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      The World Population's Explosive Growth and the Unexpected Suicide Rate

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      A recently published analysis of international data reveals that from 1990 to 2019 the number of suicide deaths increased worldwide by about 20,000 annually. At a glance, the data seem to suggest that matters regressed during that time. But upon closer examination, the truth may surprise you.

      While the World Population Grew 42.2%, the Suicide Rate Grew a Mere 2.6%

      substance abuse ehr system informationThe analysis, published in the online journal Injury Prevention, reports that 800,000 people globally are taking their lives each year, and that includes the 20,000 additional lives now being lost each year compared to 1990. This is a sad reality, but consider this:

      From 1990 to 2019, the world population grew by 2.4 billion, from 5.3 billion to 7.7 billion – a 42.2% increase.

      At the same time, the number of worldwide suicides increased by 20,000 – from about 780,000 in 1990 to about 800,000 today – a 2.6% increase.

      To put that in context, if the rate of suicide had kept pace with the 42.2% increase in world population from 1990 to 2019, the number of people committing suicide would now be more than 1.1 million annually – well above the current threshold of 800,000.

      In other words, the number of suicides would have increased by 309,000 additional deaths per year – well above the current threshold of 20,000.

      That's a difference of 289,000 people not committing suicide each year.

      Not to minimize the additional 20,000 people who die by suicide each year, but it's difficult to arrive at any conclusions other than these:

      • That number could have been infinitely worse
      • Serious progress is being made in the battle against suicides

      U.S. Suicide Rate is Trending Higher, but Why?

      Unfortunately, the suicide statistics for the United States between 1999 and 2018 are far less encouraging. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported last year that during this 20-year period, the U.S. suicide rate increased by 35%, far exceeding the world rate of 2.6% during an overlapping 30-year period.

      Why the steep increase in suicides in the United States during these years?

      Allegra Saunders-Sawicky, a registered clinical social work intern at Wellspring Counseling in Miami, Florida, offers these insights to InSync Healthcare Solutions:

      “You have this deep recession in 2008 which predominantly impacted a group (ages 45 to 65 and above) that is already at a more elevated risk for suicidality – folks that lost their savings and their retirements or their homes,” she says, also citing pre-pandemic stressors like Y2K, increases in racial tension, police protests, and the “political temperature,” in addition to the flood of provoking information proliferated through social media and the internet.

      “You also had the war on terror – 9-11 – and you had all these different events that have occurred very uniquely in the United States,” she says. “They had a global impact, but they occurred within the United States. So, my natural thought is that when you look at all these very, very traumatic and high-stress events that have implications on someone’s access to protective factors – their ability to cope, their ability to manage, their ability to feel a sense of belonging, and community – I think that may represent what’s going on in the United States.”

      “I would just add one more factor, which is age,” Dawn Plummer, a registered mental health counselor intern at Wellspring, told InSync, “because from 1990 to 2019, you have (an older) generation of people moving into this more statistically sensitive age range for suicide.”

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      Brighter Days Ahead?

      Contrary to what many may have expected, suicide rates in the U.S. have not increased during the pandemic. In fact, since peaking at 48,344 suicides in 2018 – more than a year before the COVID-19 virus reached our shores – U.S. rates dropped to 47,511 (a 2% decline) in 2019 and to 45,855 (a 3% decline) in 2020, according to the CDC.

      That's an improvement of nearly 2,500 fewer suicides annually in just two years' time. And although two years of decline doesn't provide a large enough sample size to qualify as a trend, per se, the 5.1% decrease in U.S. suicides is encouraging and may bode well for the future. 

      Reasons for the recent declines can be attributed, at least in part, to online resources and more open discussion about the subject – without fear of being stigmatized, according to Plummer.

      "If you just go on YouTube, there’s so much information on mental health, and a lot of people are speaking a lot more positively about it, so it’s possible more people are getting help," she says. "More people have access to help, because even if you’re not able to afford say a therapist, you’re going online and you’re relating ... (to) other people who feel the same way that you do."

      Among those "relatable" people is a veritable Who's Who of celebrities now advocating for mental wellness, either because of their own bouts with mental illness or that of family members. The list includes:

      Simone Biles: Olympic gymnast and victim of sexual assault who drew global attention to mental illness this year when she was stricken during Olympic competition and elected to withdraw

      Miley Cyrus: Singer-actress helping to destigmatize mental illness by sharing a recorded call with her therapist with her more than 100 million Instagram followers

      Michael Phelps: Olympic swimmer frequently shares personal journey about his depression to destigmatize mental illness and normalize seeking help

      Glenn Close: Actress's sister has spent her life battling bipolar disorder; advocates seeking and accessing treatment for mental illness

      Justin Bieber: Singer shares story about reliance on drugs to cope with intense anxiety and suicidal thoughts, using his platform to encourage fans to be hopeful

      Lady Gaga: Singer partly attributes her affliction with fibromyalgia to PTSD caused by sexual assault at age 19, and is now a proponent of destigmatizing medicine to battle mental pain

      The list goes on with model Chrissy Teigen, SNL comedian Pete Davidson, rappers Big Sean and Kid Cudi, singers Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande, actresses Emma Stone and Selena Gomez, tennis star Serena Williams, even blockbuster actor, producer, and entrepreneur Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, whose mother attempted suicide when he was only 15.

      The willingness of people like these to freely discuss their own vulnerabilities has made it easier for others to more openly do the same and with less fear of being stigmatized for mental illness and suicidal ideation.

      "A lot of times people think that talking about suicide causes suicide when in fact it's the reverse. Talking about suicide doesn’t make somebody suicidal. It helps them to get their story out, which actually decreases the feeling of suicide. The internet, while it can have a lot of negative consequences, it also has some benefits. And so, I think that’s what we’re really looking at with the cause of the decrease of numbers that you’re seeing."
      Dawn Plummer

       


       

      InSync Commends Progress, Commits to Those Who Make it Happen

      InSync Healthcare Solutions applauds the ongoing success in stemming the tide of suicide – and all the mental health providers who are so dedicated and instrumental in making that happen.

      schedule a demo with insync healthcare solutionsAs a leader in behavioral health EHR software, InSync is committed to the success of its clients – providing reliable, long-term solutions that facilitate clinical and administrative workflow efficiencies for thousands of specialists across all 50 states.

      Developed specifically for behavioral health practices, our EHR system includes group therapy scheduling and group notese-Prescribing, eMAR, custom forms, and more.

      For a closer look at how our software system can dramatically improve workflows in your practice, schedule a demo now with one of our experts. We're happy to answer questions and explain how we can tailor our system to meet your particular needs.

       

      References

      Injury Prevention: Demographic and epidemiological decomposition analysis of global changes in suicide rates and numbers over the period 1990-2019

      Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Changes in Suicide Rates - United States, 2018-2019

      New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, Inc.: CDC: U.S. Suicide Rates Up 35% Since 1990

      MedPage Today: Lady Gaga: Music Icon, Budding Actress ... and Fibromyalgia Patient

      Yardbarker: Celebrities who are advocates for better mental health

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