The Stream

How can the US tackle its mental health crisis?

A rise in suicides across 49 of 50 states highlights the care challenges faced by professionals and communities alike.

US doctors and mental health advocates are facing an ever-growing challenge to reduce suicide rates across the country, with a recent government report highlighting the urgency of their task.

Suicide rates rose by about 25 percent from 1999 through 2016, according to the study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Furthermore, more than half of all US states have seen increases in the suicide rate of more than 30 percent. The central-northern regions of the US have seen the biggest rises of all – cases in North Dakota  increased 57.6 percent over the survey period. About 47,000 people in the United States died by suicide in 2016.

A range of factors were found by the CDC to contribute to suicide, including relationship problems, financial and job pressures, substance abuse and physical health problems. But the study also found that 54 percent of those who died by suicide did not present a previously-diagnosed mental health issue. Mental health researchers have in the past found that many people make the decision to attempt suicide impulsively.

The wide range of circumstances in which people attempt suicide presents mental health professionals and advocates with a complex challenge to provide the right support at the right time. The task to reduce suicide rates is further complicated by a lack of federal and state funding for mental health and suicide prevention. But many organisations are finding that innovative community work can boost awareness of mental health issues and provide at-risk individuals with life-saving support.

The Stream will focus on what is driving the rise in suicide rates across the United States and what can be done to ensure that Americans receive the mental health care they need.


On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:


Jerry Reed, @Action_Alliance

National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention 


Clay Routledge, @clayroutledge

Author & Psychological scientist


Alison Malmon, @AlisonMalmon

Founder and Executive Director of Active Minds


Dese’Rae L. Stage, @deseraestage 

Suicide Prevention Activist

Read more:
CDC: US suicide rates have climbed dramatically – NPR
Suicide rates have increased. Is this an existential crisis? – New York Times