A new government report in the US has shown that over the last twenty years, suicide rates have increased by at least 25%. In twenty five states, there was an increase of over 30% and nearly half of all the deaths were in individuals who hadn’t even been diagnosed with a mental health condition. This is very alarming, and highlights the desperate need for extra funding in mental health services, as well as the need to improvements in accessibility and availability of care.

The report was put together by the CDC. Principal deputy director, Dr. Anne Schuchat, commented: “These findings are disturbing. Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the US right now, and it’s one of three causes that is actually increasing recently, so we do consider it a public health problem — and something that is all around us.” She added that, in 2016 alone, suicide caused around 450,000 deaths, and that “data shows that the problem is getting worse”.

The overall increase was 25%; however, the figures varied greatly between different states. For example, in Delaware there was a 6% increase; in North Dakota, it was almost 58%. The only state that hadn’t seen a rise in the number of suicides was Nevada; but, the decrease was only 1% and there were still between 21 and 23 suicides per 100,000 people.

Schuchat also noted that the report “focused in on 27 states where we have extensive data from the death investigations to try to understand the factors or circumstances leading up to suicide.” When looking into these factors, the researchers found worrying trends when it came to mental health care. The data shows that in 54% of suicides in 2015, the individuals hadn’t been diagnosed with a mental health condition.

In addition, there were economic trend which were linked to an increased risk. One potential issue that was found in the study is that individuals living in remote or rural areas had much less access to mental health services, as these areas have been slower to recover economically than urban areas. Schuchat said: “We don’t have all the answers. There may be several, but we knew that economic factors can increase the risk of suicide and that limited access to care, behavioral and social services may also increase the risk of suicide”.

When commenting on the data, K. Bryant Smalley, a professor of community medicine and psychiatry at the Mercer University School of Medicine said: “Due to higher poverty rates, higher likelihood of hourly pay and productivity-based labor, and lack of transportation infrastructure, mental health services are often not accessible even if they are available in a rural community — that is, even though it is there, many people either cannot get to it or cannot afford (either directly or indirectly) to go.”

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