U.S. Suicide Rates Are Rising Faster Among Women Than Men
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The number of people dying by suicide in the United States is growing. Most of those deaths are men. But as NPR's Rhitu Chatterjee reports, a new study out today shows that rates among women are quickly climbing.
RHITU CHATTERJEE, BYLINE: Holly Hedegaard is a medical epidemiologist. She says men are far more likely to die by suicide than women.
HOLLY HEDEGAARD: Typically, there's between three and four times as many suicides among males as among females.
CHATTERJEE: Hedegaard is at the National Center for Health Statistics and the author of the new study. She and her colleagues analyzed deaths by suicide from the year 2000 to 2016 and found that the rate among boys and men had grown by 21 percent, but for girls and women, it rose by 50 percent.
HEDEGAARD: There's sort of a narrowing of the gap in rates.
CHATTERJEE: That worries people like Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist at Emory University and the past president of the American Psychological Association.
NADINE KASLOW: To see that it was more than double than the amount for men did indeed surprise me.
CHATTERJEE: Kaslow says nobody knows exactly why more and more girls and women are taking their own lives. But she says stress is a well-known driving factor for all suicides.
KASLOW: People often die by suicide when they just feel totally overwhelmed.
CHATTERJEE: And she knows from her own practice and from previous studies that women today, especially middle-aged women, are facing increasing levels of stress at home and at work.
KASLOW: So they may be taking care of children, of parents, have work demands and then more responsibilities.
CHATTERJEE: Kaslow says there's also been a rise in the number of single-parent households headed by women. That means more women trying to do everything alone without any help.
KASLOW: And so there's sort of stress everywhere. They may not have time to take care of themselves, to be kind to themselves, to get the social support that they need.
CHATTERJEE: Social support can go a long way in preventing someone from trying to take their own life. Jill Harkavy-Friedman is the vice president of research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She says there needs to be a national effort to prevent suicide by improving access to mental health care, by reducing access to lethal means, like firearms, which remain the predominant method of suicide. But Harkavy-Friedman says we can all do our bit. Watch out for the warning signs among friends and family.
JILL HARKAVY-FRIEDMAN: If you notice something's changing, so if their mood is changing, maybe they're more irritable or withdrawn or maybe they are talking about being a burden.
CHATTERJEE: At times like these, it's important to let people know they're not alone.
HARKAVY-FRIEDMAN: I'm here for you. It sounds simple, but it does make a difference.
CHATTERJEE: Rhitu Chatterjee, NPR News.
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