June 12, 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The high-profile deaths by suicide last week of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade shed light on a growing national problem. While other causes of death are declining, the suicide rate keeps climbing – alarmingly so. The same week Bourdain and Spade died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study which revealed that suicide rates increased in all but one state between 1999 and 2016, with half of those states seeing an increase of 30 percent. Nearly 45,000 Americans died by suicide in 2016 – that’s one person every 12 minutes.
Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade and to anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide. Clearly, suicide is not an isolated incident and it’s not just a mental health problem. The CDC reported that more than half – 54 percent – of people who died by suicide did not have a diagnosed mental health condition. Among the other factors that contributed to suicide deaths were relationship problems, substance use, physical illnesses, job loss and money troubles. Suicide is a public health problem that can and must be prevented.
First, we must recognize that suicide prevention is everyone’s business. We all know someone who is living with depression or anxiety, has lost a loved one to suicide or is struggling to find mental health or substance use treatment for themselves or a loved one. The time has come when our response to someone with a mental health problem or an addiction should be no different than our response to someone with cancer, heart disease or diabetes. The National Council’s Mental Health First Aid offers tools to help start a conversation, listen with compassion to someone who has thoughts of suicide and direct them to professional help.
Second, we must make it easier for people to get the help they need. The National Council’s 2,900-plus members are transforming health care delivery for individuals at risk of suicide by offering same-day access to services and beginning to adopt a Zero Suicide approach to care, which makes all health care settings suicide safe. Zero Suicide is a bold goal that we are fully capable of meeting.
Third, we must advocate for public policies that support individuals and their families at risk of suicide. We must fully implement that National Strategy for Suicide Prevention and its Prioritized Research Agenda. We must urge Congress to pass the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act to increase the number of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) around the country. CCBHCs receive a Medicaid rate that allows them to provide comprehensive, evidence-based care for mental illnesses and addictions, integrated with primary care. CCBHCs provide services when and where people need them.
Finally, we must remember that suicide is caused by disconnection and isolation. The best thing we can do if we are worried about someone attempting suicide is to tell them we are concerned, ask them if they are thinking about death and get them help from professionals, family members and friends. Suicide deaths are preventable, and we must start today.
The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with our 2,900 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery. The National Council introduced Mental Health First Aid USA and more than 1 million Americans have been trained. For more information, please visit www.TheNationalCouncil.org