2014 Case Study Competition

The Health Issue: Suicide

According to the National Institutes for Mental Health (NIMH), suicide “is a major public health problem” (NIMH, para 1).

In 2010, suicide was the cause of 38,364 deaths in the United States, making it the tenth leading cause of death in the nation (CDC, 2013). However, it is the fourth leading cause of death in the 10-14 and 25-34 age groups, and the second leading cause of death in the 15-24 age group (National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), 2012). In 2012, the state of Maryland recorded 557 completed suicides, which is an age-adjusted death rate of 9 per 100,000, with 69 of those in individuals under the age of 25 (Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 2013).

According to NIMH, signs that an individual may be considering, or even attempting suicide, are:

  • Talking about or showing signs of helplessness or hopelessness. Losing interest in things he or she used to enjoy.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings Talking about rage or revenge
  • Changing one’s sleeping or eating patterns Withdrawing from others
  • Increasing one’s use of alcohol or drugs
  • Giving away one’s prized possessions
  • Expressing a wish to die or kill oneself
  • Looking for methods for ending one’s life (e.g., searching for firearms)

In addition to the many suicides each year that are actually completed, many more suicides are attempted.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 8 million U.S. citizens contemplate suicide each year, with more than 1 million making a suicide attempt.

Furthermore, while males are more likely to complete suicide than females, females are more likely to attempt suicide (CDC, 2012).

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), common risk factors include:

  • mental disorders (specifically depression)
  • previous suicide attempts
  • family history of attempted or complete suicide (2014).

The CDC lists the following as additional risk factors:

  • Family history of child maltreatment History of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  • Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal dilemma)
  • Local epidemics of suicide
  • Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
  • Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)
  • Physical illness
  • Easy access to lethal methods
  • Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts

Conversely, factors such as access to mental health services, problem-solving skills, and positive connections such as family, friends, community, and religion serve as protective factors from suicidal ideation and attempts (AFSP, 2014).

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Presented in Baltimore