As we all mourn the untimely passing of Caroline Flack a report published last week highlights a growing problem in the USA. Suicide rates in the US have risen 35% in the last two decades to a total of 47,000 deaths per annum. The rate of teenagers and young adults taking their lives rose 47% in those two decades and between 2000 and 2016 there was also a 50% increase in the number of girls and women committing suicide.
There are some who say that social media is to blame for increased levels of loneliness and depression and one could certainly argue either side of the technology aids v technology hinders communication debate for days.
At a time when the understanding of mental health issues and the pressures of social media, or being in the media spotlight, have increased substantially it is truly tragic to see any increase in the numbers of people taking their own lives - as the tragedy of Caroline's decision makes all to clear.
History tells us that reducing access to certain means of suicide can have a dramatic effect on suicide rates. In the early 20th Century, the UK's domestic ovens were heated with coal gas, which contained lethal levels of carbon monoxide. In 1958 the government began to replace coal gas with a natural gas which was virtually free of carbon monoxide, and by the early 1970s gas oven suicides fell to zero and the overall national suicide rate fell by a third. In the early 1990s, Sri Lanka had one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Two laws passed in 1995 and 1998 restricted access to a deadly class of pesticides. By 2005 the suicide rate had fallen by half. In Israel, in 2006, younger soldiers were prohibited from taking their service weapons home and suicides fell by 40%.