In a post titled A Sudden Ending, Jeni writes about coming across an obituary listing for a young man who was the brother of a friend of her son. As the young man was only 27 years old and Jeni's son had never mentioned him being sick, it would appear that his sudden death could only be accidental or suicidal (surely had it been the result of a homicide there would have been something in the news).
Even though Jeni is not sure how this young man died, she took the opportunity to post about suicide and how devastating it is to those who are left behind. She wrote of several people she knew, including a cousin, who chose suicide over life and also spoke of how there was a time, once and long ago, that she, too, "thought of doing the same thing ... even tried once and failed."
Thankfully, and obviously, Jeni never followed through with any other self-destructive thoughts that she had and sought help for her feelings. As she put it "... And, although there are days when I do get down in the dumps, depressed, sometimes even yes, think things might be better if I were not here, I won't follow through with them now simply because I would not want to ever put my children and now, my grandchildren through that type of anguish."
Not everyone is able to overcome those self-destructive feelings like Jeni did as the numbers clearly indicate. According to the National Center for Health Statistics in 2004, the number of emergency department visits for self-inflicted injury totaled 535,000 with the total number of deaths by suicide 31,484. That's 10.8 deaths per every 100,000 people. That's a lot. That's too many.
It is estimated that four people commit suicide every hour in the United States; four people an hour. However no man is an island and for every person who commits suicide there is an average of six people known as "suicide survivors", generally family or friends of the person who has chosen to take his or her own life. However, that number can certainly be much larger at times extending out to entire schools or communities.
Coming to grips with suicide can be especially difficult for survivors because many of their questions as to why the victim felt the need to take his or her own life are left unanswered and may never be answered. Survivors often feel that they have failed or that they should have intervened in some way; that there should have been some way for them to prevent this tragedy. Suicide, though, is a very rare event and it is quite often hard to predict or prevent. Researchers have identified factors that place individuals at higher risk (mental illness, substance abuse, previous suicide attempts, family history of suicide, history of sexual abuse, and impulsive or aggressive tendencies) but it is difficult to predict which persons with those higher risk factors will ultimately commit suicide.
Suicide is not a selfless act but a selfish one as people who are desperate enough to end their own lives don't think of the consequences their actions will reap. All they believe is that suicide will end their pain and release them from a life they no longer feel is worth living. They aren't going to be around to worry about what happens afterwards or who it affects. That's not to say that this is an intended selfish act but an act from which the person feels they can find no means of escape; how can you think of others when you are suffering so much pain of your own? How does one stop hurting long enough to think of how those actions might affect others? For some it appears to be painfully impossible.
Even though it's not something that people like to think about, much less talk about, I think it's important that people be aware of suicide. Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending it doesn't exist doesn't make it go away. If you, or someone you know, is dealing with depression and thoughts of self-destruction then please seek help. Find someone to talk to whether it be family, friends, clergy, a teacher, a doctor, a 911 operator - someone. Help is available - hope is available - and life can get better though it may take some work and some time.
It's been said that "suicide is a permanent answer to a temporary problem"; an answer you don't want as permanent in this case really means permanent. There is no going back or going forward.
Life can be tough. Life can stink. Life can feel like a constant upward struggle. Life can make you just want to lay down and die. But it won't always be that way. It can get better if you let it. If I can believe that, I hope that everyone else can, too.
Thank you, Jeni, for an excellent post and for your forthcoming honesty.
If you are in a crisis and need help right away:
Call this toll-free number, available 24 hours a day, every day: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a service available to anyone. You may call for yourself or for someone you care about. All calls are confidential.