Suicide may be taboo, but it’s becoming an increasingly prevalent public health concern. Indeed, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is now one of the leading causes of death in all age groups. NIH researchers now believe suicide is the second most common reason for death amongst Americans aged 10 – 34.
The CDC has also been sounding the alarm on the recent rise in suicide cases. According to the CDC’s statistics, suicides have increased 33 percent from 1999 – 2019. Current estimates suggest at least 47,500 people die of suicide each year. For perspective, the CDC estimates there are 19,141 homicides per year.
Although millions of Americans struggle with suicidal thoughts, many are unaware of the gravity of this issue. Indeed, recent survey data from the University of Washington suggests most Americans underestimate the frequency of suicide versus homicides.
Unfortunately, the fewer people know about suicide prevention, the more likely suicide figures will remain high. The best way to lighten this dark issue is to use available statistics to develop proven preventative strategies.
Using Stats To Prevent Suicide —Four Key Preventative Strategies
Addressing Suicide Upfront — The Importance Of Education & Awareness
Education is the primary preventative strategy recommended by mental health groups. While it doesn’t seem like educational courses could make a considerable impact, statistics suggest they may be the most powerful way to reduce suicidal ideation.
For instance, a 12-year study out of Canada evaluated suicide rates in two police units. Those in Montréal received support and educational resources for suicide prevention, while those in Québec did not. After 12 years, the Montréal group’s average suicides declined versus an 11 percent rise in Québec.
When patients know how to deal with suicidal ideation, they will likely seek professional counseling. According to a recent international study, people who seek cognitive behavioral therapy for suicidal tendencies have a 37 percent lower chance of attempted suicide. Post-treatment, 55 percent of patients notice a reduction in suicidal thoughts.
Beyond helping patients find proper treatment strategies, education programs could provide invaluable community support. Many recent reports suggest a lack of social support could increase a person’s risk of suicide. Professors at George Mason University also point out that better social support could decrease the risk of suicide by 30 percent.
Encouraging Exercise — The Role Of Physical Health In Mental Wellness
Exercise isn’t just great for the body; it may help shake off suicidal thoughts.
Researchers in both Vermont and Texas analyzed the mental health of at-risk teens in physical education programs. According to both studies, students who participated in more PE courses were less likely to report suicidal ideation.
Indeed, there was a 23 percent reduction in reported suicidal thoughts in the Vermont trial. Students only needed to participate in four activities per week to experience these benefits.
Conversely, there seems to be a correlation between sedentary lifestyles and a person’s risk for depression. One Californian study found that roughly 15.5 percent of obese patients were diagnosed with depression. By comparison, approximately 7.4 percent of average-weight patients complained of depression.
Scientists at Harvard Medical School claim exercise is nature’s natural “anti-depressant.” Indeed, regular exercise may help improve nerve connections in critical areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus. As these brain regions grow more robust, it may positively affect mood.
Mindfulness Meditation vs. Suicidal Ideation
Along with exercise, meditation is another therapy that has gained the attention of suicide prevention groups. In addition to reducing the body’s stress response, meditation appears to help patients evaluate negative thoughts objectively.
Harvard researchers recently discovered 30 minutes of daily meditation could strengthen grey matter in the brain’s hippocampus. Some researchers believe diminished hippocampus size could correlate with higher depression rates.
Although daily meditation sessions seem to provide the most benefit, Chinese researchers found that brief mindfulness sessions can reduce suicidal ideation. This study also discovered that people who performed short meditation sessions had fewer stress hormones in their bloodstream.
In addition to standard breath meditation, there’s evidence that movement-based techniques like yoga and Tai Chi decrease the incidence of depression. By combining gentle exercise and breathwork, these techniques may be more advantageous for patients who don’t enjoy seated meditation.
Gun Ownership & Suicide — Understanding The Heightened Risks
If people have easier access to lethal weapons, it will increase their risk of suicide. Conversely, when people remove weapons like firearms from their property, suicide rates decrease.
To this day, suicide is the top cause of firearm-related deaths in the USA. Roughly 60 percent of total firearm fatalities are suicides, and they have a lethality rate of approximately 90 percent. At about 23,000 deaths per year, gun-related suicides remain one of the most pressing concerns amongst prevention advocates.
Recent statistics suggest states with higher firearm ownership rates have a roughly four times higher risk for suicide. These rates increase more if adults store their ammunition and gun in the same place.
To address this issue, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention recommends expanding gun-safety educational programs throughout the USA. Foundation members argue more awareness of storage practices could reduce firearm-related suicides by at least 9,000 in 2025.
Data from the CDC also found that people who stored firearms and ammunition in separate locked cases had a lower incidence of teen-related suicides. There’s also evidence that providing gun-owners with safe storage devices or incentives to purchase these items can reduce overall suicide rates.
Searching For Light In The Darkness — Ways Suicidal Patients Can Seek Help
Suicide is a challenging topic to talk about, but there’s a lot of data on proven preventative strategies. There’s also strong evidence that suicide is not an uncommon issue. According to the CDC, millions of people contemplate suicide at least once in their lives.
While it may seem impossible, suicidal patients must know there are proven ways to reduce their symptoms. The best first step is to speak with a primary care doctor about any mental health complaints. Enrolling in cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the best-studied ways to help suicidal patients recover.
For those who are experiencing a mental health crisis, there are toll-free suicide helplines available. Anyone feeling extreme anxiety or depression should contact (800) 273-8255 for professional guidance.