There are alarming consequences for the survival of human beings and the success of the society they inhabit when the brain suffers without treatment. And it has become frighteningly common for Americans to find their way into despair and self-murder.
About 7 percent of American adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2017. Nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population likely took antidepressant medication during the past month, yet suicide rates have risen to the highest since World War II. The odds of dying from suicide or an opioid overdose — the “diseases of despair” — are now higher than that of dying from a motor-vehicle accident.
These problems are tragically concentrated among the young. More than 3 million people ages 12-17 had at least one major depressive episode in 2017 — most accompanied by some form of severe impairment. The highest prevalence of major depressive disorder is among people ages 18-25. Some claim these numbers have risen mainly due to increased reporting. But that can’t be true of suicides. The suicide rate for people ages 18-19 increased 56 percent between 2008 and 2017. The rate of suicide attempts among people ages 22-23 doubled in the same period. The number of emergency room treatments for self-harm has increased, as well as hospital admissions for suicidal thoughts.