Suicides are on the rise. In fact, I’d say we have a suicide epidemic.

We have all heard of a number of celebrity suicides recently and, of course, these are the ones we know about because they are famous. But, statistics in a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have shown a 30% increase in overall suicides since 1999. According to these numbers, we’re in the midst of a suicide epidemic.

Additionally, it is now one of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S. — surpassing homicide. In the 15 to 34 age group, suicide is the second-leading cause of death.

“At what point is it a crisis?” asked Nadine Kaslow, a past president of the American Psychological Association, in a Washington Post article. “Suicide is a public health crisis when you look at the numbers, and they keep going up. It’s up everywhere. And we know that the rates are actually higher than what’s reported. But homicides still get more attention.”

Why is suicide an epidemic?

Analysts say economic strife is one of the leading contributors to the suicide epidemic, but we cannot overlook the ongoing opioid crisis.

There also have been a number of successful professionals who have committed suicide. For example, two prominent veterinarians in California took their own lives recently leaving their communities stunned. This leads us to speculate that even professions surrounding animal healthcare are becoming increasingly more emotionally challenging.

Healthcare workers also have a high rate of suicide. According to a 2017 UK-based study, nurses have the highest rate of suicide among healthcare professionals, but depressive disorders overall are rising across the professional landscape.

I am sure we can all think of someone we know — a co-worker, friend or loved one — who has either taken his or her own life or contemplated it.

In the healthcare profession, we are faced with situations every day that challenge our mental health. It is important that we try to support one another, rather than break one another down.

We also have to take the time to pay attention to our co-workers, looking for signs and symptoms that they may be mentally overwhelmed. If we suspect they may be, we should take the time to talk to them if they are receptive.

The worst thing we can do is ignore the signs and chalk it up to a bad mood or something. Remember, we never know what goes on behind in the minds of those around us. So we should arm ourselves with empathy and compassion even when it is difficult to understand others’ moods or behaviors.

Treat each other with kindness because sometimes one act of kindness may be just the encouragement a person suffering from mental health issues needs.

How to spot signs of possible suicide

According to, some of the signs and symptoms of depression and possible suicidal thoughts are:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Saying they feel trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious, agitated or behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

Remember, people don’t have to suffer alone. There is help available. We can fight the suicide epidemic.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Take our course on psych and behavioral emergencies, field triage and mass casualty incidents.

Tara Vlaun, NRP, CCP-C, EMS-ITara Vlaun, NRP, CCP-C, EMS-1, began her paramedic career in 2002 when she worked as a ground paramedic. She went to fire school in 2003, and continued her career as a firefighter/paramedic until late 2010.