The recent suicide deaths of public figures Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade reflect a growing trend in the United States.

These tragic, shocking events draw attention to a public health crisis that has been steadily increasing in most states over the last two decades. Bourdain, who would have turned 62 on June 25th, had a diverse fan base, but resonated in particular with men in his age bracket. Bourdain was candid about his use of heroin use in the past before he died.

Currently, 80 percent of all suicides are men, and Bourdain was certainly representational of this age group. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, while suicide rates have gone down overall, middle-aged white men are still at the greatest risk of taking their own lives.

A recent CDC report stipulated that more than 50 percent of people who died by suicide did not have a known history of mental health issues. This is drawing attention to the other contributing factors, which include relationship and financial problems, health issues, and substance use including heroin and opioid abuse.

Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton first pointed out this unsettling trend in a 2015 study that highlighted three “diseases of despair”: drugs, drinking and suicide. Since that report, Case and Deaton recently theorize and reiterate that it comes back to despair. Case and Deaton believe that white Americans may be suffering from a lack of hope. The pain in their bodies might reflect a “spiritual” pain caused by “cumulative distress, and the failure of life to turn out as expected.”

In a 2017 interview on NPR, Case noted, “The rates of suicide are much higher among men [than women]. And drug overdoses and alcohol-related liver death are higher among men, too. But the [mortality] trends are identical for men and women with a high school degree or less. So we think of this as people, either quickly with a gun or slowly with drugs and alcohol, are killing themselves.”

The reasons why Bourdain killed himself may remain a mystery. True, while he was the same age of a large contingent of white males committing suicide he was not facing job disenfranchisement and was not impoverished.

Nonetheless, given the alarming statistics, it is crucial that we address the opioid addiction epidemic in our country, given the correlation between substance use and suicide. At Give America Hope, we are dedicated to raising heroin and opioid addiction awareness. By providing knowledge about this epidemic in this country, we hope to address other, related public health crises, including suicide.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255 to talk with someone
Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741741 to text with someone
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