Suicide Prevention

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By: 
Michelle Phillips

I heard a staggering statistic on the radio the other day as I was stopped on the beltline, sipping my morning coffee: Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for people aged 10-34 in the United States, and second leading cause of death for people aged 10-34. You read that right, second leading cause of death for those 10-34.

Everyone in this country has been touched by suicide in some way. Depression can often lead to suicide and the stigma surrounding mental health care and wellness has played a part in people refusing help.

The first time I experienced a suicide by someone I knew was in high school. Shon, a guy who was a sophomore when I was a senior, killed himself after his parents, who were out of town, found out the police had been called because he was throwing a party. In his note he said he did not want to go back to military school, which he feared would happen when his strict parents returned. 

I went to a very small school after we moved to Iowa, where this incident happened, and most of the school had been at the party, then at the funeral. The priest who was conducting the funeral was blaming those that were there for his death. That is a huge burden to place on teens, and the truth of the matter was that Shon struggled with depression, and had threatened to kill himself when he was at military school, the reason he returned to public school and his family home.

I have read reports of kids as young as nine killing themselves in recent years, and though the statistic mentioned above included a specific age group, suicide, which dipped a bit in the mid ‘00s, is up among all age groups. In fact, middle-aged, white men are the most likely to kill themselves. My friend Reed is now part of that statistic. 

I hadn’t heard from him in a while, and a mutual friend emailed me on Facebook, about two weeks after he killed himself to tell me he had taken his life. He, too, struggled with some unaddressed mental health issues. He was 54.

I was stunned that Reed had taken his life, and sad that no one was able to help him. I simply don’t think of suicide as something someone my age contemplates. I don’t know why, but I have always felt that it is something that affects younger people. I was wrong. 

I decided to look at some more statistics offered by the Center for Disease Control (CDC): Men are three and a half times more likely to commit suicide than women; There were 14,000,000 suicide attempts in 2017; Guns are used in half of all suicides; There are 129 suicides each day in the US; Suicide rates went up 24 percent between 1999 and 2014; In Wisconsin the suicide rate has increased by 25.8 percent between 1999 and 2016; Although half have mental health conditions, others faced issues like marital or financial problems.

There are signs that suicidal people commonly display, though not all the signs may be present, and often those that are go unnoticed. Some of the signs are isolation, anger, mood swings, anxiety, feeling trapped or in extreme pain and increased substance use/abuse.

The CDC also suggests steps to help prevent a loved one from taking their own life. They are: Ask. Keep them safe. Be there. Help them connect. Follow up.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, talk to someone about your feelings. If you do not have someone you can turn to, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

September 8-14 is National Suicide Prevention week, to raise awareness for the growing number of suicide deaths. It’s the perfect time to educate yourself on suicide causes and prevention.

There have been other friends between Shon and Reed that have committed suicide: Kevin, Stacy, Michael. Maybe their deaths could have been prevented if I and others had known to look for the signs. Don’t let yourself or a loved one become part of a statistic.

 

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