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Entries in Suicide; Marriage; Divorce; Economic Depression; Stress (1)



An article in the June, 2016 Clinical Psychiatry News by Howard S. Sudak, M.D. [Commentary New suicide data: Reason to panic or ponder?] discusses new suicide data from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics indicating a 63% increase in U.S. deaths by suicide for females and a 43% increase for males equaling a national rate of 13.5/100,000.  In actual numbers this represents 42,773 deaths by suicide in 2014 compared to 29,199 in 1994.  Of additional concern was the 200% increase in suicides for girls aged 10-14 and for Native Americans an 89% increase for females and 38% increase for males. Of additional concern is the increased use of hanging or strangulation [presumbably easier access to these methods] while use of guns fell for both males and females.

Dr. Sudak reported about a New York Times article on the CDC Data that theorized that the increase in suicides was related to lower rates for marriage and increased rates for divorce.  Data indicate that unmarried men and women are more likely to die from suicide.  Of additional concern is the fact that divorce rates have doubled for middle-aged and older adults since the 1990's. There is also a correlation of lower marriage rates and increased divorce rates with increased suicide rates for men and women. They also reported that historically when "cataclysmic" events such as World Wars occur the suicide rate goes down while when there is a financial crisis the rates go up dramatically.  I have previously blogged about the connection between the threat of job loss and actual job loss and an increase in the risk of suicide.  

These data would seem to support that stress is a significant factor in the increase in suicides in recent years as the United States has experienced a financial depression as well as a barrage of increasingly alarming news from around the world and the United States.  Stress can cause people to withdraw from others as a way of coping with the stress. This withdrawal can lead to further isolation from others and decisions not to marry or to problems in marriages that can lead to divorce.  It is very clear to me in my work helping my patients that being [or feeling] isolated from others makes overcoming stress much more difficult.  

Importantly, our brains will seem to work against us as they "help" us to be isolated from others as the isolation is part of a pattern of coping to reduce stress and our brains are supposed to maintain patterns. Therefore, to change patterns of behavior we have to make it clear to our brains [ourselves] that we want to make a change and then have to make clear efforts to change these patterns.  This is difficult as we often feel that things will be even more stressful if we interact with others and we are often very concerned about things getting worse. For this reason we need support to change these behaviors and risk trying to interact again.  So, if you know or feel that someone is more isolated or withdrawing from others encourage and support them by initiating interactions with them and listening to them so that they can feel connected to you.  Listening can be very helpful and means hearing others without your own agenda getting in the way.  It is also important and helpful to ask people if they are feeling hopeless or suicidal.  If you are worried about someone's safety please talk to them about it and let someone else know, including professionals or even the police.