Rising suicide rates are a wake-up call for us all

“When you think you’ve had too much of this life — hang on.” — R.E.M.

epression and anxiety seem to be more prevalent in society today.

You can decide yourself what’s causing more people to suffer from depression — you can even politicize it if you want — but the bottom line is that suicide rates are up in the United States.

The numbers — as reported last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — aren’t fake.

Nearly 45,000 suicides occurred in the United States in 2016 — more than twice the number of homicides — making it the 10th-leading cause of death.

Among people ages 15 to 34, suicide is the second-leading cause of death.

Middle-aged adults — ages 45 to 64 — had the largest rate increase, rising to 19.2 per 100,000 in 2016 from 13.2 per 100,000 in 1999.

Here in Pennsylvania, the current suicide rate of 16.3 per 100,000 people reflects a 34 percent increase for the Commonwealth from 1999 to 2016, according to the CDC.

That rate is higher than the national average of 15.4 per 100,000 people.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has reported that 22 veterans die on average each day by suicide, and the CDC says more than half of the 45,000 who died by suicide in their 2016 statistics had no known mental health condition.

Life isn’t always what it seems.

Sometimes, outside appearances do not reflect the turmoil on the inside.

The heartache we feel when those in the spotlight end their own lives should also be a reminder that suicide is a result of a disease, classified by many professionals as an epidemic.

It is happening not only to those struggling with high-power, high-profile lifestyles, but also for those in every neighborhood across America struggling in other ways — bullying, financial despair, relationship troubles, loneliness, unknown demons.

Suicide certainly knows no single defined reason, and much like the opioid epidemic, suicide knows no socio-economic background, race or religion.

Statistics aside, our hearts are with the families and friends of every person whose death by suicide has contributed to the CDC numbers.

Now needs to be the time that our country takes a hard look at why it is happening to every one of the 45,000 each year and how we can help.

Let’s not wait until another national headline grabs our attention — it’s imperative that we all work every day to help identify those at risk.

Encourage lawmakers to craft effective programs to help those struggling to make ends meet.

Call on school officials to create safer and more supporting environments.

Make time in your daily life to help connect those around you with services that could save their lives.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or know someone at risk, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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