Suicide disproportionately affects older white men in the U.S. and Native Americans. Learn how you can help.
This month marked the occasion of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th, as well as National Suicide Prevention Week. Suicide isn’t something many of us are comfortable talking about but it affects a large number of Americans both directly and indirectly.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention estimates that up to 1 million people in the U.S try to inflict self-harm each year, and over 44,000 people die by suicide. That means on average there are about 120 suicides in the country every day. Men are 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than women, and white males accounted for 70% of all suicides in the U.S in 2015.
Young Native American men and women have the highest suicide rates per capita of any group in the country.
Why the differences between groups?
Native American groups face multiple problems including high levels of poverty and a lack of resources for treatment, when it comes to mental health issues. These factors and others contribute to the complex problem.
An article written in the New York Times back in 1982 examined why white men are so much more likely than other groups to commit suicide. Dr. Richard H. Seiden, who was a professor of behavioral sciences at the University of California’s School of Public Health in Berkeley at the time, said he believed it came down to a loss of status in society.
Other racial groups in the U.S value and respect their elders more than white society he said, laying a path for differences as people age. This coupled with closer family ties over multiple generations in other groups, rather than simply being restricted to the nuclear family as is common for white people, lays the groundwork that can protect a person’s sense of self-worth.
While it’s an old article by this point, it’s worth a read to shed more light on the matter.
How can you spot if a friend or family member is on the edge?
The experts say there is no single cause to look for, but in general a person commits suicide when they are suffering from a mental condition, diagnosed or undiagnosed, and can no longer cope with all the stressors in their life. People suffering from depression and substance abuse problems are more vulnerable than others.
If someone talks about feeling trapped, being a burden to others and killing themselves, it can be a sign.
For a detailed list of warning signs, click here.
For help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and see a brighter day.
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