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In 2013, over 41,000 lives were lost to suicide in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The rate of suicides, which is defined as the number of suicide deaths that occur for every 100,000 people in the intended population, was the highest it had been in the last 27 years (12.6). The highest suicide rate was among those 45 to 64 years of age and the vast majority were men. Suicide is a public health issue in the United States, one that accounts for more years of life lost than any other cause of death, after cancer and heart disease.

According to a 2009 report from the CDC, one in four suicide victims whose blood alcohol levels were measured post mortem were legally drunk at the time of death, and up to one third had alcohol in their systems. While there were some limitations to the study (it only examined data from 17 states and were only able to collect measurements for 70% of those who died by suicide in those states), the author of the report, Dr. Alex Crosby, described alcohol as a component of suicidal behavior. “It leads to disinhibition, and it can enhance feelings of hopelessness and depression,” he said. “Alcohol impairs judgment and can lead to much more impulsive behavior.”

Crosby also stated the importance of suicide prevention efforts that address alcohol and substance abuse as well. One such effort is currently underway in Massachusetts, where a statewide suicide prevention and public education campaign is focusing in on suicide prevention for men. A part of this effort, MassMen.org is a comprehensive website designed for men in Massachusetts and their loved ones to find information on mental health, take an anonymous mental health screening, and locate local and statewide mental health resources.  MassMen.org also provides information and screenings on alcohol use and addresses the high rates of binge drinking in middle-aged males as highlighted in a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control. This site officially launched last week.

If you’re not located in Massachusetts, there are a number of other initiatives underway across the country in honor of Alcohol Awareness Month (April). April 9th is National Alcohol Screening Day, a nationwide initiative dedicated to bringing attention to the critical needs of those with alcohol use disorders and their families. Free, anonymous screenings are available at www.HowDoYouScore.org and users are connected with local treatment options upon completion of the screening.

References

Facts and Figures. (n.d.). Retrieved April 6, 2015, from https://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures
Rabin, R. (2009, June 18). Alcohol a Common Factor in Suicides. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/19/health/19suicide.html?_r=0

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