TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Following the high-profile suicides of designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain, the conversation about suicide has been widespread. People from across the world have been sending their condolences to those affected and other people have been sharing their personal stories of how suicide has affected their lives. But the Centers for Disease Control says that suicide isn't just now becoming a problem, rather that it is an ongoing and growing epidemic.
According to the CDC, 45,000 people died as a result of suicide in 2016. Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for people that year. Among people age 10 to 34, suicide was the No. 2 cause of death in 2016, coming just after deaths from unintentional injuries.
One local woman understands the effect of suicide on a very personal level.
Regina Gillis lost her 24-year-old son to suicide on May 2, 2016. Regina says the loss was devastating and a struggle in many ways for her and her family; but, she says it's always important to discuss suicide, both preventing it and its effects.
"Unfortunately it is when someone in the public eye is on it, when it's a public figure. But there are people being lost to it every day and the numbers are staggering," she said.
The numbers are concerning to many. In Arizona, the CDC reports a 17.3 percent increase in suicide rates from 1999 to 2016.
The CDC says there were more suicides in 2016 than homicides. There were 44,965 suicides in the United States compared to the 19,362 homicides.
Research from the CDC shows there's a disproportionate rate of men committing suicide compared with women; with 32.8 per every 100,000 men 65 and older versus 5.2 per every 100,000 women 65 and over. And in terms of ethnic breakdown, CDC research shows that American Indians have the highest rate of suicides per 100,000 people, followed by whites.
Regina says her advice to help save lives and bring the number of suicides down is simple - talk to people. Reach out, check in, and watch people closely to note changes in behavior. And above all, don't be afraid to ask if they've thought about suicide.
"Talking is what makes the difference, that personal connection that you have, one to one, where it's being talked about. It's not being shoved under the rug, it's not something that's uncomfortable so we don't want to talk about it. We do talk about it. We need to," she said.
In her experience, Regina says the most valuable gift you can give anyone is your time. If you or someone you know needs help, there are people who want to give their time to help you via the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Their phone number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For information on help and resources locally click HERE.
If you are in immediate crisis, whether it be for you or your loved one, call the Community Wide Crisis line at (520) 622-6000 or (866) 495-6735.