Suicide: A preventable crisis!
According to American Society for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Men are at especially high risk for this, and Native Americans and Eskimos are at the top for risk factors. However, teenagers, LGBTQ people, and those with psychiatric disorders are still a very high-risk group. They are also finding that more and more, middle aged Americans are at higher risk than before. So, why do these people choose to end their own life?
The fact is we may never know why people get to the place where taking their life is the only solution they see. We can only make assumptions based on the conditions that existed and the notes left behind. An article in Psychology Today puts the following reasons at the forefront; depression, despair, decline in individuals suffering from chronic illness, feeling defeated, desolation or feelings of extreme isolation. Individually any one of these factors could really harm a person’s well being, but the fact is they usually come in multiples that drive someone over the edge. Stranger still is most if not all of these things are all preventable if we watch for and understand what is happening.
The largest and most prevalent to my mind is mental illness. That is not to say that people having suicidal thoughts have a mental illness, but so what if they did? The stigma around mental illness is one of the most prevalent in our society. Too often, we are ready to dismiss someone as being crazy rather than trying to get them the help they need. The fear of admitting to having a mental illness can cause people to retreat into themselves rather than risking the stigma of being labeled as mentally ill. Many of these mental illnesses can be treated and managed through pharmaceuticals and therapy, but it’s very hard for a person to admit they need medication in order to feel normal. Sometimes, the person may not even realize the things they are feeling are not normal. So, they can feel even more frustrated not understanding that they shouldn’t have to struggle with these feelings. These unpleasant feelings lead them to become isolated from other people and create ripe conditions for the second biggest risk factor.
I have previously written about Loneliness and the prevailing nature of it in our society. We are closer and more connected than ever through the technology we all carry in our pocket, but somehow that has allowed us to lose that human connection that comes with face to face interaction with another person. During research to figure out what was causing certain orphanages to have a 30–40% mortality rate among newborn infants it was discovered that infants need human contact in order to thrive. Food, water and shelter are not enough. Humans are social animals and we do not do well in isolation. We need other people and engagement with other people in order to thrive. Sometimes we can only handle that in very specific ways, but we still require this contact nonetheless.
People contemplating suicide often feel completely alone; as though no one could possibly understand the terrible things they are feeling and going through. Let’s get this straight, this isn’t my friends didn’t come over for dinner today type of loneliness. This is, I am trapped inside hell and everyone around me is having a party while I burn loneliness. The very idea that someone could possibly understand what they are going through, or reach out to them, seems alien in the extreme. Worse still, it becomes a perpetual cycle. The person thinks other people will not or cannot understand, so they decide not to tell them, and by extension, they become more isolated and feel more alone. If we could find a way to empower people to tell their story without fear of judgment or public ridicule, then maybe people would not feel so alone when they are going through these types of things. But, seeking help and understanding about challenging personal issues has got to become the norm before that can happen.
Suicide is becoming an epidemic in our country. An average of 44,193 individuals are taking their lives every year in this country, and countless more are at serious risk of doing so. In my own life, I have been exposed to a successful suicide and a friend’s attempt at suicide. There are so many people out there that could say the same thing. We live in a time where information is a keystroke away, but yet too many people are living in ignorance of the signs and symptoms of this horrible public health crisis. If you are not familiar with the signs and symptoms that may be strong pre-indicators of a person at risk of committing suicide, I urge you to visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at AFSP.org and familiarize yourself with the information on their website. You could be the lifeline that someone needs to prevent him or her from choosing a horrible course of action to end his or her pain.
And, More importantly if you are reading this and you have been contemplating suicide, Please reach out and get help! You are not alone, and there are people out there that care and want to help you through this. You can contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1–800–273-TALK (8255) or text Hello to 741–741. But most of all remember, you have value, and you are worth fighting for! There is help out there, and you are worth it!