Call it a sign of the times, one that doesn’t reflect well on the age we live in. a disturbing shift was discovered in data collected on injury deaths.
“It’s now thought suicide is the number one cause of death,” says Dr. Omar Rieche.
Dr. Rieche is the director the Behavioral Health Center. He notes that suicide jumped dramatically among active and former soldiers.
“If we look at the numbers, at least 2.6 million service members have been involved in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. From that number it is estimated about one-quarter may experience PTSD. With the tremendous amount of PTSD we think that has also increased the suicide rate,” says Dr. Rieche.
The CDC compiled injury death statistics from 2000-2009. It was in 2009 the rankings took a dramatic turn. For the first time, suicide overtook car wrecks.
“Seat belt technology, the airbag technology, the safety technology in general has improved. All of which contributes to the CDC numbers,” says Mark Tesoro, trauma analyst with Lee Memorial Health System.
The suicide rate rose 15% in the last decade, while fatal crashes dropped 25%. Health experts believe both categories are largely preventable. The shift in rankings may focus attention on people who are at the breaking point.
“You start to see difficulties in attendance in school, or attending to work, interacting with the family, losing control and becoming more angry,” says Dr. Rieche.
Turning the corner on suicide takes a shift in mindset.
“Some real good active campaigns for the general population and for soldiers to say ‘it’s ok for you to get treatment’,” says Dr. Rieche.
As in highway safety, mental health issues have warning signs.