New CDC report shows troubling rise in nation's suicide rates

- A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a troubling rise in the nation's suicide rates. Suicide rates inched up in nearly every U.S. state from 1999 through 2016, according to a new government report released Thursday. 

Fashion designer Kate Spade took her own life this week. It was a shock to her fans and renewed discussions about mental health awareness. Now this new report from CDC shows the suicide rate across the country is on the rise. Suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death and one of just three leading causes on the rise. The others are Alzheimer's disease and drug overdoses.

Anne Shuchat M.D. is principal director at CDC. She told reporters, "We did see increases in younger and older people. Essentially every age group other than those over 75." 

There were nearly 45,000 suicides in 2016. 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.

The report said people without known mental health problems were more likely to die by firearms than those with known mental health problems. CDC also found that access to medications and weapons influenced the upward trend in suicides. They said news reporting in graphic detail about celebrity suicides was another contributor. 

Overall, the rate rose to 15.4 per 100,000 in 2014-2016 from 12.3 per 100,000 in 1999-2001. 

Researchers say the nation's suicide rate is lowest in Washington D.C. and highest in Montana. During the study period, rate increases ranged from just under 6 percent in Delaware to over 57 percent in North Dakota. 

Twenty-five states saw percentage rate increases of more than 30 percent over the 17 years. 

The report also studied the reasons surrounding suicides. Finding economic circumstances was a major contributing factor, especially during the Great Recession (2008). 

Shuchat says, "We do see increases in suicides associated with economic downturns and it can take a long time for the recovery to kick in." 

While the study emphasizes the need for more prevention resources, predicting suicides can be difficult. More than half of suicides in 2015 in a subgroup of 27 states were among people with no known mental health condition, which is why the CDC is calling for more education and awareness.

Prevention efforts, often focused on mental health, could be broadened to focus on people undergoing life stresses like job losses or divorces, the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat said in a media briefing.  

"We know that prevention programs work and can be effective in reducing this tragedy," Shuchat said.

"Suicide is more than a mental health issue," Schuchat said. "We don't think we can just leave this to the mental health system to manage."

The CDC report recommends increased cooperation and communication between government and the private sector.  

Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among people 15 to 34 years old. 

KTVU spoke with Courtney Brown from San Francisco Suicide Prevention Center to ask her more about the CDC study. 

“Suicide is such a complex issue that it is really hard to point out any one reason why it’s increasing in any one population," Brown said. 

She speculated that inescapable social media, online bullying and the increased awareness of ways to die by suicide have contributed to rise in suicides. 

Critics argued Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, which revolved around a high-school girl’s suicide, glorified suicide. 

“We’ve asked the teens [in one of their programs] what their thoughts on the series are. Most of them say it’s glorified and not accurate at all,” Brown said. 

Despite this, she said there are studies that show a rise in teen suicide during the time the series began streaming. 

On one hand Brown said the series may have gotten some teens to speak out on suicide as an important issue and they may have shared experiences. However, teens who aren’t likely to reach out could be internalizing what they see.

 Brown said warning signs can include something as simple as talkative people becoming more quiet or the opposite— those who are normally quiet becoming more verbal; or letting their hygiene go as well as verbal cues. 

“Saying things like, I don’t see a reason to be around anymore. No one cares about me. I’m not worth living,” Brown said. “If someone mentions those sorts of things, dig a little bit deeper. They might actually bring up specifically that they’re thinking of suicide.”

Brown reminds you don't need to be suicidal yourself to call a prevention hotline. It could be someone you are worried about. You can explain what the person is going through and see what the counselor suggests to intervene, since they are an expert on suicide. 

If you need help or know of someone in need, the National Suicide Hotline is there for you: 800-273-8255 or suicide and crisis hotline (855) 278-4204.

VIDEO: Suicide Rising Across the U.S., June, Vital Signs (CDC) 

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