With suicide rates rising in Texas and almost every other state, health officials are highlighting
resources and ways to help keep yourself or loved ones from carrying out an act of self-harm.
The Centers for Disease Control sounded the alarm in June, saying every state except Nevada recorded
increases in suicide rates from 1999 to 2016. Overall, rates rose 25% in the United States, and more than 45% in several states. In Texas, rates increased 19%. In Austin, a person dies by suicide every three days on average, according to the city.
It is still an open question why suicide rates are rising. Inadequate mental health care may be a factor, as well as ongoing economic distress for people struggling with unemployment, job insecurity, or inadequate wages. Greater social isolation and a lack of connectedness also contribute to feelings of loneliness and hopelessness.
Abuse of opioids has fueled an expanding overdose epidemic, and opioids, alcohol, and anti-anxiety
drugs are the most commonly detected drugs in the systems of those who take their own lives,
according to the CDC.
The trend comes even as growing numbers of Americans are being diagnosed and treated for
depression and anxiety, says Dr. Keith Lamy, at Austin family practice medicine clinic. Each suicide is different, and there are often many factors that cause someone to take their life. People may face circumstances that appear overwhelming or unbearable, including pain and losses related to relationships, deaths, financial or health problems, and substance abuse. Some have a history of depression or other mental health issues, but others don't. Some act impulsively, while others plan the act. Some tell others about a desire to harm or kill themselves, while others suffer in silence.
Suicide is a complex, stigmatized, and shattering event that can not always be understood or prevented,
health officials say. In some cases, there may be warning signs, including those that indicate mental health issues. They include mood swings, rage, withdrawal from friends and family, recklessness, increased use of alcohol or drugs, hinting about wanting to die, hopelessness, and seeking guns, pills, or other means of committing suicide.
If you or a loved one appears to be contemplating suicide or is on the verge of it, get help quickly.
Contact free and confidential counselors at Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) and seek other mental and
physical care. In Travis County, help is available at a 24/7 crisis hotline (512-472-4357) that offers
support to anyone and identifies available resources. Integral Care, the local mental health authority
for Travis County, offers services for insured and uninsured adults, children, and families.
Don’t leave the person alone. Enlist friends and family to get through the crisis. Reducing isolation and staying connected to persons who will listen and provide support can make a crucial difference. If
possible, remove access to poisons, pills, and guns.
Once an immediate threat has been averted, pursue longer term measures that can improve mental
well-being and reduce the possibility of suicide. Find meaningful work, activities, and social
connections, get help for substance abuse, take up meditation, gardening, exercise, volunteering, and
spiritual activities, get counseling, and reduce stressful activities.
If you are coping with a suicidal family member or friend, you may also need counseling and support
to navigate the situation and stay healthy. As a primary care physician, Dr. Lamy can help prevent and screen for suicide, and offer links to outpatient psychiatric and/or mental health services for those who have attempted suicide and to those who are being discharged from the hospital.