Suicide Rates by Age Group

Respond to the following based on the information in the “Suicide Rates by Age Group” article:

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  1. What has been the trend in suicide rates over the past few years?
    Surprisingly, in the past few years, suicide rates have declined to the point that suicide is not even considered one of the top causes of death in the general population (Cuffe, McKeown, & Schulz, 2006). However, suicide does remain the number two to number four cause of death for those between the ages of 10 and 45.
  2. What part of the U.S. has the highest suicide rate?
    The western part of the United States has the highest rate of suicide, sitting at 14.7 suicides per 100000 people. Furthermore, the southern section of the United States has the highest rate of suicide by firearms, representing 68.9% of the number of suicides in the South.
  3. List three risk factors for suicide.
    Three risk factors for suicide are a diagnosis of major depression, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse.
  4. Many researchers worry that suicide rates for adolescents and older adults continue to increase. What does the research data show about these age groups?
    The data shows that suicide rates for adolescents increased steadily until 1994 when they started declining. The suicide rates for adolescents have dropped gradually since then with a slight increase in 2000. Likewise, rates for older adults increased steadily from 1981 to 1987 and then declined until 2002, when a slight increase was observed.
  5. In the U.S., what demographic has the highest rate of suicide?
    The age, race, and gender group that has the highest rate of suicide in the United States is the older, white man.
  6. List four possible reasons for the observed decrease in suicide rates.
    The economy appears to have a bearing on suicide rates in the United States. During the relatively prosperous ’90s, suicide rates decreased steadily. Additionally, healthy life expectancy could play a role in declining suicide rates. As people live longer, healthier lives they could feel like less of a burden on their families, thereby lowering the link between older adults and suicide. Another possible causal factor for the decline in suicides is lower levels of substance abuse. Lastly, improved medical support services might be implicated in the current trend in suicide rates. The increased sophistication of emergency rooms might have lowered the number of completed suicides.
  7. Recent media reports have suggested that medications may provoke suicidal behavior, particularly in adolescents. As a precautionary step, the FDA issued a public health advisory warning doctors to watch patients closely for worsening depression when medication is first prescribed. What does the data show about the effects of medication and suicide?
    Suicide rates among adolescents and older adults decreased as a result of the introduction of drug therapy, specifically fluoxetine, as a treatment for depression. Moreover, decreased side effects in the newer antidepressants might play a role in the decrease in associated suicides.
  8. Once a patient begins medication for depression, when is that patient at the highest risk for suicidal ideation and behavior?
    Patients are at highest risk for suicidal ideation and behavior during the first month of drug therapy, specifically the first 9 days.
  9. Based on the readings, what is your opinion on the use of medication to help control depression and reduce the risk of suicide?
    I think that the trend in lower suicide rates over the past decade is due to many complex causal factors. After reading the article I would agree that the risk of suicide has been lowered, at least in part, through the introduction of modern antidepressants utilized in the treatment of depression. I would, however, caution that even though there seems to be a strong correlation between the introduction of SSRI’s and lower suicide rates, other subtler factors might be at play. Also, it might be advantageous to study the net benefit of antidepressants on completed suicide rates. These drugs might help to lessen suicide overall, but they might also cause suicide in others. It would be important to isolate any related variables that might contribute to suicide as a result of the prescription of antidepressants. Some of these related variables might be performance anxiety associated with drugs, employment, or family arrangements. When someone is prescribed these medications an expectation for improvement often lingers over the patient’s head. Within the first month if they do not improve quickly, then performance anxiety might become a stressor. Likewise, employment could work against someone if this is a source of frustration or stress. Lastly, if a person is divorced there might be some correlation between the patient’s perceived continued failure in life. These are just some suggestions, but I just think it is important to isolate the combinations that do lead to suicide due at least in part to antidepressants.
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Comer, R. J. (2005). Fundamentals of abnormal psychology (4th ed.). New York: Worth.

Cuffe, S., McKeown, R.E., Schulz, R.M. (2006). US suicide rates by age group, 1970—2002: An examination of recent trends. American Journal of Public Health, 96(10), 1744-1751. Retrieved August 18, 2008, from EBSCOhost database.

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