Suicide research at Clemson University focuses on prevention. When a celebrity like Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain dies from suicide there’s often a call for more research. But what does that research look like? Suicide, the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, is difficult to study. Unlike the first nine causes, it doesn’t fit neatly into a single disease category, like heart disease (No.1), cancer (No. 2) or diabetes (No. 7).
Dr. Heidi Zinzow told South Carolina Radio Network technology now has a role. “To look at social media challenges that encourage self-harm behaviors.”
A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the rate of suicide across the country rose nearly 30 percent between 1999 and 2016.
Some warning signs and risk factors are well known: changes in behaviors that include talking about ending their lives, researching methods and depression. Screening for risk factors and warning signs has recently been implemented in Student Health Services’ Redfern primary care clinic. But it’s not known how multiple risk factors work together. Science knows that cancer doesn’t have one cause; neither does suicide. Like in cancer research, science needs to understand how multiple risk factors work together to lead someone to suicide.
High profile suicides like Spade’s and Bourdain’s can persuade some. “We already know that media portrayals of suicide can result in suicide clusters,” said Zinzow.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Clemson students and others on campus can also text “tigers” to 741-741 for immediate, anonymous access to a trained crisis counselor.