Broaching the subject of suicide is never an easy task, even though it is now reached the point in our society that it has become a source of weekly news items and even been declared an epidemic in certain health circles.
The thoughts on writing about this came to me when I read of the increase in teenage suicide rates among girls. The rate of completed suicides in the 10-17 age range for girls has grown 13% over the past year. Note that the key word is completed. There has always been a gender difference between men and women in all age groups with women attempting suicide more frequently, typically with less lethal means, and more men completing suicide, typically by more lethal methods.
The disturbing fact that not only is there an increase in attempts being made but an increase in completion should be an alarming fact for the entire country not just schools and mental health practitioners.
Suicide has now become a public health crisis. Perhaps the public has become increasingly aware of this through the dramatic number of military men and women who this has affected. Significant efforts in the Veterans Administration have been made in the past year and much greater assistance is being delivered. However, disturbingly one part of the military group that is left out of the mix is those that are discharged in a dishonorable status (seems this would be the most vulnerable population out there).
Locally strong efforts have been made with the creation of the annual suicide prevention walk and publicly several people have been giving testimonials for this epidemic. My son, Dr. Adam B. Hill of Riley Hospital in Indianapolis, has become a leading advocate for suicide prevention in the medical community and has written and lectured extensively around the country. Adam has been willing to share his story of mental health and substance recovery since he has personally experienced a colleague suicide in each of the three settings where he did his residency and fellowships. This was his “call to action” and he is set to launch his book this December, which we hope will lead to an even greater awareness in the medical arena.
So, what’s the average person’s “call to action.” How can you be a part of the solution to this increasing public health dilemma?
Since depression and suicidality are increasingly visible in the public, your best assistance is being an open and active supporter of those in need. The most vulnerable are truly reaching out for help and need someone to pay attention and to assist them in getting the help that they need. The more ears, eyes, and feet that we have on the ground, the more the support network increases and the greater ease there is in people accepting the needed assistance.
This is not a time to be passive but to be someone who reaches out. If you need immediate assistance or know someone who needs help call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text CONNECT to 741741.
Mark R. Hill is a licensed clinical social worker and a member of the board of Knox County Mental Health America, a volunteer organization that promotes mental health through education, volunteerism, and advocacy.