For National Suicide Prevention Week, One Doctor Shares Preventative Actions

According to a report by the CDC released earlier this year, suicide rates between 1999-2016 have increased nationwide, with Missouri increasing by 36 percent.

As this is National Suicide Prevention Week, St. Louis Magazine spoke to Dr. Kyle John, medical director of mental health at Mercy Virtual, about why he thinks suicide rates have increased and possible warning signs.

According to a report by the CDC released earlier this year, suicide rates increased nationwide between 1999 and 2016. In Missouri, the rate increased by 36 percent, while Illinois’ increase was by 23 percent.

In St. Louis County, between 2011 and 2015, suicide was the third most common cause of death for people between 18 and 24 years of age. Suicide was the sixth most common cause of death for children under 18. It ranked fifth as the cause of death for adults between 18 and 64.

Dr. John says the increase has many causes but highlighted three.

  1. Limited access to mental health treatment. Seeking mental health care is still heavily stigmatized. When we do experience psychological issues, we often don’t tell anyone and don’t know where to turn.  And, if we do decide to see a mental health professional, “the wait time can be 3-12 months,” Dr. John says. “For a child psychiatrist, it can be 6-12 months.” Why? Because as a society, we tend to treat mental health differently from physical health. “We have a plethora of people not receiving care for basic mental health issues that should be available.”
  2. Stress. We are expected to have high productivity at work and “keep up with the Joneses” with our families. Additionally, events such as natural disasters, break-ups, loss of jobs, and chronic illnesses will happen to us, causing even more stress.
  3. Social Media. We are constantly connected through social media, and it exposes us to mass shootings and natural disasters in real time. “Kids and teenagers are particularly vulnerable, because they don’t yet have the life experience or developmental level to process these horrific news events,” says John. If adults are not helping them process, kids tend to assume that a disaster of the same magnitude is likely to happen to them at any moment. “This then impacts their mental and physical health.”

John urges people to pay attention to those around them. To learn about signs to watch for and prevention tips, check out the full article here.

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