Suicide rates are climbing, and the CDC says mental illness isn’t the only factor to blame

A tourist stops to read the message on the crisis hotline situated on the The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.

Steven Clevenger | Corbis News | Getty Images
A tourist stops to read the message on the crisis hotline situated on the The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.

Suicide rates are increasing in almost every state, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

In more than half of the states, the rate increased more than 30 percent between 1999 and 2016, according to the CDC. Suicide is one of just three leading causes of death that are increasing, the other two being Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdoses.

Last year, nearly 45,000 people died by suicide, according to the CDC.

The report comes days after fashion designer Kate Spade was found dead by suicide after reportedly battling depression. It shows how much more can still be done to address the issue and challenges the notion that only people who are mentally ill are at risk.

The CDC found that 54 percent of people who committed suicide did not have a known diagnosed mental health condition when they died. Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat noted this number could be low because people might have had a condition but it wasn’t diagnosed or their loved ones might not have known about it.

However, she said it should serve as a reminder that mental illness isn’t the only thing to acknowledge when developing strategies for preventing suicide. She said stressors identified as causes, including relationship problems and financial struggles, should also be addressed.

“We think a comprehensive approach to suicide is what’s needed to make sure we can prevent suicide and identify concerns earlier,” Schuchat said Thursday on a call with reporters.

Some on social media this week have questioned how Spade, who seemingly had everything, could take her own life. Yet mental health experts say anyone can experience mental illness.

Everyone experiences stressful moments in life, and Schuchat said we won’t make progress in lowering the suicide rate if we only look at mental health issues.

To get help: Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for free and confidential support.

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