Celebrity suicides highlight troubling trend in midlife

BOSTON (WHDH/AP) — The deaths of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade highlight a troubling trend — rising suicides among middle-aged Americans.

RELATED: Suicide rates up 35.3 percent in Massachusetts, CDC finds

Mental health issues, often undiagnosed, are usually involved. Experts say knowing warning signs in family, friends and co-workers can help stop a crisis from becoming a tragedy. These include talk of feeling trapped or hopeless.

“Every year, 45,000 people die from suicide in the United States,” Mass. General Hospital psychiatrist Jeff Huffman said. “It’s a number that just keeps growing and growing.”

A U.S. report released this week found an uptick in suicide rates in nearly every state since 1999. Middle-aged adults — ages 45 to 64 — had the largest rate increase. Bourdain was 61 and Spade was 55.

Experts say doctors need to ask patients at every opportunity about their mental health and evaluate their risk for suicide. They say psychotherapy and certain psychiatric drugs have been shown to reduce suicidal tendencies.

“For many people, they do have a mental health connection,” Huffman said. “Other people, it can be a social situation, a breakup from a relationship or some sort of economic problem.”

Huffman pointed out that worsening depression, feeling sad, losing interest in activities, irritability and anxiousness are all warning signs to watch out for.

“Talking about suicide, talking about depression, reducing the stigma and making it a more of a public health problem – all these things in the long term are good for the country,” Huffman added.

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