Suicide rates are rising dramatically across the Commonwealth, as well as the United States. This is a troubling trend, and one that must be stopped in its tracks.
A study recently released by the Centers for Disease Control shows that the epidemic of suicide has been sharply on the rise in the 21st century. Now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, suicide rates have increased by more than 25 percent nationwide since 1999.
Sadly, Kentucky is among the states that have seen the most alarming increase. Our suicide rates have risen nearly 37 percent in this time period, way above the national average.
This is a serious problem that is claiming more and more of our people’s lives, and that we have actively taken steps to address. I was proud to author legislation this past session that would expand suicide training in our schools, requiring increased suicide prevention training for all teachers and staff.
Our schools are ground zero for this epidemic. As an educator, I have seen firsthand just how much a caring teacher can affect the life of a young person. Our schools play critical roles in our communities; they take in children from all walks of life, shaping and preparing them for their future endeavors.
Suicidal thoughts pop into the minds of far too many young people. These are troubling situations that teachers are in a unique position to do something about.
This legislation, which has been signed into law and will go into effect in July, is a tremendous step towards helping our young people avoid the scourge of suicide, even later in life. But we must do more to help all of our citizens, as this epidemic affects people of all ages and demographics.
For example, our veterans are at an especially high risk of suicide. While the men and women who have served our country are less than 10 percent of the population, around 18 percent of suicides are committed by veterans. Ensuring the well-being of those who come home after serving their country should be one of our state’s top priorities.
We must all also do our part to ensure that we are paying close attention to our family and friends, detecting any suicidal thoughts so that we can take preventative action. For every individual who even ponders taking their own life, there are loving children, spouses, parents and friends that could step in and help.
Every life is precious and valuable, and we need all hands on deck in order to effectively slow this epidemic. Being pro-life is about protecting all life, both born and unborn, and emphasizing suicide prevention falls in line with my strong pro-life beliefs.
The most important thing to know about anyone pondering suicidal thoughts is that you are not alone. You can reach out to the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This scourge has escalated and taken far too many lives, and we all must be in it together when it comes to fighting back.