Youth Suicide Rates Reach Highest Level Since 2000—Why?
Suicide rates among teens and young adults have skyrocketed to their highest levels in two decades, according to a study released in JAMA on June 18, 2019.
Alarmingly, suicide rates among teens ages 15-19 have seen the greatest jump, increasing by 10% from 2014-2017. Although previous studies have pointed to a rise in suicide among female teens—the number of girls ages 15-19 dying by suicide increased 8% from 2016 to 2017—this latest research found a surge in teenage boys taking their own lives. Compared to 2016, there was a 21% rise in 2017 in boys in the same age group dying by suicide.
This sobering research comes on the heels of another study showing that “deaths of despair” from suicide, drugs, and alcohol have reached a historic high. This deeply distressing news comes from a 2019 study by the Commonwealth Fund, which analyzed state-by-state data from 2005 to 2017. Here’s a closer look at the rise in deaths:
- Drug overdoses: The rate of deaths from drug overdoses—primarily due to the opioid epidemic—rose by 118% across the nation in the 12 years studied. States with the highest death rates from drug overdoses are West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, Kentucky, Delaware, and New Hampshire.
- Alcohol-related deaths: Deaths from alcohol rose by 37% and have been increasing at a faster pace since 2013—growing 4% annually compared to 2% prior to 2013. The Midwest and West account for the biggest jump in alcohol-related deaths.
- Suicide: Suicide rates are up nearly 30% nationally since 2005 with the most suicides occurring in states, such as Montana, the Dakotas, Alaska, Idaho, Nevada, and Colorado. Sadly, the suicide rate increased the most dramatically from 2016 to 2017.
The research stops short of explaining why these deaths of despair are skyrocketing. What’s wrong? Why are we headed in the wrong direction? Shouldn’t our mental health care system and the growing number of addiction treatment centers be helping reverse these trends?
What’s Wrong with Mental Health Care in America?
America has an outdated, stigmatizing mental health paradigm that taints people with disparaging labels, preventing them from getting the help they need. And when they do seek help, they are faced with a field that is still diagnosing patients the same way it did over 100 years ago.
Mental health as it is currently practiced in the United States—making diagnoses based on symptom clusters with no biological information, then prescribing multiple medications where the mechanism in individual patients is unknown—does not have a prayer of fixing the epidemic problems of depression, suicide, and addictions.
The Problem with Addiction Treatment in the U.S.
Similarly, most of the nation’s addiction treatment programs are missing the essential organ of intervention—the brain. Brain dysfunction is the number-one reason why people fall victim to addiction, why they can’t break the chains of addiction, and why they relapse.
Brain imaging studies using a technology called SPECT show that opioids, Vicodin, methamphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol all seriously impair brain function. Unless we heal the brain, there’s little chance of breaking free from addiction.
We need to do better.
A New Brain-Centered Model for a Brighter Future
What if mental health was really brain health? And what if we replaced the outdated treatment model with a modern brain-based, whole-person program rooted in neuroscience and hope?
No one is shamed for cancer, diabetes, or heart disease, even though they have significant lifestyle contributions. Likewise, no one should be shamed for depression, suicidal thoughts, addictions, panic disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other brain health issues.
Brain imaging helps eliminate the stigma currently attached to mental illness and addiction because people see that their problems are medical in nature, not moral. They aren’t due to a personal weakness or character flaw.
It decreases shame and guilt and increases forgiveness and compassion from their families. Reframing the discussion to brain health is also more accurate and elevates hope, increases the desire to get help, and increases compliance to make the necessary lifestyle changes. Once people understand that the brain controls everything they do and everything they are, they want a better brain so they can have a better life.
Brain Imaging Reveals Hope for Healing
The good news is that brain imaging studies show that the brain can heal. People with depression and suicidal thoughts can change their brain and change their lives. And people suffering from addictions have the potential for some of the most dramatic improvement in terms of brain function. In fact, before-and-after scans often reveal a stunning level of recovery.
Now is the time to adopt this new paradigm of brain-centered healing, so we can put the brakes on these staggering statistics and start reversing these trends.
At Amen Clinics, we have the world’s largest database of functional brain scans related to behavior. We use brain SPECT imaging in addition to assessing the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors that may be contributing to mental health/brain health disorders and addictions. With this comprehensive evaluation, we are better able to accurately diagnose and personalize treatment solutions for your needs.
If you are struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts, or addiction, we’re here for you. We have helped thousands of people change their brain and get their life back. Find out more about our unique approach to mental health care by speaking to a specialist at 888-288-9834 or you can schedule a visit online.