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Why is Georgia's suicide rate climbing?

Georgia is not alone.

ATLANTA – It is National Suicide Prevention Week, a time to focus on a challenging subject and ask why Georgia’s suicide rate continues to climb.

Georgia is not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the leading cause of death in the United States, and the rate is up in every state except Nevada.

Georgia’s suicide rate is up 16 percent since 1999. Other states have seen an increase of as much as 58 percent.

Why?

11Alive’s Why Guy spoke to numerous people working in the field of suicide prevention and learned it’s a complicated issue with many possible explanations for the increasing suicide rate.

“While mental illness is a risk factor, it is one of many,” says Roland Behm, Chairman of the Georgia Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Various demographic groups are at higher risk of suicide, including veterans, persons living in rural areas, persons who identify as LGB or transgender and gender non-conforming.”

Behm and others agree the rising popularity of social media could play a role in the rising suicide rate.

“It is a disconnect from reality,” says Dr. Raymond Kotwicki of the Skyland Trail Mental Health Clinic. “As people spend more time on social media, there is less personal contact with others. Personal relationships begin to erode.”

Dr. Kotwicki points out that people rarely talk about the troubling aspects of their life on social media. Someone who is facing anxiety and depression can get a false impression that everyone else’s life is rosy.

“Social media may present an idealized version of people’s lives that others may struggle with in comparison,” says Behm. “Electronic bullying is clearly a real and troubling issue.”

On a positive note, social media can provide easier access to resources and support groups.

Dr. Kotwicki says suicide is often the result of depression combined with anxiety and intoxication. The proliferation of intoxicants, including opioids, may be pushing some toward suicide.

Suicide prevention experts tell us school teachers and counselors are now required to undergo training in suicide awareness. The state of Georgia is working to update its suicide prevention plan.

There have also been recent advancements in medications to help people suffering from the depression and anxiety that can lead to suicide.

“Prevention works,” says Behm. “Resilience and recovery are possible. Effective programs and services exist, and help is available.”

Here are some important links to resources for suicide prevention in Georgia: