The United States is facing a rise in reported suicide cases, Amy* with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), a national non-profit organization focused on eradicating suicide, told Faithwire in an interview.
“The national suicide rate has risen over the past decade, and it’s the only top leading cause of death [in areas] where the rate is increasing,” she said. “The other 10 causes, like cancer and heart disease, are either maintaining or decreasing.”
Two months ago, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report confirmed the fears of many mental health professionals, revealing that suicide rates have been increasing since 2000 after reportedly being on the decline.
The sudden rise in reported suicide cases over the last 15-plus years is complicated. There is, however, a link between the rise of social media use and the increase, Amy told Faithwire.
The use of sites like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram has raised public awareness regarding the dangers associated with suicide, but it’s also created new cases among vulnerable groups like teenagers.
Last December, Faithwire reported on the suicide of Brandy Vela, an 18-year-old high school student who killed herself to escape the ongoing taunting she was experiencing on social media.
“Two days after [Brandy’s] funeral, somebody opened up a social media page in her name,” Brandy’s father, Raul Vela, told CNN. “And people thought the family did it, so it started with people putting sincere condolences.”
Pretty soon after this, however, the ruthless mockery that drove Brandy to her tragic end reared its ugly head once more.
“After a few minutes, either four people or the same person posting four times said some things harassing Brandy about being a big fat cow, writing ‘you finally did it’ with a picture of a gun, writing ‘you’re a coward,’ ‘you should have done this a long time ago,’ some really horrific things,” the grieving father said.
Beyond teen suicide, though, Amy told Faithwire that her biggest concern is rural America, a portion of the United States that comprises an estimated 46 million people.
The March CDC report titled, “Trends in Suicide by Level of Urbanization — United States, 1999–2015” confirms Amy’s worries. According to the report, white and Native American rural communities are experiencing the highest levels of suicide.
“Researchers speculate that the financial crisis, which particularly devastated more rural communities, was a big part of the reason why, but other risks specific to rural areas include more poverty and social isolation, fewer mental health resources, and the prevalence of opioids,” AOL reported earlier this year.
Given the long list of problems that need to be tackled in these regions before the rate of suicide can be expected to decline, organizations like AFSP have a hard job ahead of them.
“[AFSP] is not stopping,” Amy said. “Suicide is happening. We have set a goal of reducing suicide by 25 percent. [So far] we are full steam ahead.”
If your are interested in raising suicide awareness in your area or donating to AFSP, click here for more information.
*The interviewee’s name has been changed for the purpose of this story.
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