Help stop the silent illness

Alex Turbeville , Assistant Editor

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 123 people take their lives every day in the United States. For people aged 15-34, it is the second leading cause of death. Over the past 19 years, suicide rates have increased in 49 states. In half of these states, the rate increased by 30 percent or more. Nadine Kaslow of the American Psychological Association said it best when she said that suicide is a public health crisis.

In recent years, Americans have been twice as likely to die by suicide compared to being murdered, according to the Center for Disease Control. However, suicide does not get nearly the same amount of attention; it is hidden away and not discussed, which is part of the problem. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says that 20 percent of Americans affected by mental health conditions have been hurt by some form of stigma.

There is a simple solution to the problem of stigma; it has to be countered by care. We all need to reach out to our friends and family to make sure they are feeling secure. Even further, we should reach out to anyone we can to provide help and let them know they are not alone.

There cannot be any excuse to not discuss suicide just because it is a difficult topic. On average, 9 to 10 million Americans per year have legitimately considered suicide, with most of these people in high school or college. Our peers are hurting, and it is okay to acknowledge that and try to fix it. However, it is important to note that suicidal thoughts are not typical, and that help should be sought as soon as anyone begins to have these thoughts.    

However, stigma is sadly not the only obstacle to face when dealing with suicide prevention. The mental health system in the U.S. has failed us. When I dealt with my own suicidal ideation in 2016, I began to seek help in May. I saw a therapist in July, and got medication for it in August. I’ve talked to several other people who have told me about similar experiences, or sometimes worse ones. That gap leaves a lot of time for things to happen. It simply isn’t taken seriously enough to be given priority.

The state of our mental health system is vital to understanding suicide prevention, since 60 percent of people who died by suicide had depression at the time of their death. If these people are not able to get help, then the likelihood of them killing themselves sharply rises.

Mental Health America lists South Carolina 45 out of 50 in access to mental health care. This number was calculated by using the amount of people that are uninsured, the amount of people who were diagnosed with a mental illness but did not receive mental health services and people who report having an unmet need. This is unacceptable. Since people with depression or anxiety are much more likely to die by suicide, the lack of mental care in our country and state leaves people to die.

Suicide is a complex problem. Different people have different reasons for killing themselves, and there is no easy solution. An opinion in a newspaper won’t stop what I consider to be a genuine crisis, but if even one person looks at this and decides to provide more care and help people get access to the resources they need, then I consider this a success.

Hotlines and resources can be found online for anyone who needs them. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Crisis Text Line are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.