The recent deaths of designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain have again shone a light on suicide. But we should not care about suicide only when famous people end their lives.
The suicide rate in America has risen by more than 25 percent over the last two decades, according to data released on Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Maine, the increase was 27 percent between 1999 and 2016.
In America, a person dies by suicide every 13 minutes, the CDC reports.
This is a tragic reminder of many failures, both individual and societal. The most important thing to know is that help is always available. Maine’s crisis hotline is available 24 hours a day at 1-888-568-1112. Calls are answered by trained crisis workers.
A national hotline is also available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. Both provide free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. A c risis text line is also available by texting HOME to 741741. Everyone who sends a text will be connected with a crisis counselor.
Many factors contribute to suicide. The most common are relationship problems, a recent crisis and substance abuse. Although some who die by suicide had known mental health conditions, many do not.
So, what can we do to help? First, understand that suicide isn’t rare and it isn’t something that happens to “other people.”
“If you are a human being on this planet … you know someone who is struggling,” says Rep. Colleen Madigan, D-Waterville, a clinical social worker and member of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.
A post she made on Facebook Friday morning speaks about suicide — and its causes and prevention — better than we can.
“I have worked in the mental health for many years. Depression doesn’t care how much money you have or how successful you are,” Madigan wrote. “It eats away at your soul. It makes you think people you love and who love you back would be better off without you. It is your worst critic. Depression lies.”
“Depression has no boundaries. It doesn’t care about the color of your skin, what God you worship, if any, who you love, how much money you have, etc. I fight for health care and mental health care for all because no one should be asked to fight depression, cancer, or any health problem alone. We are better than that,” she wrote.
“If you are depressed and struggling with thoughts of suicide, reach out and ask for help. You are not alone. The people who love you will not be better off without you. Depression lies.”
On a larger level, the best thing Maine can do to reduce its unacceptable suicide rate is to expand Medicaid, which lawmakers and voters have approved but the LePage administration continues to fight.
Medicaid expansion is about extending health care insurance to poor working Mainers. With affordable access to health care, Mainers who are struggling with substance abuse may finally gain access to treatment. Deadly diseases, such as cancer, can be diagnosed and treated earlier. People with chronic physical ailments can obtain treatment and medication to avoid the depression that often accompanies these conditions. With health insurance, people can access mental health treatment that they may have forgone for decades.
Medicaid expansion will help on a statewide scale. Individually, if you need help, please ask for it. If you know someone who is struggling, reach out. It will make a difference.
To reach a suicide prevention hotline, call 888-568-1112 or 800-273-TALK (8255), or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
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