It seems like every other day, there’s another heartbreaking headline. Whether it’s related to a public figure or a regular Joe, instances of death classified as self-injury mortality (SIM)—a term that includes suicide, accidental and non-accidental drug intoxication, and alcohol poisoning—feel more frequent because, simply put, they are. The country’s mental-health crisis is real, and new research is shedding even more light on just how serious the growing problem is.
A study published in the journal Injury Prevention examined at data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and found SIM cases have officially surpassed diabetes as the seventh-leading cause of death in the country. While data from 2016 shows 24.8 per 100,000 people died from diabetes, 29.1 people per 100,000 died from self-injury. And according to study co-author Hilary S. Connery, MD, PhD, there’s only one way to help get those numbers down.
“It’s time to end the siloed approach to prevention. We’re so entrenched in separating suicide from drug overdose or alcohol poisoning deaths that people can’t wrap their heads around the idea that they are related,” she says in a press release.
“It’s time to end the siloed approach to prevention. We’re so entrenched in separating suicide from drug overdose or alcohol poisoning deaths that people can’t wrap their heads around the idea that they are related.” —study co-author Hilary S. Connery, MD, PhD
Because the mental health and social risk factors often seen before suicide and substance-poisoning attempts typically overlap, Dr. Connery says prevention methods for both situations shouldn’t be seen out separately in order to make the biggest impact. “Let’s talk about preventing suicide and substance-related deaths together by aggressively screening for trauma, mental health disorders, problematic substance use, and social determinants, such as poverty, and then providing quality evidence-based care for these risk factors so that self-injury behaviors are prevented,” she says. “It would be much more effective and efficient to look at them together and to do prevention together.”
Hopefully with this eye-opening new information, more resources will be put forth to help people tackle their mental-health conditions before it’s too late. Because although this uptick in SIM case is incredibly serious, researchers say it’s also very preventable and possible to lower the devastatingly high numbers.
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