Did you know that it's estimated that each day, 100 Americans commit suicide and even more people unsuccessfully try to end their lives?
According to a new report, while suicide rates had been declining since the 1990s, they are currently on the rise, especially among young people ages 18-25. Other groups mostly affected include people who suffer from mental and substance abuse disorders; people in justice and child welfare settings; LGBT folks; Native Americans; and older and middle-aged men.
But those particularly vulnerable are people who serve in the military.
The military has been hit particularly hard. "Right now we are losing more of our soldiers to suicide than we are to combat," said Army Secretary John McHugh.
Many military suicides aren't combat related, he noted. Fifty-four percent of military personnel who committed suicide in 2010 and 59 percent who attempted suicide that year were never deployed, McHugh said at the press conference.
"What this tells us is we are dealing with broader societal issues," he said. These include drug and alcohol abuse, relationship problems and depression, he said.
So to address this growing epidemic and to show a renewed commitment to curbing these numbers, the U.S. federal government unveiled a new revised national strategy in suicide prevention. USA Today reported that the goal of this new initiative is to save 20,000 lives in the next five years:
The plan comes with some money: $55 million in federal grants to state, tribal and community prevention efforts.
Officials pointed to other recent actions by the federal government that might help: Medicare has started covering screening for depression, and under new incentives announced in August, physicians will be rewarded by Medicare and Medicaid for screening depressed patients for suicide risk. Meanwhile, President Obama just signed an executive order hiring 1,600 new mental-health workers in the Department of Veterans Affairs and increasing the workforce of the veterans' crisis line from 200 to 300.
But the plan calls on businesses; community groups, friends and families to do much of the work of suicide prevention - especially learning the signs that someone might be in trouble and learning what to do.
It's important to keep in mind that suicide is our problem, too.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third cause of death among African-American males between ages 15 and 24, behind homicide and accidents. Also, suicide death rates among Black men are five times that of Black women. Here are some other key stats about mental health and African-Americans:
—Poverty level affects mental health status. African-Americans living below the poverty level, as compared to those over twice the poverty level, are four times more likely to report psychological distress.
—African-Americans are 30 percent more likely to report having serious psychological distress than whites.
—Whites are more than twice as likely to receive antidepressant prescription treatments as Blacks.
—However, the suicide rate for African-Americans is generally lower than that of the white population.
—A report from the U.S. Surgeon General found that from 1980 to 1995, the suicide rate among African-Americans ages 10 to 14 increased 233 percent, as compared to 120 percent for whites.
Learn more about suicide and its warning signs here.
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