Just hours ago, news broke that Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef and host of “Parts Unknown,” was found dead in a hotel room in Strasbourg, France, after an apparent suicide. He was 61 years old. Days ago, legendary designer Kate Spade was found dead, having also committed suicide.
So, it’s time to talk about that CDC report about suicide that came out this week. It shows that in the United States, since 1999, suicide rates have gone up nearly 30 percent.
Some regions had it worse than others. The northern states generally bore the brunt of the rise, with North Dakota experiencing a 57.6 percent increase.
The most common method used to commit suicide is firearms, with almost half of people using a gun. This figure presents a side of gun violence often overshadowed by mass shootings. Guns are risk factors for suicide, and they present the possibility of harm not only to others but to oneself.
The report said one of the prevention methods could be reducing “access to lethal means” without explicitly addressing gun control. This obfuscation is not helpful.
When the problem is clear, the CDC should recommend the exact measures that will help, not the ones that are most politically neutral. Being vague ensures that Congress is absolved of the responsibility to pass gun control legislation.
When the political climate around gun control is so toxic the CDC doesn’t make itself clear in its recommendations, something is wrong.
Though people with known mental health issues make up a large percentage of those who died, there was still about 54 percent of people who had never had a known problem (meaning simply that whatever problems with substance use or mental health they had, they did not get help).
This means that the measures the public takes to combat the problem need to include prevention methods for people who have not sought help.
Suicides are often the result of a quick decision, research shows, and not having access to the means can change a lot about that decision. When a person has to wait, there is time for the feelings to pass — and experts say that can be enough time for someone to seek help.
Robert Grebbia, the head of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told NPR yesterday that research shows time buffers can be an important factor in prevention.
“You may be thinking about [suicide] over time,” he said, “but that moment when you actually make an attempt is a very short window.”
When people have to wait, it gives time for others who have recognized the warning signs of suicide to intervene. Waiting periods for firearms is a clear example of a measure that would force this result in more cases.
Preventing suicide is a problem that Americans need to face as the social climate becomes more and more aware of mental health issues. If there’s anything the public should learn from this week, it’s that no one is exempt from this conversation because no one is exempt from the risk of suicide touching their lives. It’s time to get serious about gun control and prevention.
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