According to an April 2016 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the annual suicide rate in the United States is the highest that it has been in 30 years and that in the 15-year period from 1999 to 2014, the nation’s annual suicide rate had increased by a stunning 2%, including a 2% annual increase in each year between 2006 and 2014.
The Impact of Local Suicide
Georgia ranks 38th in a state-by-state comparison of annual suicide rates. But although the statistics in this state are better than in the majority of the nation, much work remains to be done. For example:
- In Georgia, suicide is the second-leading killer of men and women ages 25 to 34.
- Suicide is the third most common cause of death for adolescents and young adults ages 15 to 24 in Georgia.
- In 2014, 1,265 individuals died from suicide in Georgia, 3,356 people were hospitalized due to suicidal behaviors, and another 6,468 individuals visited a hospital emergency room as a result of a suicidal action.
- From 2005 to 2014, the annual suicide rate in Georgia increased from 10.55 per 100,000 people to 12.65.
Increasing Awareness in Gwinnett County
In Gwinnett County and throughout the state of Georgia, mental health experts, community leaders, educators, and a host of others have been working diligently to end the epidemic of what many people call “the silent killer.” As this nickname suggests, one essential focus of the suicide prevention effort is overcoming the shroud of silence that often prevents open and honest discussion about the causes, prevalence, and ongoing impact of suicide.
In 2015, Georgia became the 15th state to pass legislation known as The Jason Flatt Act, which mandates annual suicide awareness and prevention training for all certificated public school personnel, and requires all school districts to adopt a student suicide prevention policy.
In Gwinnett County, the Jason Flatt legislation ensures that thousands of teachers and other certificated personnel at the 139 schools and support facilities that compose the Gwinnett County Public Schools system will be better prepared to recognize warning signs and intervene before students attempt to end their lives.
Providing Hope and Support
Increasing awareness and empowering people to recognize warning signs are two important steps in the effort to reduce the prevalence of suicide in Gwinnett County, throughout Georgia, and across the United States. But awareness and understanding alone are not enough. In order to eradicate the scourge of suicide, individuals who are thinking about ending their lives, or who have already attempted to do so, must have access to the comprehensive professional treatment that will identify and address the issues that put them at risk in the first place.
For many people, suicidal thoughts or behaviors are symptoms of a mental health disorder. The list of disorders that can push a person toward suicide includes but is by no means limited to depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When a person who struggles with one of these issues also abuses or becomes addicted to alcohol or other drugs, his or her risk can rise considerably.
If you or someone that you care about has been considering suicide, please know that help is available. If you fear that someone in your life is in immediate danger of harming him or herself, either contact a local emergency responder or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Once the immediate danger has passed, follow up with a qualified healthcare provider for a complete assessment and a referral for treatment. With effective care, the darkness of suicidal ideation can give way to the bright promise of a healthier and more hopeful tomorrow.