This was originally published on Liberal America on June 9, 2016.
Suicide has become the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Every day, around 150 people are dying from suicide. An estimated 250,000 people a year become suicide survivors. We need to find a way to get these numbers down.
We need to spread awareness of mental illness and suicide.
Mental illness can strike at any time, but often starts in a person’s late teens or early twenties. Many people still don’t understand the nature of these diseases. People still say things like “Just lighten up,” or even “Get over it.” Many people see mental illness as a character flaw, or the result of bad parenting.
Those myths are false; mental illnesses are real brain diseases.
Trying to figure out who might attempt suicide as a result of mental illness is a difficult undertaking. Researchers are studying brain activity in MRIs and functional MRIs, also known as fMRIs. The tests look for high levels of stress hormones in the blood.
Researchers are creating complicated computer algorithms to see if there is some kind of pattern in the data that might predict who might attempt suicide. The National Institute of Mental Health launched a study using all of these risk markers to try to figure out a if there’s a pattern to people who might be suicidal.
For now, psychiatrists and therapists mostly rely on what the patient tells them. Patients often lie about their feelings and plans. The widely accepted risk markers (mental illness, stress at a job, being male) are not specific enough to predict who will actively attempt to end their lives in these patients.
Depression is usually associated with suicide, but it is not the most common illness among suicidal patients. Many people who attempt suicide or are suffering from suicidal ideations have anxiety disorders or addiction or other mood disorders.
Mental illnesses are often debilitating, and we need to be doing more to help those who are suffering. Last month, I wrote about Mental Health Awareness month. Every month should be used to spread awareness of these awful mental illnesses.