Soldier suicide rate continues to climb

soldierI’ve been wanting to devote some time to blogging about this but I fear that I can’t. But I just read on CBS News that soldier suicides are still rising at an alarming rate. An estimated 128 troops killed themselves in 2008 and apparently February has seen 18 soldier suicides. (That figure may increase because some suicides are suspected but not immediately confirmed.) The Army released announced in February that at least 24 soldier deaths had been ruled as suicides.

The Army normally releases figures on self-inflicted deaths only once a year. But due to the large number of 24 suspected in January, officials decided to announce monthly figures to focus attention on the problem and on prevention programs available.

–snip–

Speaking by telephone to a group of bloggers, Chiarelli noted that officials already have bolstered suicide prevention programs and are having special training sessions this month and next, but he said no one thing can solve the problem.

The military has added mental health staff, operates hotlines for troops to call, and has programs to counter stress on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was no breakdown on how many of the suicides happened at the warfront.

It’s a shame that so many troops had to lose their lives for the Army to get a wake up call on bolstering suicide prevention and mental health programs. My guess is suffering from PTSD also plays a part in pushing soldiers over the edge.

Emotional depression along with economic recession?

suicide rates compared to employment ratesCNN has a story looking into whether suicides increase as the economy falls into a recession and investors begin to lose thousands of dollars in the stock market. According to a chart by the NIH & Bureau of Labor Statistics, there seems to be a correlation. Here are the latest high-profile suicides that seem to have been prompted by the economic downturn:

  • Steven Good, a chairman and CEO of Sheldon Good & Co., a major U.S. real estate auction company, may have shot himself, according to police.
  • Adolf Merckle, a 74-year-old German billionaire who was ranked the 94th richest person in the world by Forbes magazine, killed himself by walking in front of a train. According to the CNN article, “in recent months his empire had been near collapse.”
  • Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, a 65-year-old French investor, killed himself after losing $1.4 billion in the Ponzi scheme that Bernard Madoff ran.
  • Kirk Stephenson, 47-year-old English financier  and COO of Olivant Ltd., jumped in front of a train in September (the real climax in the economic collapse).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates more than 32,000 people commit suicide each year but public health experts expect an increase upwards to an additional 1200 suicides because of the economic climate. Here are a few more stats that are worth reading:

  • Calls to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline went from 412,768 in 2007 up to 540,041 in 2008.
  • Unemployed people are two to four times more likely to kill themselves than those who are employed.

I have to admit, I found that following paragraph interesting:

So what about these wealthy and powerful men who have recently killed themselves? Mental health experts say it’s impossible to say why they did it, but they say that people who kill themselves have an underlying psychological issue, such as depression or bipolar disorder, so it’s not only about the money.

So I pose a question: Do all those who commit suicide have a mental illness? Or is it possible to kill oneself without being mentally ill?

Calls for VA's top official to resign

I’d been meaning to talk about this story but it’s progressed faster than my typing hands can keep up.

An e-mail sent around at the Veterans Health Administration among Dr. Ira Katz, the VA mental health director, and other officials, discussed the issue of hiding the number of suicides committed by veterans from the public—an estimated five out 18 of them being under VA care. Now, a number of senators (and bloggers) are calling for Katz’s resignation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Saturday Stats

"Suicide took the lives of 30,622 people in 2001." – National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

Loose Screws Mental Health News

According to a press release (I’m well aware what I’m saying), a recent study possibly shows that schizophrenia’s physical effects are more widespread in the body; researchers previously theorized that schizophrenia was limited to the central nervous system.

“The findings could lead to better diagnostic testing for the disease and could help explain why those afflicted with it are more prone to type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and other chronic health problems.”

Apparently, those who suffer from schizophrenia have abnormal proteins in the liver and red blood cells. While schizophrenia’s most visible effects are psychological, researchers have noted that schizophrenics are at a higher risk for “chronic diseases.” The genetic and physical implications of such a study could prove interesting, especially for those suffering from and at risk for schizophrenia. Also in schizophrenia news, researchers have noticed an “excessive startle response.” The startle response, known as prepulse inhibition (PPI), is being considered as a biomarker for the illness.

Something Furious Seasons might like to argue if he hasn’t taken the following on:

“Lastly, but quite importantly, atypical antipsychotic were found to be more effective than typical antipsychotics in improving PPI, thus ‘normalizing’ the startle response. This led the authors to note:

‘Because an overwhelming number of patients with schizophrenia are currently treated with atypical APs, it is possible that PPI deficits in this population are a vanishing biomarker.”

What’s the advantage with atypicals vs. typicals? How do they work differently? *sigh* I need a pharmaceutical-specific wikipedia.

Schizophrenia News previously wrote about how proof is lacking in schizophrenia developing in those who have suffered from child abuse. (Excuse me for the awful construction of that sentence.) However, a new study shows that those at a high risk for schizophrenia benefit from having a good relationship with their parents during childhood. Read more.

Editor and Publisher has noted that suicides among Army soldiers doubled in 2005 compared to 2004.

Read the rest of this entry »

Saturday Stats

"Firearms were used in 73% of suicides committed by adults over the age of 65 in 2001." – National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

Saturday Stats

"Suicide rates in the United States are lowest in the winter and highest in the spring." – National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

Saturday Stats

"Suicide rates are generally higher than the national average in the western states and lower in the eastern and midwestern states." – National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

Saturday Stats

"Comprising only 13 percent of the U.S. population, individuals age 65 and older accounted for 18 percent of all suicide deaths in 2000. Among the highest rates (when categorized by gender and race) were white men age 85 and older: 59 deaths per 100,000 persons in 2000, more than five times the national U.S. rate of 10.6 per 100,000." – National Institute of Mental Health

Identification

I identify with Dawdy’s article on a variety of grounds and many of his words have me thinking.

