Despite the many forms of connectivity available today, people feel more lonely. It seems counterintuitive that, at a time when technology allows us to communicate with people half-a-world-away, we are actually becoming more isolated, but it is true.
Compared to decades past, we are less likely to know our neighbors — let alone interact with them — carpool, participate in civic and religious activities or even have close friends we can confide in. Relationships have become more superficial.
Our social networks of thousands of people on the internet are no replacement for good-old-fashioned human interaction.
While technology has rapidly advanced in recent decades and taken on a larger role in our lives, the nation has also seen an unfortunate increase in suicide rates. New Hampshire alone saw a more than 48 percent increase between 1999 and 2016, as reported by Seacoastonline.com. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 45,000 people lost their lives to suicide in the United States in 2016. The CDC has identified suicide as the second-leading cause of death in the U.S. for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34. It is fourth for ages 35 to 54.
There are many reasons or factors that could push someone to experience suicidal thoughts or feelings, but increased loneliness or isolation certainly does not help. Numerous organizations and individuals are making significant efforts to address and educate on risk factors, such as mental illness, substance misuse and more.
But, frankly, we should also be paying more attention to each other, focusing more on our relationships and less on our devices.
Recent and publicized instances of suicide that occurred locally deeply affected me and resurfaced sharp memories of others I knew personally that took their own lives. Such tragedies also emphasize the importance of the conversation that needs to take place concerning mental illness, emotional suffering and suicide.
It can be a difficult discussion and risk factors can be challenging to identify, but public education, outreach and efforts to eliminate stigmas must continue.
For instance, Peter Evers, co-chair of the Campaign to Change Direction New Hampshire said, “Learning the signs of emotional suffering can better open the door to treatment and getting people the help they deserve.” In his efforts with Change Direction, former New Hampshire Chief Justice John Broderick has described the five signs identified by the organization as “not feeling like oneself, feeling agitated, being withdrawn, not caring for oneself and feeling hopeless.”