48,344 people died by suicide in the United States in 2018, according to the CDC.
Of those individuals, 90% had a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death.
The daily average? 132 Americans died by suicide every day, with 119 having a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death.
Looking at NIH data from 2008, when they began publicizing this data, funding for mental health conditions and suicide is far lower than that of other illnesses. Comparatively speaking, we are nowhere near the funding in areas such as cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and many other diseases that are deemed ’physical’. This is inexcusable.
According to NIMH/NIH data gathered in 2021, Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, only followed by accidental death. It is the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 44. It is believed that suicide is under-reported due to the stigma associated with it, which means that many of the accidental deaths are undoubtedly deaths by suicide.
With this in mind, why are mental health conditions not treated as important as other conditions? We fund research to tackle things like asthma, allergies, diabetes, etc. in early childhood. However, for the quarter of our population suffering from a mental health condition, we do extremely little.
I just read a post from a parent whose adult son passed away due to suicide. She’s a member of an online support group for those who have lost loved ones to suicide.
(Note – There are over 20,000 registered members in this support group, not to mention those non-members who visit each day as a way to search for help and support.)
Below, is a partial post from the bereaved mother discussing our current state of mental health care:
“He was just 25. When someone goes through chemo, they want to know that you have someone to help you at home. I wish it was the same for mental illness.”
Unfortunately, this is one out of thousands and thousands of mothers who are struggling with the loss of their dear child, a child they love more than anything in the world. No matter how many children a mother has, the loss of one of her children, is the entire world. These mothers, plus fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses, and friends’ lives have been forever changed. So many are effected by one suicide. It’s astounding, the grief and despair that loved ones have. They are catapulted into a life of constant questioning, doubt, and guilt.
Our question – Why does this happen when we may be able to find cures and effective treatments for mental health conditions, more accurately termed as brain diseases? Right now, our medical community is throwing darts at a dartboard to see if a medication, or a cocktail of medications, will hit the mark. If this doesn’t work, okay, we’ll throw some more darts at the target and see if they land a little closer to the bulls eye! This is archaic, and flat out wrong.
So, what can we do now???
We need to have a Mental Health Moonshot Initiative, just like we did with cancer research. That’s made a huge difference for those with cancer, and it could do the same for those suffering from a mental health condition.
In addition, we need a congressional bill with a line item that is specifically to fund for research into the biological causes of mental health conditions so we can find cures and proper treatments. So many of our loved ones have passed away by suicide due to having a brain disease (mental health condition). And many others are struggling. Remember that in one year, 43,510 people lost their lives due to diagnosable mental illness. Where was the public outcry then? Where is it now?
You can help. Please contact your legislators and be heard. Our “Science Behind Suicide and Mental Health Conditions” group has now reached out and met with several of our legislators. We are continuing to reach out, but we need each of you to do the same. Please help us fight for all of our loved ones.