stories going strong.