Med Center psychiatrist weighs in on rise in U.S. suicide rates

According to a report from last month, the rate of suicides has increased by nearly 31% in the last 20 years.
Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 7:21 AM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, roughly 47,000 died last year or about one in every 11 minutes.

According to a report from last month, the rate of suicides has increased by nearly 31% in the last 20 years.

Dr. J. Grayson Grau, an attending psychiatrist at the Medical Center in Bowling Green, told WBKO there are a variety of reasons that could contribute to the increase, including having uncertainties happen in life, such as the Coronavirus pandemic that has been going on since 2020.

To help stop the spread during the start of the pandemic, many people started staying home and going out less which resulted in isolation from others for many people.

“One of the things that we know about suicide rates is they’re higher in areas where there’s less social contact,” Dr. Grau said. “Not going to work. Not going to church, and engaging in other social types of activities. people not being able to even go to a restaurant.”

He also added that it could be argued that staying home, could give someone an opportunity to become closer to those around them.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty about that, Dr. Grau said. “The reason for statistical changes is not clear. We know that from 2000 to 2018, the suicide rate went up by about 35%. But from 2018 to 2020, it went down by about 5%.”

Another factor in the increase in suicide rates was access to firearms, specifically in regard to men.

“Men are approximately three times as common to three times as likely to complete suicide, whereas females are three times as likely to attempt suicide,” Dr. Grau said. “A lot of that goes back to access to means lethality, we find that 50% or greater of suicides is related to firearms. And that is generally a male-dominated statistic.

Some of the signs you can look for in your loved ones include changes in behavior, lack of interest, lack of motivation, and more, all of which Dr. Grau says are “indicators of underlying depression,” he said. “The classic is the person who starts giving away things, the person who says I don’t need this anymore, and that is not in and of itself an indicator of suicide. But, if someone is giving away their prized possessions that is an area where we need to be especially aware of.”

If you, or someone you know, are in a crisis or need help you can call or text the suicide and crisis lifeline at 988 or visit