Tag Archives: suicide

Why the increase in mental health problems for college students?

Depressed college studentIn a recent NY Times article on the rising number of college students with mental health problems, there’s an interesting comment on why the numbers are increasing.

Experts say the trend is partly linked to effective psychotropic drugs (Wellbutrin for depression, Adderall for attention disorder, Abilify for bipolar disorder) that have allowed students to attend college who otherwise might not have functioned in a campus setting.

There is also greater awareness of traumas scarcely recognized a generation ago and a willingness to seek help for those problems, including bulimia, self-cutting and childhood sexual abuse.

The greater awareness of trauma doesn’t surprise me, but the first explanation hadn’t occurred to me. I’d like to see the evidence. My first take on psychotropic drugs for children is that they’re overdone, but I’m willing to be convinced otherwise. If this is true – that more students can attend college because of the drugs they take — then that’s good news.

This particular article has very little information on the students themselves. It’s mostly about how difficult it is for understaffed college counseling centers to cope with the increase. Read more


Suicide among veterans is an “absolute crisis”

Soldier crying, PTSDAccording to the Times, 347 soldiers were killed last year, and 381 committed suicide.

Legislation to provide funds for the mental health of military personnel and veterans was removed from a Congressional bill last year for budgetary reasons. The Times comments:

Considering the two wars were declared and waged with scant attention to their full costs, lawmakers add insult to injury by invoking budget concerns for the traumatic needs of actual warriors.

The medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention testified before a House subcommittee this month that suicide among veterans is an “absolute crisis.”

A provision on mental health care for the military appears again in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011. It’s been approved by the House and needs final approval by the Senate. You can email your senator from the Senate contact information page. Senators are listed in order of state.

As a blogger wrote at the site where I found this photo, “The real question is, why don’t we care anymore?”

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Links of interest: Suicide

ma-xiangquianSurveillance for Violent Deaths — National Violent Death Reporting System, 16 States, 2007 (CDC)

The latest official statistics on US violent deaths, including suicides, from the CDC. The report covers the year 2007, with information from 16 states. You might think the latest statistics would be more recent, but the CDC does an extensive amount of analysis. The report contains 39 tables that compare such things as the manner of death, the mechanism of injury, precipitating events, and whether more than one person was involved. Here’s a summary of the suicide analysis by age group and ethnicity (emphasis added):

Overall, the crude suicide rate was 11.6 per 100,000 population. The rate for males was more than three times that for females (18.4 and 5.0 per 100,000 population, respectively). Non-Hispanic whites accounted for the largest number of suicide deaths, and AI/ANs [American Indian/Alaskan Native] and non-Hispanic whites had the highest rates of suicide (18.2 and 14.0 per 100,000 population, respectively). The highest rates of suicide by age group occurred among persons aged 45–54 years, 75–84 years, and 35–44 years (17.6, 16.4, and 16.3 per 100,000 population, respectively). Children aged 10–14 years had the lowest rates of suicide among all age groups (0.8 per 100,000 population). Rates of suicide among adolescents aged 15–19 years (6.9 per 100,000 population) were approximately half of those for persons aged ≥30 years.

Suicide Rate Highest in Middle Age (MedPage Today)

A summary of highlights from the CDC report, including this observation:

Alcohol was a factor in about one-third of all suicides, and alcohol and drug abuse ranked second behind depression and other mood disorders as the most frequent risk factors for suicidal behaviors, the report authors wrote.

As Thomas Joiner writes in Myths about Suicide, the role of alcohol in suicidal behavior is complex. He cites an interesting study in which there was a high correlation between a mother’s consumption of alcohol and the suicide of an adolescent child. “[A]lcohol use is a signal of a deeper substrate of chronic risk – a risk that is passed on from parents to children. … [N]ot a lot of women [drink excessively]; for her to do so means that she has a severe underlying condition, and that severity is getting signaled to you [the child] either genetically or through family environment.”

Electronics Maker Promises Review After Suicides (The New York Times)

A report on employee suicides at Chinese company Foxconn, a major supplier of electronics for Apple, Dell, and HP. Run with “military-style” efficiency, employees work 12-hour shifts under constant camera surveillance. They live in cramped dormitories, with as many as 10 to a room. The dormitories house 330,000 to 400,000 people. In its defense, the company boasted that it provided recreational facilities, but the employees are too exhausted to use them. As of May 28, there had been 13 suicide attempts this year, ten of them successful and three with serious injuries. Employees jump from the upper floors of their dormitories. Foxconn is erecting netting.

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Suicide in Japan (part 2): The Internet and media coverage


Continued from Suicide in Japan (part 1): The recession.

The Internet plays a role in Japanese suicides, especially among the young. There’s easy access both to tips on committing suicide and to individuals willing to join in a suicide pact.

A few years ago, there was an epidemic of joint suicides using carbon monoxide from charcoal briquettes. This was followed in popularity by hydrogen sulfide, a chemical produced by combining readily available detergents. The poisonous gas is highly dangerous to anyone who comes to the rescue.

In April [2008], 80 people were injured and another 120 had to be evacuated after a 14-year-old girl killed herself with hydrogen sulfide in southern Japan’s Kochi prefecture. She’d left a note on the door of her family’s apartment that said, “Gas being emitted. Don’t open,” according to the Kyodo news service.

There was a story in Tokyo Vice of a polite and considerate young man who electrocuted himself and left a sign on his naked back, warning people not to touch him. “Do not touch me, please. Imminent danger of electrocution.” Nearby was a suicide manual that recommended the method and provided instructions.

Is media coverage educational or inflamatory?

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Suicide in Japan (part 1): The recession

aokigahara-forest-japanWhen the Great Recession was in its infancy, late in 2008, there was speculation on the impact of the economic downturn on health. Many stories featured the studies of economist Christopher Ruhm, who claimed health improves during economic hard times. What his statistics actually showed was that fewer people died, perhaps due to fewer automobile accidents. That’s not quite the same as improved health.

Though I never found Ruhm’s reasoning very convincing, there was one statistic that made sense. Of the ten causes of death Ruhm had tracked, the only one that didn’t fall with economic hardship was suicide.

Number of Japanese suicides exceeds 30,000 for 12th straight year

Statistics for suicide in the US are not yet available for 2009, but they’ve just been released for Japan, a country where suicide is a significant social problem. As Japanese sociologist Kayoko Ueno writes: “Suicide rates are increasing at such high speed in Japan that it has made scholars wonder if the proper name for the phenomenon is suicide or social murder.”

Here are the 2009 numbers for Japan. For comparison, the number of suicides in the US per 100,000 people was 11.6 in 2007.

• For people in their 20s, the number is 24.1, an all-time high (“Young people are having difficulties in finding the meaning of life,” according to a representative of a suicide prevention organization).

• For those in their 30s, the number is 26.2.

• For those in their 40s to 60s, the number is over 30.

These numbers are for both men and women. The statistics for men only are much higher.

Prior to 1998, the number of annual suicides had ranged between 15,000 and 25,000. Suicides peaked in 2003 at 34,427, but the number has remained over 30,000 for the past 12 years. The total for 2009 is 32,845.

Is it the economy or is it something about Japanese society?

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