“Mostly, the suicidal show no clues that they are on dangerous ground.”

This is true for me only with people I don’t know. When people at work, friends, or family see me, they think that all is right in my world. I’m the type of person who keeps a pleasant expression fixed on her face and in general, has a bubbly, cheery attitude. (Co-workers, acquaintances, and casual friends would never know how negative and pessimistic I am.) If people found out that I struggled with depression to the extent of attempting suicide on 10 different occasions, they’d all be shocked because it doesn’t seem to jive with my “personality.”

People who really know me — those closest to me — know that when I’m suicidal, it’s extremely hard for me to not show. I withdraw from social contact, refuse to make eye contact, become extremely quiet or reply with a succession of short, one-word answers to questions, or corner myself in a seat or in bed with my head hanging down, eyes spacing off into somewhere. Those who know me should and can know when I’m suicidal. It becomes so obvious that I don’t need to say anything. I usually don’t tell anyone, but my body language speaks volumes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Saturday Stats

"Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 24. In 2001, 3,971 suicides were reported in this group."  – National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

Bane Of My Existence

Suicide stuck in my mind after I watched a health video on mental illness in school. I don’t remember how old I was — I could have been 11 or 13. I vaguely remember the video but distinctly remembering my brain going, “Ding! Ding! Ding! That’s what you should do to deal with your troubles!” Suicide has since been the bane of my existence.

“[Radio host Cynthia] Doyon’s suicide was reported in both the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Seattle Times. Neither newspaper has tackled suicide as an issue. …In 2002, a New York Times editor had a breakdown in the newsroom and jumped, 15 floors, in front of colleagues. Not one article about suicide as a public-health problem appeared in the Times… In 2000, a Times reporter jumped to his death from a bridge in New York. Again, silence from the nation’s most influential paper on the subject of suicide.”Philip Dawdy, “One Suicide Too Many,” the Seattle Weekly

Is it really that editors don’t want to tackle suicide as an issue or is it more that they are simply afraid of it? Is this one area of mental health issues that has become increasingly taboo even though statistics continue to show that it is a deadly killer, more so than AIDS or homicide?

Raising Mental Health Awareness

“Suicide is most often the impulsive act of a desperate man. … You can get to a point of desperately wanting to stick a gun in your mouth faster than you can read this sentence.” — Philip Dawdy, Furious Seasons blogger and Seattle Weekly staff writer

AbilifyMy husband and I recently heard about Abilify and wondered why we haven’t heard about it being more widely used in regard to Bipolar I. Well, of course, Abilify has some shady appearing data. Read Dawdy’s post for more info.

Dawdy also has written about suicides occurring in Seattle. He wrote a 10-page (by my count) story for the Seattle Weekly about 2 years ago on raising suicide and mental health awareness. He stresses suicides are not widely reported because the media tend to ignore them unless they involve a public figure, i.e. Kurt Cobain, Elliot Smith. What I understand from my journalism classes is that suicides aren’t reported in the media (TV, print, etc.) because editors, who make those decisions, fear copycat attempts. Reporting about suicide treads a fine line between reporting necessary news and giving readers unnecessary ideas.

Loose Screws Mental Health News: Suicide slide

Andre WatersLiz Spikol from The Trouble with Spikol wrote a beautiful “elegy for the living,” as she calls it. It’s sad and thought-provoking.

In a related story – actually she found it first – the AP reports that suicides are most commonly done by the elderly, especially older white men.

And finally, Andre Waters, a former Eagle defensive back, shot and killed himself. He was 44.

SSRIs

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
(from monstersandcritics.com)

  • present fewer side effects than their predecessors
  • less likely to be lethal even in large quantities (important for someone who may be suicidal)
  • the
    Federal Drug Administration (FDA) wants SSRI dosage minimized to
    decrease risk of overdosage and close monitoring of younger patients on
    the drug
  • suicide rates overall have declined since SSRI market introduction
  • side effects ma include insomnia, rashes, headaches, joint and muscle pain, upset stomach, nausea or diarrhea
  • mixed with painkillers, SSRIs can pave the way for stomach or uterine bleeding

In the Hindustan Times,
an article ran on a girl who committed suicide because she had not
received the grades she had hoped on a test. One highlight (if you can
consider it that) of reading world news is that they'll report local
suicides more often than U.S. media. The HT story reminds me that there
is no excuse too small or too big for people to commit suicide.

Indian focus recently has been on eliminating suicide scenes from films to prevent copycat cases. In one incident,
a mother dragged her four kids out o the train tracks to die with her.
Two of them were able to escape and survive before a train pummeled the
rest of the family to death.

Ireland is also tackling suicide – they've set a 20 percent reduction target by the year 2016. A published report notes that suicide rates are rising in males younger than 35 and in females under 25. Wisconsin
is battling youth suicide, much like Ireland, and hopes to reduce its
current rate of one young adult committing suicide per week by 10
percent. No time frame for the reduction has been set.

An anti-seizure drug, Neurontin, is being blamed for nearly 300 suicides nationwide.
It is the best-selling anticonvulsant medicine in the U.S. and Pfizer –
Neurontin's maker – posted profits of more than $2.6 billion in 2004.
The FDA has not pushed to have Neurontin taken off the market, but in
2005, simply ordered a review. The results have never been made public
as of today.

A man who killed himself after being turned away from the hospital has drawn worldwide attention to the inadequacies of Australia's mental health system. Although I'm sure similar events have occured in the U.S., it likely does not get widespread coverage.