Friday was a depressing, tense day after learning that an old friend from my political operative days killed himself. He left Washington a bitter man and quit the Republican party over its descent into right-wing zealotry and the election of our current president.
Suicides are on the increase in America. In 2016, suicide among veterans increased 1.5 times — raising the rate from 6,000 a year to 9,000. An alarming number kill themselves while on duty. At least 22 took their own lives at Veterans Administration facilities in the last 18 months.
Nearly 45,000 Americans killed themselves in 2016 — a 33 percent increase over previous years. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says this country’s suicide rate has hit record levels and continue to rise.
In 2017, teenage suicide rates increased by 21 percent. Jonathan Singer, president of the American Association of Suicidology, says “a steadily growing number of young people are dying by suicide.”
“I think what you’re seeing is a reflection of incredibly stressed out group of kids,” he adds.
We’ve had at least one student at Floyd County High School kill himself in recent years. A couple of other deaths of teenagers — including a troubled young girl — have attempted to kill themselves.
Fenway Jones, a high school student in Fenton, Mich., lost a good friend, a 16-year-old to suicide in 2017.
It was super shocking and devastating,” Jones told NBC News. “I had seen him just a little while before he died.” She said didn’t notice anything that would have given her a clue her friend was suffering.
“We weren’t looking for the minor changes. We saw the happiness that he had, and we didn’t see the other side of it.”
Then it happened again. A 16-year-old friend named Tori killed herself in 2018.
In 2017, 6,241 teenagers and adults in their early 20s, killed themselves. Of those, 5,016 were young men.
“Boys, as a rule, are a little more impulsive than females,” said Dr. Greg Plemmons, a pediatrician and researcher at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. “But girls are catching up.”
Plemmons headed a study at his university in 2018 that found that 115,856 teenagers ended up in hospital emergency rooms from attempted suicides.
“We saw a bigger jump among adolescent females” in that study, he said.
“Something is going on on a societal level,” he said. “We certainly need more intervention.”
The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that suicides among teens have “reached a high water mark” and continues to increase.
“For girls and young women, suicide rates have mostly followed a steady upward trajectory since 2000, roughly doubling between then and 2017,” says the Journal.
The suicide rate for white children and teens between 10 and 17 was up 70% between 2006 and 2016, the latest data analysis available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although black children and teens kill themselves less often than white youth do, the rate of increase was higher — 77%.
Why? Some point to the chaos that descended on America after the 2016 election. John Draper of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline said calls to their help center increased overwhelmingly after the election of Donald Trump as president.
Other such services reported the same increases.
“I can’t say I’ve seen anything like this,” Draper says. “And it’s certainly not something I’ve ever seen in an election.”