Epidemic wants

The Epidemic No one Wants to Talk about

Katie Meyer had her whole life ahead of her. A senior at one of the most prestigious universities in the world—Stanford—the 22-year-old was also a soccer star. A goalkeeper and captain of her team, Meyer’s excellence on and off the field helped Stanford defeat North Carolina 5–4 to win the women’s College Cup national championship…

Katie Meyer knew she had a lot of life ahead. A senior at one of the most prestigious universities in the world–Stanford–the 22-year-old was also a soccer star. A goalkeeper and captain of her team, Meyer’s excellence on and off the field helped Stanford defeat North Carolina 5-4 to win the women’s College Cup national championship in 2019.

On March 1, Meyer was discovered dead in a Stanford residence hall. A few days later, her parents, in a tear-filled interview on “The Today Show,” told the world that their daughter had died by suicide.

A global problem

In 2020, nearly 46,000 people died by suicide in America, and there were an estimated 1.2 million attempts, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says.

Worldwide, more than 700,000 people take their own lives each year, according to the World Health Organization.

According to a March brief from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths by suicide increased from 2000 to 2018, but declined slightly in 2019. For both men and women, suicide rates were lower in 2020 than in 2018 and 2019. While it seems that suicide rates in females over 25 went down during that time, the rates of suicide among girls and women ages 10 to 24–like Meyer–have increased.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among children and adults ages 10 to 34, and the fifth-leading cause of death in adults ages 35 to 54, the CDC brief explained. It is a significant contributor to premature death .

These numbers are however likely to be underestimated. Social stigma, deaths that are attributed to drug addiction but may actually be suicides, and deaths from car crashes, firearm accidents, and other tragic incidents (such as drowning and poisoning) that may have actually been intentional but are counted as accidents may all lead to underreporting, experts say.

Indeed, in one 2015 study, researchers at Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom found that in 18 of the 20 countries they analyzed, a large number of suicides were wrongly classified as undetermined deaths.

“[W]e are masking the loss from suicide and failing to prevent these family tragedies…” Dr. Colin Pritchard, a research professor in psychiatric social work who directed the research, lamented in a statement.

While we don’t know how COVID’s global response has affected suicide rates yet, I have spoken to a number of mental health professionals over the past month, including a middle school guidance counselor and two child psychologists. They told me that they see more troubled young people than ever before.

Even conventional media outlets, including an NBC News investigation and a report from NPR, are reporting that the pandemic has led to a rise in suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and self-harm in young people.

“Children don’t have to be rubber bands,” said Paul Thomas, M.D. (with whom I have co-authored two books), a pediatrician based in Portland, Oregon, on his Facebook page in reference to yet another young person who has died. Sarah Schultz, a track and field star at the University of Wisconsin, took her own life on April 13.

” They are not resilient. They suffer in untold ways .”

Impulsive Suicides

Some suicides may be the result of an impulsive urge that is not connected to any other than a current situation like a breakup or public humiliation.

That may be what happened to Jordan John DeMay, a 17-year-old who took his own life on March 25. The Michigan teen was being exhorted by a cyberstalker after he sent a sexually explicit picture of himself to a cyber extortionist, as reported by the Daily Press.

“Imagine: You’re 17 years old, you’re embarrassed,” Marquette County Sheriff Greg Zyburt told a journalist. What do you do when you’re afraid to death? He took his own life .”


According to Maria A. Oquendo, M.D. , Anxious attempts to commit suicide may be the most common. One survey of over 48,000 adults found that 64 percent of the attempts were impulsive.

Difficult Children and Suicide Risk

People who have suffered from ongoing trauma in childhood are at greater risk of suicide.

We now know that an adverse childhood experience (or “A.C.E.” as researchers refer to it) can have a significant impact on your adult health, including increasing your risk of dying from your own hands.

In that first study, scientists found a strong correlation between the number of ACEs a child experiences from birth to age 18 and future health issues. These findings were replicated.

Then, in 2017, researchers in Texas and California discovered that grown-ups who had experienced ACEs were more likely to have attempted suicide than those who had not.

Yet another study, published in January 2019 in Child: Care, Health, and Development, sampled the health outcomes of nearly 9,500 people over a 13-year span, finding also that the more difficult and traumatizing experiences people had in childhood, the more likely they were to seriously consider suicide or make an attempt.

” Compared to those without ACEs, the researchers found that “the odds of seriously considering or attempting suicide rose more than threefold for those with three or more ACEs .”


In addition, a meta-analysis of the existing literature, published the same year, similarly found a strong connection between suicide and childhood trauma and abuse.

What Are ACEs?

Starting in 1994, researchers began studying the effects of bad childhood experiences on the physical and mental health of more than 17,000 adults. The study identified 10 Adverse Childhood Events or ACEs:

  1. Psychological abuse
  2. Physical abuse
  3. Sexual abuse
  4. Emotional neglect
  5. Physical neglect
  6. Witnessing violence

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