Suicide is one of the leading causes of death, and it is happening at a higher rate than usual. On average, 50,000 people per year commit suicide and 15 million people (adults and youth) contemplate suicide, with one in every five high school students attempting it.
Stacey Freedenthal, an associate professor at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work and psychotherapist, says one of the few leading correlations of suicide for adults is mental illness such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, grief, and addiction. She also points to financial stresses and loneliness as another reason adults can commit such an act. Freedenthal is recognized nationally and internationally for her expertise in helping people who have suicidal thoughts.
“Life needs to be worth living for people to stay alive if they have suicidal thoughts. Some of the things that make life not worth living for people are bad living conditions, and according to numbers over the last few years, suicides are becoming more of a social justice issue rather than mental illness.” Freedenthal said, noting correlates like living conditions, bullying or family issues are important to learn when one wishes to help.
According to a recent study by the U.S. Surgeon General, disparities like social and economic inequalities, discrimination, and racism, play key factors in suicides, especially for youth. The study shows that since 2017 suicide has been the second leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 19. Black kids are twice as likely to die by suicide compared to their White counterparts.
“The children I talk to point towards bullying, financial security, and social media as a catalyst of their depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts,” Freedenthal said noting the effects social media can have on kids. “Many kids feel inadequate to their peers that they see online. They see other kids living, dressing, and having certain luxury items, and they feel like they’re in a competition they can’t win, which causes them to lose hope and become depressed and develop this feeling of worthlessness.”
Freedenthal states that suicide rates do include intentional drug overdoses. Often it is hard to determine whether deaths were actual suicides or accidental overdoses, so there are separate studies. There have been 100,000 overdoses since 2020, with only 5,000 deemed suicides.
Freedenthal points to a few things that can help youth and adults deal with their problems caused by correlations.
“If you are trying to help somebody deal with these thoughts, don’t be judgemental, but be curious about their situation,” she said. “Another is even after talking to said person, be alert of them, as most clients I have admitted to having thoughts about suicide again after talking to people about it. The third thing I recommend is to always keep the line of communication open and provide this person with a safe space to be open and free to share their current troubles.”