Is suicide, the hallmark of a new generation?

The facts that so many are taking their life away by suicide, are alarming and one must figure out how to enjoy this new Millennium.

I grew up when the existentialist philosophers were trying to influence a a generation of young with the concept of a fascinating “Absurd world”. This bring to me flashback on what we learned in school. We may need to re-evaluate the society in which we are thriving, the same way Albert Camus and others did in the 60’s.

Across the USA, Suicide has claimed many lives, in all social ranks but often Depression was to be blamed. Worse, a new study from the CDC reports that Suicide is among the 10th leading cause of Death in the country, after Drug overdose and Alzheimer.

Many age-groups from 10 to older are affected. Although, it was already noted that between the years 1999 and 2016, a higher death rate by Suicide in the younger than 75 was worrisome. It only recently that we were able to appreciate a 30% increase in incidence while we find already alarming that mass shooting continues to be another priority. One must keep in mind that the gun debate has only addressed those horrific school shootings, but we may be missing the point because most of death from firearms are by suicide representing 2/3 of gun-related deaths. It means that 16 out of 100000 will take their own life. In facts, nearly 45000 lost their life by suicide alone.

It becomes surprising to hear that more than half of the victims have never been diagnosed with a mental illness. Researchers have found a relation with the struggle in a victim’s relationships or in their business deals. Half of the suicides recorded were caused by firearms in which group, 50% of individuals were found to suffer of mental illness or exhibit suicidal behavior. Physical Health and jobs issues were also present in 1/5 of the studied cases.

The CDC Violent Death Reporting System collected 20000 suicides in 27 states and divided the victims in age category: 3000 victims were 10 to 24-year-old, 6000 victims were 25 to 44-year-old, 7700 victims were 45 to 54-year-old and the last group with the older than 65-year-old containing 3500. We were not expecting to observe that a state like North Dakota alone will claim a 57% rate of Suicide. Economic conditions and Isolation have placed people at risk.

The CDC believes that Suicide is preventable, and the rate can easily be lowered to 20% by the year 2025 especially when states are working on comprehensive programs, teaching safe storage of medication (pain medicine, ketamine etc.) and firearms. Some states have started to offer community services to avoid isolation and loneliness in the population.

Mark Kaplan DPH at the UCLA Luskin School of Public affairs believes that the CDC may underestimate the true number of suicide victims because so many are classified as ” accidental death” or unintentional self-injury death. It is the reason why a true incidence of suicide is unknown.

It is a fact, many people are contemplating suicide in dealing with mental issues, but we must realize that others will never recover from a bad business deal or a bankruptcy debt. They are also at risk.

I remember well the words of Albert Camus: ” Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me: I may not follow. Just walk beside me, my friend”.

I would like to conclude my thoughts with a short analysis on the book he wrote: “Myth of Sisyphus”, where he calls “Absurd”, this fundamental conflict between the benefits expected from the world and what we really found in it. We may discover faith or simply admit that life is meaningless. He concluded that Meaningless itself, lead one to commit suicide. This is the third choice in this world devoid of purpose: The “Absurd” is that contradiction in which one attempt to escape.

Many existentialist philosophers have tried to face this “Absurd” world, like (Jaspers, Chestov, Kierkegaard and all), without being able to face it. Camus has described Sisyphus, this Greek mythologic figure who was punished by the Gods, to roll over a rock to the top of the mountain just to realize that he will have to roll it back down and repeat this action again and again. This was the “absurd” struggle of Sisyphus which may parallel the world of privacy of those famous personalities like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain who lost their life recently. Should we now look over for a specific drug, more potent drug to treat Depression?

“Johnson and Johnson Cie” is maybe the only large pharmaceutical Firm to make major investments in search of a new antidepressant, named Esketamine which can be used as a nasal spray. This drug will be similar to “special K”, purchased in the street for recreational party. It is a derivative of the anesthetic agent Ketamine. Should we look for opportunities to screen people for Depression? Maybe, we will get answers soon.

Maxime Coles MD