Although we are just beginning to say hello to February, this year has been off to a sad start with several people in my immediate circle—individuals I knew personally, or who are connected to friends or family members—committing suicide. There’s no easy way to acknowledge or accept this, or even an uncomplicated way to type those words. Each has had a different reason for doing so, but what remains constant is the sadness left in the wake.

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Source: 123rf.com

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States with an average of 121 individuals dying a day. With such an important topic like suicide, why is it not addressed more often? Of course there is a National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September and a World Suicide Prevention Day, but we also have “national days” for things like tacos and doughnuts. Now, I am not saying tacos and doughnuts do not deserve recognition, but when it comes to suicide, there is a difference in importance.

Every day should be suicide prevention awareness day. Every day should be an opportunity to communicate the importance of knowing the signs of a person contemplating self harm what steps to follow to get help, and resources available.

There are many reasons an individual may decide to end his or her life, but here are six notable reasons:

  • Depression: The feeling of despondency and distress; it can strike at any age and can encompass a roller coaster of emotions. Different groups of people do experience depression in different ways for example men and women display depression differently and men are four times more likely to die of suicide than women (NAMI).
  • Despair: Hopelessness can be a sign of depression, but it can also stand alone. Research has shown that severe despair and hopelessness can be predictors of suicide (NCBI 2012).
  • Decline: Individuals suffering from chronic illness and/or chronic pain resist seeking psychiatric or psychological care for fear their pain symptoms will be minimized or considered reflective of an underlying mental disorder. A survey by Hitchcock et al found that 50% of chronic pain patients had serious thoughts of committing suicide due to their pain disorder (NCBI 2011).
  • Defeat: A feeling that “It’s all wrong” or “I can’t do anything right.” The inability to escape from defeating or stressful circumstances provides the setting conditions for the emergence of suicidal thoughts (Lancet Psychiatry 2014).
  • Desolation: Feeling alone, isolated, and sometimes, bullied. This is more commonly seen in teens and older adults, but it can apply to anyone. Loneliness has been attributed to social anxiety and suicide in teens (Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 2014).
  • Demographics: Among American Indians/Alaska Natives age 10 to 34, suicide is the second leading cause of death. Males take their own lives at nearly four times the rate of females and represent 77.9% of all suicides. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among persons aged 10-14 and the second among persons aged 15-34 years (CDC 2015).

Suicide leaves survivors with the question of "Why?" Although a solid answer to why an individual may consider suicide as a viable option may never be known, absorption of the negativity recently seen in our society can play a part in finalizing a decision. Media outlets have reveled in stories of division and dejection, while social media constantly bombards readers with angry posts, body shaming, illusions of perfect couples and lives, and false happiness. It has become a landmine of hatred.

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Take time to reach out to those in need. Don't settle for just, "Fine." Step-up, initiate the conversation, and take the lead.
Source: 123rf.com

I chose February to bring this subject to light to remind ourselves that as we become deluged with Valentine’s ads, posts, and stories, we need to pay close attention to those around us.  Take the time to notice. Notice the behavior of friends, family, loved ones —take a moment to ask, “How are you?” and care about what the answer may be. Don’t settle for just, “Fine.” Most individuals are not “fine,” yet use the term loosely to avoid a personal discussion of feelings. Step-up and initiate the conversation, take the lead!

Suicide is life changing, life ending, and only a brief moment of darkness that can be altered with intervention.

If you know someone who is showing the signs, take the time. If you need support, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889.

There are also apps that can be downloaded onto mobile devices to help with thoughts of suicide for personal use, or to use with others. My3 is owned and maintained by Link2HealthSolutions, Inc., the administrator of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

About the Author

Dr. Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

Wendy Boring-Bray is the assistant director of the Doctor of Behavioral Health program at the Cummings Graduate Institute for Behavioral Health Studies.

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