The tragic leading cause of death for Ohio preteens
Story at-a-glance -
- In Ohio, suicide is the leading cause of death for children aged 10 to 14, according to a report from the Ohio Department of Health
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 34-year-olds in Ohio
- In Ohio, from 2007 to 2018 the number of suicides among youth ages 10 to 24 increased by 56%, while the suicide rate increased by 64%
- Some have suggested that Congress should create a “psychologist general,” an office that would be dedicated to Americans’ mental health, similar to that of the surgeon general for physical health needs
- If you notice someone showing signs of contemplating suicide, it’s recommended that you ask them directly if they’re having suicidal thoughts; doing so won’t increase the risk of suicide but may help to open up a conversation that can help
In Ohio, suicide is the leading cause of death for children aged 10 to 14, according to a report from the Ohio Department of Health,1 and the second leading cause of death among 15- to 34-year-olds.2
The alarming numbers follow sobering data from the World Health Organization (WHO),3 which identified suicide as the second leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds in 2016, worldwide. Suicide rates have been on the rise throughout the U.S., including in Ohio, where, from 2007 to 2018, the number of suicides among youth ages 10 to 24 increased by 56%, while the suicide rate increased by 64%.4
Suicide Deaths in Ohio Increased by Nearly 45%
When all age groups were factored in, suicide rates in Ohio rose by nearly 45% from 2007 to 2018, according to the report, with most suicides committed among adults aged 45 to 64. Overall, five people die due to suicide daily in the state, while one youth commits suicide every 33 hours.5
While suicides increased the most among youth, other populations also saw steep increases, including black men, with an increase of nearly 54% from 2014 to 2018, and adults aged 65 years and older, who had a nearly 48% rise from 2007 to 2018.6 Men were also about four times more likely to commit suicide than women.
A CDC report also revealed that students in Cleveland, Ohio, are more likely to attempt suicide than students in other cities. The report found that 2 in 10 high school students in the city tried to commit suicide in 2015, which means 20% of the high school population is suicidal.7
Cleveland is also home to the school district with the second-highest poverty rate in the U.S., along with close to 4,000 homeless students, which plays a role in suicide risk. Poverty, domestic violence, parental separation and other adverse childhood experiences that are more common in Cleveland youth than in other areas, account for some of the suicidal tendencies.
“It is not surprising, considering the environment in our urban setting, but it’s always alarming,” said Cleveland Metropolitan School District psychologist Bill Stencil to News 5 Cleveland. “High areas of poverty also have the stressors that go along with it, which may lend themselves to contemplating suicide, or actually attempting.”8
Suicide Is the 10th Leading Cause of Death in the US
As in Ohio, suicide rates rose across the U.S. from 1999 to 2016, making it the 10th leading cause of death. In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans aged 10 and older committed suicide, and more than half of them did not have a diagnosed mental health condition.
“Relationship problems or loss, substance misuse, physical health problems and job, money, legal or housing stress often contributed to risk for suicide,” the CDC noted, but added, “Suicide is rarely caused by a single factor.”9 Suicide rates varied across the U.S., from a low of 6.9 per 100,000 residents per year in Washington to a high of 29.2 per year in Montana.
However, rates increased in nearly all U.S. states, 25 of which had increases of more than 30%. CDC principal deputy director Dr. Anne Schuchat called suicide a “tragedy for families and communities across the country.”10
Nearly 800,000 People Die by Suicide Globally Every Year
In calling suicide a “serious global public health issue,” WHO said the nearly 800,000 people who die by suicide annually is more than the number of people killed by malaria, breast cancer, war or homicide.11 Even among teenagers aged 15 to 19 years, suicide is the second leading cause of death after road injury.
“ … [M]any suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship breakup or chronic pain and illness,” WHO noted, adding:12
“In addition, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, or loss and a sense of isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behaviour.
Suicide rates are also high amongst vulnerable groups who experience discrimination, such as refugees and migrants; indigenous peoples; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) persons; and prisoners. By far the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt.”
Farmers, particularly those in rural agricultural areas in low- and middle-income countries, are also disproportionately affected. It’s estimated that self-poisoning with pesticides is responsible for 20% of suicides worldwide.13 In India, alone, about 16,000 farmers die due to suicide every year.14
Because intentional pesticide poisoning is so common among farmers, WHO cited reducing access to pesticides as an “underused but highly effective strategy” for suicide prevention:15
“The intervention that has the most imminent potential to bring down the number of suicides is restricting access to pesticides that are used for self-poisoning. The high toxicity of many pesticides means that such suicide attempts often lead to death, particularly in situations where there is no antidote or where there are no medical facilities nearby.”
