By Christie Masters
Just a few months ago our family lost a dear friend to suicide. Two weeks ago a family we know lost their youngest son. A few days later one of our family members called seeking comfort after finding out that his friend had killed himself, leaving his wife and two children in shock and grief. There is no easy way to talk about suicide. Life is too precious to ignore the reality of depression and the overwhelming desire to escape emotional pain in some people’s lives. The tragic consequences of the decision to end one’s own life begs for honesty and openness, so here goes:
The Signs: The weeks following the death of a close friend left our children guilt stricken. “Why didn’t I see he was in trouble?” In fact, in the days following his suicide, many of our children’s friends asked to come over to our house. They didn’t want to be alone and they needed to talk about the horrible guilt they felt in not knowing that their friend had suicidal thoughts. It wasn’t their fault. It took a lot of discussion to help them see that truth. Yet these questions led to a determination to learn the danger signs of someone who is contemplating taking their own life, and what to do about it.
According to Suicide.org, a site devoted to suicide prevention, the following behavior changes and emotional conditions should be taken seriously. If a person you know is exhibiting the following behaviors, they may be in serious trouble:
- Appearing depressed or sad most of the time
- Feeling helpless
- Feeling hopeless
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Losing interest in most activities
- Acting Impulsively
- Acting Recklessly
- Feeling trapped, like there is no way out of a situation
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Changes in personality
- Abusing drugs and alcohol
Other warning signs may include listening to music or specific songs about suicide, or being fatalistic about the future or about finding someone who will love them. Someone contemplating suicide may feel terrible guilt or self-loathing.
According to Suicide.org, most people who attempt suicide exhibit some of the warning signs, but not everyone does. It may not be easy to detect and, while it is important to be proactive, you must remember that you are not to blame for someone else’s decision.
The Statistics: The statistics are staggering. Each year there are between 750,000 to 1 million deaths by suicide world-wide. Every 40 seconds someone makes a catastrophic and final decision to end not only their pain, but any hope of their circumstances getting better. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in the United States suicide is:
- The 10th leading cause of death
- The cause of approximately 44,000 deaths a year
- The cause of approximately 121 deaths per day
And according to a study presented at the Pediatrics Academic Societies Meeting in May of this year, “the number of children and adolescents admitted to children’s hospitals for thoughts of suicide or self-harm have more than doubled during the last decade.”
What Can We Do? Talk to your kids. Talk to your spouse and your parents. Because of the tragic events of the last few months, my husband and I asked our children if they had ever had thoughts of suicide. Two of them said yes. I cannot adequately express the relief we felt with their honesty, and our chance to talk about it with them. This is a continuing and vital discussion. If you are having suicidal thoughts get help immediately, do not wait. Talk to your pastor or a friend. If you are concerned about a loved one, talk to them and get help for them. Chemical imbalances caused by medicines, physical ailments, or some other environmental or physical causes can be catalysts leading to depression. Deeper emotional and mental issues can also be at the root of these thoughts. Either way, they must be taken seriously and steps must be taken to find a saving solution. Do not let shame or fear dictate the minutes and hours of your life!
Remember: most people who survive a suicide attempt are glad that they lived! Kevin Caruso, the executive director of Suicide.org says: “The first thing that I want you to know is that virtually every person that I have talked with who attempted suicide, and survived, was glad that they lived. So the emotions that were causing the suicidal feelings did pass. Things got better; the sun did come out.”