Suicide—and a Reflection on Our Changing American Society
By: Elinore F. McCance-Katz, MD, PhD, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data on the ten leading causes of death in the United States recently. Tragically, suicide—too often a consequence of untreated mental illness and substance use disorders, and as such a preventable condition—remains on that list as the 10th leading cause of death for adults and the second-leading cause of death in our youth.1 Suicide rates increased from 29,199 deaths in 1996 to 47,173 deaths in 2017.2
What are the contributors to the state of mind that ends in a person taking their own life? What can government do about this? What responsibility do we have to each other to take actions that will alter this course? These are questions of great importance, because rising deaths by suicide say something about the conditions under which our people live and die and about our society at large.