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article imageOp-Ed: Rising suicide rate raises concern in U.S.

By Robert Weller     Feb 11, 2014 in Health
Although the failure of the nation’s mental health care system has been getting the most attention because of gun massacres, a far more insidious threat is being reported.
For several years suicides have claimed more lives than auto accidents, and the number keeps rising, according to the CDC.
Talking about it may be the only issue that faces more taboos than gun deaths.
The problem is probably far worse than is known because of the sensitivity of the issue. Relatives, friends and business associates do everything they can to avoid a death being labeled a suicide.
“It’s vastly underreported. We know we’re not counting all suicides,” said Julie Phillips, of Rutgers.
Fox News quoted police sources as saying actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death after a heroin overdose was considered an accident.
The increasing number of middle-aged Americans killing themselves has attracted the most attention. From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35 to 64 rose by nearly 30 percent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people, up from 13.7, the New York Times reports.
For men in their 50s, the rate increase was even higher, nearly 50 percent.
While guns remain the main choice, in desperation some swallow poison. Last week a man in suburban Denver killed himself with a nail gun.
His company was under investigation by the state, and there is no doubt the economic downturn has contributed to the problem.
“The increase does coincide with a decrease in financial standing for a lot of families,” said Dr. Ileana Arias, CDC deputy director. And the rate is unlikely to slow down in the near future, she said.
Scientific American's editors recently lamented that research for drugs on depression seems stalled. They suggested looking at medical marijuana, which at least one study has found can be helpful.
The easy availability of opioid drugs like Oxycontin is a factor. The Washington Post reports overdosing is now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.
The CDC reports opioids kill five times more American than heroin, despite a surge in heroin deaths.
Suicide deaths are rising in other developed countries also. Ian Rockett, Ph.D., of West Virginia University said the increase in the suicide rate was not a surprise. “…but not for suicide to emerge as the leading cause of injury mortality.”
Rockett believes that too often overdose deaths are classified as unintentional.
“We need a whole lot more understanding of how someone makes the decision to end their life within the context of addiction. Is there a line that gets crossed that’s in some way predictable?”
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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