Source: Sigma: Journal of Political and International Studies. (2020). 37, Article 6. SIEC No: 20200359

In 2017, suicide rose to become the tenth leading cause of death for U.S. citizens (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2018a). In the twenty years preceding 2017, the suicide rate increased significantly across the country. Twentyfive states experienced at least a 30 percent increase in suicide rates, and some states like North Dakota saw increases of as much as 57 percent (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2018b). The significant upswing in suicide rates affects the well-being of every American, both directly and indirectly. Indeed, one of the strongest indicators of a person’s likelihood to attempt suicide is exposure to the suicide of people close to them in their social network (Niederkrotenthaler et al. 2012; Ramchand et al. 2015). Beginning in the 1960s, American policymakers started taking suicide prevention seriously. The Center for Studies of Suicide Prevention was established as part of the National Institute of Mental Health in 1966, and government intervention culminated with the unprecedented Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Suicide in 1999 (U.S. National Library of Medicine 2016; U.S. Public Health Service 1999). Subsequent legislation like the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act of 2004 and the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act of 2007 continue to combat suicide (Suicide Prevention Resource Center 2016). However, while these government programs focus on providing resources and support for Americans struggling with suicidal tendencies, our understanding of what motivates someone to end his or her life remains dangerously inadequate as suicide rates continue to increase unabated (Ross, Yakovlev, and Carson 2012).