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Newsweek: The Suicide Epidemic

Posted on the 31 May 2013 by Real Talk @talkrealdebate2012

Newsweek The Suicide EpidemicIn the May 22nd issue of Newsweek, Tony Dokoupil explores what he calls the “Suicide Epidemic.”  As some of you may recall, Dokoupil is the author of another article I wrote about this past December.  Dokoupil’s article “The Moral Injury” detailed the “hidden injury” our soldiers incur while at war.  I found the article fascinating and well worth a feature on Real Talk.  Likewise I found his latest piece worth further discussing on this blog platform.

I was surprised to read that every year since 1999, more Americans have killed themselves than the year before.  In the past decade at least 400,000 Americans have killed themselves.  That figure is greater than the sum of those who died during World War II and the Korean War combined.

Dokoupil writes:

“This year, America is likely to reach a grim milestone: the 40,000th death by suicide, the highest annual total on record, and one reached years ahead of what would be expected by population growth alone.  We blew past an even bigger milestone revealed in November, when a study lead by Ian Rockett, an epidemiologist at West Virginia University, showed that suicide had become the leading cause of “injury death” in America.  As the CDC noted again this spring, suicide outpaces the rate of death on the road—and for that matter anywhere else people accidentally harm themselves.”

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Global Burden of Disease 2010

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Global Burden of Disease 2010

Furthermore he notes:

“Throughout the developed world, for example, self-harm is now the leading cause of death for people 15 to 49, surpassing all cancers and heart disease. That’s a dizzying change, a milestone that shows just how effective we are at fighting disease, and just how haunted we remain at the same time.  Around the world, in 2010 self-harm took more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined, stealing more than 36 million years of healthy life across all ages. In more advanced countries, only three diseases on the planet do more harm.”

These statistics are very troubling.  Suicide is quickly becoming the leading cause of death for individuals older than 40.  The great article concludes with a quote from Thomas Joiner.  Joiner lost his father to suicide.  He has since dedicated his life to helping those who have failed to kill themselves and helping find a way to help others that are inclined to do so as well.  Joiner states: “we need to get it in our heads that suicide is not easy, painless, cowardly, selfish, vengeful, self-masterful, or rash…And once we get all that in our heads at last, we need to let it lead our hearts.”

Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, Global Burden of Disease 2010

Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, Global Burden of Disease 2010

For the most part I agree with Joiner.  However, I have always maintained and believe that suicide is one of the most selfish acts one could commit.  Suicide victims only think of a means to escape their pain.  However, in executing their end they forever alter the lives of their family and friends.  I don’t think it is fair to their families to leave them wondering what they could have done to save them.  Even with a suicide note I still think family members and friends will still painfully wonder the ifs and whats.  Therefore, I conclude suicide to be an incredibly selfish act.

I don’t understand why the name Jodi Arias  is more familiar to the American lexicon than the names of Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons.  The troubling statistics as detailed in this article should be more widely reported by our journalists.  I hope they, alongside network executives, begin to report on actual news as opposed to sensationalized stories.

In addition, I wanted to share a distressing statistic that I think most people don’t know.  More soldiers have died via suicide than in combat.  This is a serious problem for our military servicemen and women (of which I think this country often ignores).  Suicide is a taboo topic of sorts.  Many people don’t want to discuss it.  I hope that in a small way I begin the important dialog on what is causing the increase in suicides and what we as nation can do to change that.

Do you think America suffers from a suicide epidemic?

Do you think suicide is selfish?

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @adrakontaidis & @talkrealdebate


Need help? In the U.S. call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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