Monday, July 2, 2007

"Suicide is a serious thing. And if you know anyone who is suicidal, you need to get them help." ~ Gerard Way, My Chemical Romance

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While catching up on my blog reading this evening, something I had been sorely behind in due to a busy weekend and the standard 16-hour shift at work yesterday, I came across a post at Jeni's blog, Down River Drivel, that really made me stop and take notice. Jeni touched on a subject that a lot of people prefer to steer clear of.

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.

18 comments:

  1. great informative post honey. thanks.

    smiles, bee

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  2. Hi there, just surfing by. Please don't ask how I found you as I really don't remember, but I'm glad I did! What a great post!! And yes, we DO need to talk about hopelessness and it's causes and effects. Going strictly by your profile...we have several likes in common...movies, Janet Evanovich...and others. I'll be back.

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  3. OH yeah, and cool graphic!!

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  4. Very well done, Linda. A subject that is too often "swept under the rug", thank goodness you were able to talk about it. Let me tell you sometime when we're chatting in "the Bubble", about a phone call I took in my freshman year of college...yes, this subject hits home to too many people! Thank you for this post.

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  5. A subject very close to my heart. A very close family member took an overdose not very long ago, thankfully he survived - it hurt like hell I thought I'd failed!

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  6. Great job, Linda! That was an awesome post and very informative. I know a young man that shot himself in his front yard while his family slept. What a horrible tragedy! Thanks for such a powerful post.

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  7. What a wonderfully written (and much needed) post Linda. I've been lucky enough to not know anyone personally who's taken their life, but I do know lots of people who know people who have.

    And there is not a day that goes by that these people don't think of their friends and wonder why.

    I'm with you on the selfish part, and that is why in my darkest moments I never acted upon those "I should be dead" thoughts. I couldn't stomach thinking about what would happen to my family and friends if they thought it was their fault or that they could have stopped me...

    Thanks again for writing this.

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  8. The hardest part of rolling up on a suicide call is seeing the family. Just like when they call you on 911, Linda, they expect us to DO something, and sometimes we can't, right? How can you NOT call it selfish @ that point?

    Bob, you described the feelings to a "T", and that must've been very hard to do. You make some valid points - some of which I completely agree - others like the "selfish" part, I have to agree to disagree with you. Very well written, though - nicely done!

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  9. I like that statement, that it's a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It fits nicely with one of my old stand-by sayings.. this too shall pass.

    I also agree on the selfishness part.. it makes me so sad to think that there are people out there who just don't think anyone cares enough to listen to what they've got going on. But I recognize that there are some people who just don't have the strength to push through the fog, for whatever reason.

    I had a friend in high school whose father killed himself.. the rumor was that he did it so that his family could have the insurance money.. but of course, just about every insurance has clauses against that sort of thing.. but that's another story. It was such a sad thing.. she was really close to her dad, and for him to just take himself away like that.. I can't imagine what that would be like to live through.

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  10. Great post, and very poignant. I hope someone reads it that needs it. =)

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  11. Linda,

    An excellent and informative post as always. It is particularly devastating when a young person decides to take their own life. There are so many causes of such extreme depression that can lead to suicide or violence. We need to be aware of those around us. Sometimes it is enough to just listen or encourage the depressed person to seek help.

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  12. a very serious subject, few people are willing to talk about it

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  13. Thanks Linda - for taking my post another step forward. This topic is one that someone above said is often swept under the rug - along with other gross and abhorrent happenings like child abuse, rape, incest -and on and on.
    Speaking as one who was there, tried and yes, thankfully -I failed -it is a selfish act because when you are in that dire a state or frame of mind, the only thing you can think of is removing your own pain and especially, if you are under the influence of some substance, the fog you already had enveloping you is so thick it can't be penetrated to provide a shred of logic. I was fortunate in that I did get the help I needed at that time but not everyone is that lucky.

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  14. What an important and informative post. I have two friends who have lost loved ones to suicide (a son and a husband) and I know how devastating it is on family members.

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  15. This was a post that needed to be written.
    The woman in charge of our beaver colony, her son killed himself due to financial difficulties that nobody knew about. She says she would of sold her own house to get him out of trouble, if only he had confided in her. Know she is no longer allowed to see her grandchildren as her sons partner wants nothing to do with his side of the family.

    Another incident that greatly upset me, was a friend of the family. Her husband played golf with my dad and she was good friends with my mum. Her husband cheated on her and she sunk into depression that she just couldn't get out of, so one day she hung herself.

    In my counselling studies, we have only briefly touched on suicide. It is something that definitely needs to talked about more often.

    I have just been reading my local newspaper and found out a 17 year old girl was found on the river banks after jumping from the bridge.

    So thats just some of my experiences with suicide, i would say there is a problem.

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  16. The trouble with depression and suicide is that you push people away just when you need them most.

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  17. Suicide leaves the families asking questions for years to come. The guilt associated with it is terrible too. Great post Linda.

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  18. I just found this site through random browsing, but the My Chemical Romance thing caught my eye (I'm a fan of the band) so I read the post.
    Basically I'd just like to add that there is a website called Beyond Blue that is a good resource for this sort of thing. It's a not for profit organisation in Australia. The URL is:
    http://www.beyondblue.org.au/

    I hope this isn't construed as spam. I'm not affiliated with beyond blue in anyway, I've just found the site useful and thought others might as well.

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