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Calls for More Suicide Prevention Efforts as Rates Rise

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The world lost two well-known Americans to suicide last week. Television personality Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade died within two days of each other.

Their deaths come at a time when more Americans are dying from suicide than ever before. That information comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States.

In a new report, CDC officials note that suicide rates have risen in 49 of the 50 states.

A worldwide problem

But suicide is not just an American problem. Each year, about 800,000 people worldwide die as a result of suicide. That number does not include the countless others who attempt to take their lives.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every 40 seconds, someone in the world ends his or her life.

WHO officials say suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds worldwide. Nearly 80 percent of suicides in 2015 took place in low-income and middle-income countries.

Prevention in America

WHO studies show that the United States has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world.

Suicide prevention experts say a major step to preventing suicide is to get help early and to reduce the stigma around mental health and suicide.

For American adolescents, the CDC says suicide is the third leading cause of death, behind accidents and homicides.

Experts say suicides can be prevented if governments set policies to prevent alcohol and drug abuse, make guns safer and restrict their use among people at risk of suicide.

Experts also say U.S. officials can help reduce the stigma of suicide and provide support for those suffering from depression and conditions linked to depression.

John Draper is the executive director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a nonprofit organization. Its telephone hotline provides free prevention support 24 hours a day. He said that the organization’s crisis centers around the country are in serious need of money.

Mental health

Paul Gionfriddo leads Mental Health America, another nonprofit group. He became a supporter of early suicide prevention treatment when his son developed a mental condition.

Gionfriddo said suicide is a “stage-four event” for a lot of people who suffer from mental disorders or chronic diseases unrelated to mental health.

Dorothy Paugh was nine years old when her father took his life. Fifty years later, she was shocked by yet another suicide: that of her son.

Because of her experiences, Paugh became a supporter of suicide prevention.

She said, 'If we think someone may be troubled, ask them outright if they are having thoughts of suicide. It's not a comfortable conversation, but it's a lot more comfortable than a funeral. That's my hope and my purpose in speaking about suicide — so people know it is preventable.'

Experts say mental health exams would help people get into treatment before their depression becomes severe. Other advice includes reducing the social stigma tied to mental health issues and making treatment more widely available.

The WHO says that early identification and treatment of mental disorders may be the goal in developed countries, like the United States. It points out that prevention policies may be different in low- and middle-income countries.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Alice Bryant adapted this story from several VOA stories and reports from the CDC and WHO. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

low-income - adj. of or relating to those with a relatively small income.

middle-income - adj. of or relating to those with an average income within the overall population.

stigma - n. a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something​

adolescent - n. a young person who is developing into an adult; a young person who is going through adolescence​

homicide - n. the act of killing another person; murder

hotline - n. a telephone service for the public to use to get help in emergencies​

chronic - adj. continuing or occurring again and again for a long time​

comfortable - adj. not causing any physically unpleasant feelings; producing physical comfort​

conversation - n. an informal talk involving two people or a small group of people; the act of talking in an informal way​

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