While the Michelle Carter case made national headlines, public health experts stressed that we need to be having ongoing conversations about suicide, especially as the suicide rate continues to climb.
The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more people in Massachusetts and around the country are killing themselves.
The Supreme Judicial Court’s decision Wednesday to uphold Carter’s conviction offers an opportunity for an important discussion about mental health at a time when suicide rates across the country are rising.
Carter, 22, was convicted in the 2014 death of 18-year-old Conrad Roy III, who died by suicide after Carter encouraged him to end his own life. Carter was sentenced to 15 months in jail but has remained free as she pursued her appeal.
According to the CDC, the suicide rate around New England has risen since 1999. In Massachusetts, it’s up 35 percent—10 percentage points more than the national average.
The rate rose even more dramatically in Vermont and New Hampshire—48 percent each.
And even though Massachusetts has one of the lowest suicide rates in the country—48th, experts warn that we cannot become complacent.
AnneMarie Matulis, a suicide prevention advocate, says Bristol County has been particularly hit hard in recent years.
Suicides there rose from 61 in 2017 to 86 last year – a 41 percent increase.
Matulis said we need to normalize the conversation about suicide – just as we have with formerly taboo topics.
"Anybody can talk about HIV/AIDS now, in a very comfortable manner," Matulis said. "No one shies away from it. We have to learn to do that with suicide. If we do that, talk saves lives. That's evidence-based research. If we can get people to talk about things sooner, we will save their lives."
Suicide does not have a single cause and issues like substance abuse and untreated depression can increase the risk.
And while there are not always warning signs, people considering suicide often indicate that they are struggling.
If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting 'Home' to 741741.