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Culture & Religion

Suicide Remains a Leading Cause of Death, Yet It’s Mostly Preventable

Just 10 years ago, the suicide-prevention community consisted mainly of families who had been affected by the suicide of a loved one. Today, it numbers in the hundreds of thousands. 

Big Think and the Mental Health Channel are proud to launch Big Thinkers on Mental Health, a new series dedicated to open discussion of anxiety, depression, and the many other psychological disorders that affect millions worldwide.

Just 10 years ago, the suicide-prevention community was small and consisted mainly of families who had been affected by the suicide of a loved one. Today, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention counts over 150,000 people among its ranks.

Those individuals are speaking out about their personal experiences — whether their loved ones committed suicide or they survived an attempted suicide themselves — to help break the stigma against discussing suicide openly.

Efforts to normalize discussions of suicide have never been more urgent. After a long and steady period of decline, the national suicide rate has risen in the last decade (roughly correlating with the onset of the economic crisis). Certain populations have experienced a greater rise in suicide frequency than others, but understanding who is most vulnerable to suicide isn’t always obvious.

Dr. Christine Moutier explains that mental illness is a necessary condition for suicide, but it isn’t a sufficient condition. When society is prepared to openly and sympathetically confront mental illness, those who are suffering need not harm themselves or die in the process.

White, middle-aged males suffer most from stigmatization against openly discussing suicide and are less likely to seek treatment in the first place due to social norms, according to Moutier. But as a society, we have generally become more willing to discuss others’ pain and suffering, and when it comes to mental illness that can mean the difference between life and death.

Photo credit: Getty Images


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