Should the US Have a Psychologist General?
Writing in Scientific American, Kirk J. Schneider, a psychologist and member of the Council of the American Psychological Association, suggested a novel idea: that Congress should create a “psychologist general,” an office that would be dedicated to Americans’ mental health, similar to that of the surgeon general for physical health needs.16
Anxiety disorders represent the most common mental illness in the U.S., with 40 million U.S. adults affected.17 Further, in the U.S., an estimated 3.2 million adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 suffer from depression, defined as having at least one major depressive episode in a year.18
This accounts for 13.3% of adolescents, who experienced a period of at least two weeks with a depressed mood, loss of interest in daily activities and other symptoms, such as problems with sleep, appetite, energy, concentration or feelings of self-worth. Depression among adolescents is on the rise, increasing by 30% in the last 10 years,19 which could be one factor in why suicide rates are also increasing.
As Schneider noted, while the U.S. has the Public Health Services to communicate health recommendations to the public, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which is geared toward mental health, SAMHSA focuses on addition and “shorter-term, behavioral modalities,” and is medically oriented, which “may not be adequate to address the intense psychological needs of many in the nation.”20 Schneider explained:21
“Such a position could be filled by a psychologist, a counselor, a social worker, a researcher or a psychiatrist — but he or she must have specific expertise in psychological approaches to public mental health …
[T]here are indications that many in our society are overmedicated and that potent psychological methodologies could give people the resources to function more sustainably on their own or in conjunction with appropriate medical care.”
There is clearly a lack of mental health support in the U.S., and what does exist often uses medications as a first line of treatment, when a more comprehensive approach is warranted.
In fact, in 2013 1 in 6 Americans was taking antidepressants or some other type of psychiatric drug, and most appear to be taking them long-term.22 Meanwhile, suicide rates continue to rise, and antidepressant drugs, which may increase suicide risk, are not the answer for most.
The 12 Warning Signs of Suicide
According to the CDC, the 12 warning signs that someone may be contemplating or getting close to suicide are:23
Feeling like a burden
Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
Increased substance use
Looking for a way to access lethal means
Increased anger or rage
Extreme mood swings
Sleeping too little or too much
Talking or posting about wanting to die
Making plans for suicide
The Ohio Department of Public Health also noted the following warning signs of suicide:24
- A major change in mood or behavior, appearing consistently unhappy, depressed, irritable or withdrawn from family and friends
- Poor grades in school or bad performance in extracurricular activities
- Problems with concentration or changes in energy level or sleep schedule
- Hurting themselves (wrist cutting, burning self)
- History of depression or family history of depression
“If you know someone is struggling, you may be able to help save someone’s life by recognizing the warning signs and steps to take,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said.25 If you notice someone showing signs of contemplating suicide, it’s recommended that you ask them directly if they’re having suicidal thoughts.
“Asking about suicide does not increase the risk of suicide but does open up conversation,” the Ohio Department of Public Health explains. From there, be sure to listen to the person’s response and respond accordingly. Be sure to keep lethal means, such as firearms, away from them and call 911 if you’re in the middle of a crisis.
For ongoing support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line (text “4hope” to 741 741). For more information about how to prevent suicide, see bethe1to.com.
- Ask how they are feeling and if they are considering ending their life, or if they have a plan to do so
- Don't let them be alone and do your best to keep them safe
- Make yourself available to them
- Reach out to them daily and help them connect to others
- Follow up
Comprehensive Care for Mental Health
If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts, the important first step is getting help. In the longer term, however, lifestyle-based strategies, including dietary changes and exercise, are important. Certain foods are dense sources of nutrients known to help prevent depression as well as help recover from it, for instance. Twelve such antidepressant nutrients include:26
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA)
These can be found in such foods as seafood, particularly wild-caught Alaskan salmon, herring, sardines and anchovies, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables and grass fed organ meats. If you’re struggling with mental health, it’s best to work with a holistic health care provider who can ensure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs to function optimally on a mental level.
Learning how to use an energy psychology tool like the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) can also make an enormous difference if you suffer from depression or any other kind of emotional challenge.
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