Dr. Hardeep Singh, Medical Director at Turning Point of Tampa
Suicide rates have increased in nearly every state over the past 2 decades. Suicide is a major health problem and accounts for over 45,000 deaths a year. As a psychiatrist, I am saddened to see the numbers rising. There are numerous factors that have led to this increase. Mental health and substance use may be primary factors but do not totally explain this gradual increase in completed suicides. CDC researchers have published data over a 10-year period. Their findings indicate that 54% of people who kill themselves did not have a previous known mental health issue. They claim that these persons were suffering from other issues, such as relationship problems, substance misuse, physical health issues, job or financial problems, recent crises or an anticipated one. Research has shown that the decision to attempt suicide is often made quickly in an impulsive way.
Implications from the CDC report indicate that any public health effort to reduce suicides cannot be focused solely on those who have reached out for help. It must be paired with measures that would make a suicide attempt less likely even if the person has never been seen by a doctor or therapist. This is called primary prevention and although it is difficult to implement, prevention is always a better solution. The same principle can be applied to patients who are at risk of developing a substance abuse disorder. If these patients can be identified before they develop the disorder, a lot of pain and suffering could be prevented.
In summary, we need to work together as a team to identify patients who are at risk. We need to work together as a team to save lives. Lack of connectivity that leads to social isolation is a big risk factor for a person thinking about ending his or her life. It is also a risk factor for relapse with someone who is in recovery from a substance abuse disorder. As professionals in the mental health field, we need to encourage our patients to join support groups to help them develop a social network and avoid isolation. This model has been shown to be effective for those in recovery from substance abuse problems and can also be useful in suicide prevention. We need to instill wellness and hope in our patients while helping them learn new coping and problem-solving skills that will lead to stability and balance in their lives, and hopefully, the number of morbid suicides will decrease over the next decade.
If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, contact Turning Point of Tampa today.