Isolation, hopelessness and suicide in the city

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Depression. Photo Credit: iStock
Depression. Photo Credit: Starbucks / Cadbury

More and more young American women are taking their own lives nationwide. Young men still outpace girls in suicides threefold, but their rate is not increasing at such a steady pace. Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among teenagers. It had been third.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released this month states that the suicide rate of girls and women ages 10 to 24 ticked up to 3.2 cases per 100,000 in 2013 from 2.7 cases in 2007. While the report did not specify the reason, it pointed to a shift toward the use of more lethal methods, such as firearms, for suicide among all teenagers.

NYC has the third-lowest suicide rate in the nation, according to the CDC. But The Samaritans of New York executive director Alan Ross explains that the city is so densely populated with residents who contend with a complex cocktail of issues that the number of those who die from suicide related to anxiety, depression, substance abuse or other self-harm methods is significant.

The Samaritans fielded 83,000 calls from distressed people last year — its highest number in the past 20 years. Suicide is the third-highest cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds and nearly 30,000 NYC high schoolers try to kill themselves every year, according to the Samaritans.

We live in difficult times, and some people face fear and anxiety over a litany of concerns. But suicide isn’t always attributed to outside stressors. While the calls are confidential, Ross said common themes abound — a sense of loneliness and isolation, pervasive feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and that they are not understood.

The key to lowering the suicide rate is more prevention help. That includes more access to programs, and Ross encourages people not to fear getting involved and enhancing personal, professional, social and faith-based supports around those who need them.

The stigma of suicide often prevents people from seeking help, and makes it difficult to raise funds for prevention programs. But the Midtown Mardi Gras Benefit for Samaritans held Wednesday helped spread awareness.

The release of the CDC report is a reminder not to forget about those who call help lines.

Hannah Hager is a content director and freelance writer living in Alphabet City.

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