At this point, you don’t even need to pay attention to the news to know our nation is adrift. The government shutdown is affecting many Americans, either through programs stalled by the furloughed employees, or the incessant political bickering and punditry making bigger waves every day.
Vermont’s delegation, along with the governor and members of the Vermont National Guard, all have been working hard to explain the impasse, find workarounds, and keep the state headed in the right direction.
Needless to say, the news of the day is stirring up a lot of anxiety in its wake. Even the most diehard news junkie is getting uneasy with the Obamacare versus shutdown, all-or-nothing rhetoric. Until there are signs of resolution, or at least movement, the anxiety will continue to pour in around us, rising cumulatively.
For people without honed coping mechanisms, this is even more challenging a time. And it is cause for concern.
Over the last six months, according to the Vermont Department of Mental Health, the occupancy at No Refusal Units statewide ranged from a low of 84 percent to a high of 94 percent. Applications for involuntary medications rose, and involuntary hospitalizations ranged from a low of 32 (in February) to a high in July of 65.
The average number of suicides in Vermont is 85, up from 78 just 10 years ago. Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in Vermont and the 11th leading cause in the United States. More people die from suicide than homicide in this country.
Most of the firm statistics pertaining to mental health — and specifically suicide rates — are two years old. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest data, circa 2010, points to suicide as among the leading cause of death for more than half the age groups in the United States. It is second for ages 25-34; third for ages 10-14 and 15-24; fourth for ages 35-54. A growing number of today’s suicides are veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. In all, in 2010, nearly 39,000 Americans died at their own hand. (That does not take into account accidental overdoses or deaths unattributable to self-infliction.)
The problem is that the rate continues to rise.
Thousands of Vermonters call suicide prevention hotlines every month. Anxiety is manifesting itself in such a way that demand is nearly outpacing supply. But the governor and his agencies have made clear they want to be certain that patients suffering from mental illness get the all the help and treatment they need. It has become a mandate, especially in these years since Tropical Storm Irene washed out the state hospital in Waterbury. Gov. Peter Shumlin has been clear: Make sure the help is in place.
Research shows us that there are identifiable risk and protective factors in suicidal behavior. Individuals possessing certain risk factors are thought to be at a greater potential for suicidal behavior. Protective factions, on the other hand, reduce the likelihood of suicide.
It should go without saying that individuals with mental health problems are at markedly higher risk to die by suicide.
Vermont has worked very hard to take care of its own. With this political impasse continuing to keep the nation adrift, and the debt ceiling and winter fast approaching, neighbors must continue to be mindful of those residents who may not be getting all of the services they need. As certain people have not learned, it simply takes a helping hand to pull us to safer ground.MORE IN Editorials
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