September 21, 2023

Special to LAWT


Suicide continues to be a major issue amidst a national discussion of a mental health crisis in the United States, on what can be done to stave off a worrisome trend of more families being affected by such tragedies.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates increased by approximately 36% between 2000–2021. Suicide was also responsible for 48,183 deaths in 2021, which is about one death every 11 minutes.

The number of people who think about or attempt suicide is even higher, according to the CDC. In 2021, an estimated 12.3 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.5 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.7 million attempted suicides.


And contrary to what many people believe, suicide affects people of all ages. In 2021, suicide was among the top nine leading causes of death for people ages 10-64. Suicide was also the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 20-34.

Additionally, suicide is also becoming a major concern affecting college students. As many students head off for the first time or return to their life on campus, some may feel overwhelmed by the pressure. And although colleges and universities are making mental health a priority, some students may still be hesitant to reach out for help.

“Suicide is now the leading cause of death among college students, with 1,100 college students committing suicide very year. The student suicide crisis is a growing concern across the United States,” said Dr. Ashley Zucker, a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

“Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background,” she continued. “In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.”

September is Suicide Prevention Month. The following are some warning signs of a person who may be considering ending their life, according to behavioral health experts:

• Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.

• Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun.

• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.

• Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.

• Talking about being a burden to others.

• Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.

• Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.

• Sleeping too little or too much.

• Withdrawing or isolating themselves.

• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.

• Extreme mood swings.

Dr. Zucker, who practices in San Bernardino, said many college students are experiencing higher rates of anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions that may cause some to have suicidal thoughts. College students can often feel overwhelmed by the pressure they are under, as stress over academics or adjusting to college life can be difficult for some to manage, she said. Those at greatest risk are students from marginalized communities including those of certain ethnic groups and the LGBTQ+ community, who often have been discriminated against or victimized due to their backgrounds.

“If you’re worried about someone who may be struggling with their mental health, please check in and ask them if they’re having suicidal thoughts,” Dr. Zucker said.  “Asking does not increase the risk of  suicide, but in fact reduces risk and increases the likelihood that someone will accept and receive help.”

There are valuable resources available to anyone who may be struggling with their mental health to the point where they may be considering ending their life. They include:

• Call or text the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline 24 hours a day. Text “WORDS” to 988 to start a text chat with the Crisis Text Lifeline.

• Veterans Crisis Line: This helpline is a free, confidential resource for veterans of all ages and circumstances. Call 988, then press 1; text 838255; or chat online to connect with 24/7 support.

• College students should seek out mental health services available on campus. 

“Mental health professionals, community leaders and school professionals, we all have a role to play in supporting mental health,” Dr. Zucker said.

“Kaiser Permanente is committed to reducing stigma and encouraging everyone to prioritize their well-being. It’s one of the many ways we can work together to help build a stronger foundation of mental and emotional health both locally and across the nation.”

Category: Opinion