As Suicide Rates Rise in the US

It is about time we talked about suicide. If we pay attention to this serious issue, we can help people before they reach the point of feeling suicidal and provide greater support for family members who lose someone to suicide.
05/31/2013 07:02 pm ET Updated Jul 31, 2013

"So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief."
(Al-Inshirah 94:5-6)

Have you ever attempted suicide? Have you ever found yourself wrestling with thoughts of terminating your life? Have you felt yourself losing your courage to live? These are very disturbing questions. Yet, nowadays, committing suicide is a growing problem and it's worth talking about it.

Alarmingly, media reports say that suicide rates have increased sharply in the past decade in the U.S. Worse still, because suicides are often not discussed, public awareness of the frequency of these deaths is lacking. Additionally, suicides are sometimes reported as accidental deaths, so even the figures we have for them are likely lower than the reality.

A recent Gallup poll shows that Americans are more pessimistic about where America will be in five years than they have ever been before.

In the summer of 2012, we saw a tremendous rise in the number of suicides among college students and members of the U.S. military. A study conducted by the University of Virginia discovered that suicide is the leading cause of death among U.S. college students. Moreover, according to the Pentagon, almost every day there is one suicide by an active duty member of the military.

Now we are also witnessing suicide becoming more common in middle-aged people. In the U.S., suicide is usually considered a problem of teenagers and the elderly. This sudden increase in suicides among the middle-aged may come as a surprise. In the beginning of May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that in 2009 more people died as a result of suicide than car accidents.

The reasons for suicide are complex. Officials and researchers claim that no one can explain with confidence what is behind the rise in rates. Nevertheless, depression stemming from concerns about the economy, easy access to firearms, the widespread availability of drugs, divorce and unemployment can all be counted among the reasons. Historically, suicide rates tend to climb during times of economic slowdown and financial turmoil.

Some believe that easy access to opioid drugs such as OxyContin, the most well-known brand of the addictive pain killer oxycodone, is another important part of the picture. Overdose, intentional or as a result of addiction, can be deadly, and officials say there has been a remarkable increase in this kind of poisoning death.

Additionally, family life and the structure of the family have been changing. For example, divorce can be accompanied by social isolation and loneliness, which are common triggers for depression. Sadly, some people may feel they don't deserve to live, or just lose their will to survive. The majority of people who consider suicide have a mental illness such as depression or bipolar disorder, which is often left untreated.

Substance abuse is a contributor to suicide rates. When people feel hopeless, they frequently start using alcohol or drugs to deal with that unbearable feeling, but those destructive habits often pull them down even further. Even though suicide often seems like an impulsive act, it is usually not. Thus, early intervention could help prevent suicidal tendencies from developing.

Therefore, it is about time we talked about suicide. If we pay attention to this serious issue, we can help people before they reach the point of feeling suicidal and provide greater support for family members who lose someone to suicide. Many people who have attempted suicide and survived say they did not attempt suicide because they wanted to die; they did it because they wanted to stop the pain of the problems they were dealing with.

However, suicide cannot be an option to ease pain. It should not be thought of as a solution. "When people kill themselves, they think they're ending the pain, but all they're doing is passing it on to those they leave behind," says author Jeannette Walls.

Some think suicide is the most honest form of self-criticism. To me, it is a form of murder. When one kills one's self, that individual kills our collective innocence. Each murder chips away at the virtue of our humanity.

Life is not fun all the time. We have good times and bad times. Even though we sometimes think living is suffering, as human beings our mission is to find out the meaning of this suffering. When we feel stuck in a problem, we should remind ourselves that we are not a victim in the situation but a pupil who must learn from it. God doesn't leave us alone if we don't abandon Him. When we feel helpless and desperate, we should remind ourselves that "with every difficulty, there is relief."

This article was previously published in Today's Zaman.

For more by Arzu Kaya-Uranli, click here.

For more on mental health, click here.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.