Suicide is declining worldwide, but increasing in U.S.

Sunday, Sept. 8 - Sept. 14, 2019 is National Suicide Prevention Week in the United States. 

A national effort to prevent suicide kicked off in 2015 with the goal of reducing suicide, but at this point there's still much progress needed. 

According to the World Health Organization, every 40 seconds someone dies by suicide. That statistic is actually decreased from previous years - but here in the United States, suicide is becoming more common. 

It's a painful truth without an easy explanation. 

"The rate of suicide has increased by 30 percent over the past decade, and it's increasing more in rural areas than urban areas, and the disparity is increasing over time," Dr. Cynthia Fontanella with the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center says.

Researchers at the Ohio State University looked at suicide data from 1999 to 2016, and found the rates highest in two places: urban areas with a lot of gun shops, and rural areas.

"We found that rates of suicide in rural areas were higher than in urban areas, and we found that social deprivation was - poverty, low income, unemployment - was associated with suicide," Dr. Fontanella says. 

Experts agree it is never just one factor that leads to suicide, but usually a combination of complex issues that can include health challenges like depression or addiction, and environmental factors like bullying or a financial crisis.  

The key is having access to help from doctors, and supportive friends or family. 

"We know that living in a rural area you tend to be more isolated geographically, and you're not close to neighbors, and so you don't see a lot of people. You don't have a lot of one-on-one contact, which increases the rates of depression," Dr. Fontanella says. 

Preventing suicide means candid conversations with anyone who might be at risk. Don't be afraid to patiently ask, 'Do you have a plan?' If so, calmly confirm that the person is having suicidal thoughts and then look for expert help. 

If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text 741-741.