Government Unveils Campaign to Prevent Suicide

The federal government is introducing a national campaign to prevent suicide, CNN reports. The U.S. Surgeon General notes that individuals with mental and/or substance use disorders are at increased risk for suicidal behaviors. Teens and military personnel also have higher suicide rates.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, according to a report of the U.S. Surgeon General and of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

The national strategy includes social media. Facebook’s Report Suicidal Content link allows friends to report a suicidal comment posted by others. The person who posted the comment will receive an immediate email from Facebook, which encourages them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK).

According to the report, increasing use of alcohol or drugs is one possible warning sign of suicide. The report notes that alcohol and drug abuse are second only to depression and other mood disorders as the most frequent risk factors for suicide. In 2008, alcohol was a factor in approximately one-third of suicides reported in 16 states. Opiates, including heroin and prescription painkillers, were present in 25.5 percent of suicide deaths, antidepressants in 20.2 percent, cocaine in 10.5 percent, marijuana in 11.3 percent, and amphetamines in 3.4 percent.

“Substance use may increase the risk for suicide by intensifying depressive thoughts or feelings of hopelessness while at the same time reducing inhibitions to hurting oneself,” the report states. “Alcohol and some drugs can cause a ‘transient depression,’ heighten impulsivity, and cloud judgment about long-term consequences of one’s actions.”

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