Is suicide a problem in America?

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in our nation. That alone is a shocking fact, but when we unpack what that really means, we discover a staggering and overwhelming call to strategic, holistic, aggressive, intellectually honest, and sustained comprehensive action.

30% The increase in the rate of death by suicide in the United States between 2000 and 2016, from 10.4 to 13.5 per 100,000 people, according to a National Center for Health Statistics analysis of data from the National Vital Statistics System. The rate increased by about 1 percent per year from 2000 through 2006 and about 2 percent per year from 2006 through 2016.

50% The increase in suicides among girls and women between 2000 and 2016, from 4 to 6 per 100,000.

21% The increase in suicides among boys and men between 2000 and 2016, from 17.7 to 21.4 per 100,000.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), in 2018, suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death for an entire generation across about years. During 2018 alone, nearly 15,000 children, youth, and adults 10-34 years old were people lost to suicide. When we break that number down even further, the facts are heartbreaking. 596 of these losses were children 14 and younger. This number is followed by the losses of young people ages 15-24, which is a staggering 6,211. As we progress to the next age group, the numbers don’t get any better; there were 8,020 losses from suicide for adults ages 25-34. Pushing back even further, we see that the numbers and story are worse. When we stack up the total number of suicides in the United States across all age groups over the last 20 years, we come with a number near 900,000!

These numbers are absolutely shocking and represent the genocide of our legacy and future. We have witnessed the loss of an entire generation stolen from by an invisible adversary that stealthily operates on an unseen plane – the human mind; an intangible realm many leaders across the landscapes of science, education, entertainment, mental health, medicine, philosophy, and faith have difficulty navigating or understanding.

When we take a whole society approach, zoom the lens out to the 10,000-foot level and look at the suicide problem set across the culture, many of the answers are uncomfortable. If we observe the information and cultural environment with humble honesty, we’re forced to reconcile with inconvenient truths that don’t conform to the pattern of life and world-view we as a society have woven around us. How we answer these questions will determine if we’re genuinely ready and serious about fixing the problem.

Is suicide a problem in America? Absolutely – but now here come the hard questions:
Are we, as a culture, ready to invest in developing sustainable long-term solutions? Are we willing to have a genuine national dialog, or will we pursue feel-good platitudes and soft-serve sentiments as an effort to cover up our lack of intellectual honesty, critical self-reflection, and genuine curiosity for real answers?

I believe suicide is a scourge that has increasingly haunted our culture. But I also believe there are answers and a solution. It’s time to expose this killer. It’s time to bring HOPE!


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