The state of Rhode Island – with a population of just over one million – received a $2 million federal grant for a suicide prevention program.
Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI) secured federal funding for Rhode Island’s South County Health “Zero Suicide in Washington County” – a suicide prevention program in Richmond. Washington County has the dubious distinction of having the highest rates of suicide in the small state.
Funding was appropriated from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to establish a holistic program designed for health care providers to screen for the warning signs of suicide. According to a statement released by Senator Whitehouse, it will “provide timely services, coordinate outreach to patients in need, and conduct routine reviews of suicide attempts to identify trends or opportunities for future prevention efforts.”
Suicide is the most preventable cause of death – and not just because it requires an active choice. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), of all suicide deaths reported, 30% had recent contact with mental health care providers and 45% had recently seen their general health care physician. Yet these professionals did not sense a mental health issue.
Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in Rhode Island, ranking the state 43rd in the nation with 11.09 per 100,000 citizens – well below the national average of 13.42 per 100,000 people. The state is hardly high risk.
Rhode Island doesn’t make the list of top 20 states, and for municipalities, it doesn’t compare with the 34.5 per 100,000 suicides annually of Las Vegas.
But the tiny Washington County towns of Hopkinton and Richmond rank among the top five municipalities in suicide rates at 26.6% and 23.8% respectively, according to Rhode Island Department of Health, and are the closer to the Las Vegas numbers than any large metropolitan city. And that is an anomaly.
The Demographics of Suicide
White people in the U.S. have recorded the highest rates of suicide at 14.7%, followed by Native Americans at 10.9%, Hispanics at 6.3%, and Asians and Pacific Islanders at 5.9%, with the lowest rates being among blacks at 5.5%.
What do they all have in common? Mental illness – in one form or another – depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and sexually identifying as transgender, gay, or bi-sexual.
Although the World Health Organization (WHO) removed transgender from their list of mental health disorders last June in hopes of removing the stigma associated with the umbrella term, the American Psychiatric Association prefers the psychiatric use of gender dysphoria:
Gender dysphoria involves a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify. People with gender dysphoria may be very uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned, sometimes described as being uncomfortable with their body (particularly developments during puberty) or being uncomfortable with the expected roles of their assigned gender.”
And when it comes to suicidal thoughts, tendencies, and actions, those stricken by this depressive disorder are more likely to be diagnosed with mental illnesses – transfeminine at 49% and transmasculine at a whopping 62% – when compared to cisgenders of the same age group.
The Rhode Island Method
Regardless of political ideologies, we have a mental health mess on our hands – one that must be addressed, attacked, and forced into remission. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports leading cause of death that “From 1999 to 2015, suicide rates increased among both sexes, all racial/ethnic groups, and all urbanization levels.”
And if you think mentally healthy Americans are not impacted, you’re wrong. The Suicide Prevention Center has placed a price tag on death by suicide: “The average cost of one suicide was $1,329,553 and more than 97 percent is due to lost productivity. The remaining three percent were costs associated with medical treatment.”
Each year in the U.S., suicides and suicide attempts cost approximately $93.5 billion.
It appears that those Rhode Island guys are fighting to snag as much pork as possible for the tiny state to redistribute – and succeeding on multiple levels. What a brilliant move – one that other states may want to follow.
Suicide and mental illness are two issues every American should be concerned with. Yet it is far off the radar of most swamp dwellers as they croak for the cameras and wait to pounce on health care and gun control after the next mass shooting or tragic event.