Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain are among the latest celebrity casualties to suicide. We’ve heard the stories before: The deceased had well-documented “mental health struggles” or the suicide was a “complete shock” and “without warning signs.” Doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses: You must do more to prevent suicide. It’s a preventable public health crisis.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s suicide statistics are sobering: approximately 45,000 suicide deaths in 2016. Suicide rates increased by 30 percent in half of U.S. states from 1999 to 2016. Fifty-four percent of those who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention adds that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and for every death, there are 25 other attempts. This means that there are over 1.1 million suicide attempts each year in the United States.

Half a century ago, the director-general of the World Health Organization, Dr. Brock Chisholm, declared that “without mental health there can be no true physical health.” The Affordable Care Act emphasizes “prevention, early intervention and treatment of mental and/or substance disorders.” This is a start, but the insufficient reality is that most patients answer a few depression screening questions at appointment check-ins. Given that suicides are increasing, this is not enough.

There are many causes of suicidal ideation that are not exclusive to mental health disorders, including: relationship problems, personal crises, problematic substance use, physical health problems, job or financial problems, legal problems and loss of housing. To reduce suicides, health care providers need to address these factors by taking a holistic approach to care: spending time learning about all aspects of their patients’ lives. This will prevent suicides.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

Kyle Holmquist

MSN-family nurse practitioner candidate, University of Southern Maine, Class of 2020


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