Designer Kate Spade’s death earlier this week highlights a shocking trend across the USA – a Center for Disease Control (CDC) report datelined tomorrow shows half of all states have seen their suicide rate increase by more than 30% over less than twenty years. Only six states did not see a significant increase over the period 1999-2016. According to a May 2018 report from the National Institute for Mental Health (NIHM), suicide ranks as the #2 cause of death for Americans 10 – 34 years old, #3 for those age 35-54 & #8 for ages 55-64.
What could account for an extreme spike in suicide rates in such a relatively short time? Kate Spade’s death was less of a shock when I learned that she was apparently chronically depressed -and- her husband had recently moved out of their apartment & reportedly asked for a divorce. But 54% of all suicides turn out to be people without a previous history of mental illness. Other reported mega risk factors include relationship problems, substance abuse, health problems & physical debility, job problems & financial difficulties, or sudden, even anticipated crises.
Here I go, jumping into the debate with my own two cents.
Isolation is considered at epidemic levels in the USA. Fewer & fewer people have close friends with whom to open up with problems. Neighbors are less likely to develop friendships than a generation ago, when fast friendships formed chatting over backyard fences or serving on PTA committees, at water coolers at a long-term job & bowling leagues.
Our culture is increasingly uncivil & intensely divisive.
Young people are tagged as “snowflakes” – less resilient than earlier generations, more likely to avoid emotional issues, disagreements & discussions presenting different points of view. And while it’s true the suicide rate for white children & teens, 10-17, went up 70% between 2006 & 2016, it feels like they’re getting a bum rap, because I see that tendency to cocoon from dissent ranging across all ages.
I look forward to reading practical articles based on the current CDC report. The reported jaw-dropping spike in suicides is, sadly, hardly unexpected. For decades, we’ve seen loss after loss – – of community, of stable family connection, of deep friendships & strong marriages, of access to elder wisdom & youthful energies – – of the very things that helped keep us anchored over the millennia.
Are the increase in suicides connected in some way to the rise in meanness across America, in divisiveness & demonizing? Is it simplistic to say we need to restore kindness & courtesy, civility & a willingness to respect others? To stop doing the things that have been proven to harm us & start doing ones that help & nurture?
How do we reduce the spike in suicides? Return to a human nature that valued people more than machines, that sought for common ground & considered politeness a virtue.
I’ve no doubt that Kate Spade’s death & the CDC’s report on the rise of suicide will result in much-needed discussion around the shocking spike. But will it bring any change? I, for one, am not going to sit around, waiting to see. I have a thing or two to say on the topic of turning around our increasingly toxic culture & I aim to say ’em!
If you or someone you know needs someone to talk to, the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ~ 1-800-273-TALK (8255) ~ is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential. http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org