Suicide: Tragically Taboo
This week is National Suicide Prevention week. Reviewing the signs with loved ones could change a family's future.
Suicide is a tragic topic that leaves communities with confusion, blame, questions and coping. Milford has had its share of lives lost by the shock of suicide; some public and some very private.
As a nurse practitioner in town, I have personally called Riverside Community Emergency services on many occasions to expedite care for a suicidal patient, and have encouraged family members to bring their loved one to Milford Regional Medical Center. I contacted the medical center, the Town Clerk's Office, Riverside, and many other offices looking for statistics for our town of 27,000.
The Milford Town Clerk reported the town had six suicides between January and June of this year. The people ranged in age from 15 to 54.
A few national statistics about suicide, according to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
- suicide is the tenth highest cause of death
- one million people die by suicide every year (about 37,000 in the U.S. which equates to about 101 Americans a day)
- a person dies by suicide every 14-15 minutes
- suicide is currently the second most common cause of death among college students
- men are more likely to complete suicide (rising over the last three years called the “recession” effect)
- women attempt three times more than men
- suicide rates are highest between 40-59 years old
- suicide is the third leading cause of death for people from 15-44 years old
- suicide deaths have increased nearly 60 percent in the last 50 years with the vast majority of that increase coming from developing countries
- fall and spring (not the holidays) are the highest suicide months
- 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death and 70 percent of them have given signs or told someone about their plan
Suicide is one of those taboo topics that people know occurs, but are afraid to talk about. Many think the person who attempts (or completes) suicide has something horrible happening in their life, or weren’t strong people.
Last week I spoke with a patient grieving about her nephew, who died by suicide last fall as a freshman in college. Many of his friends admitted in hindsight he had exhibited warning signs, but the friends state they weren’t taught the warnings in high school or by family. She was also shocked and disappointed by the number of people passing judgement on his "selfishness" leaving it hard for the family to talk about it.
Why is suicide (often an outcome of either undiagnosed or chronically treated depression) so taboo? Are there other chronic illnesses (such as cancer or heart disease) leading to death where people judge the victim or question the family about their decisions to die or treatments received?
Taboo or not, a high percentage of suicides might be prevented, which inspired me to use the National Suicide Prevention week as the impetus to educate and empower Patch readers, with the hopes of shifting the statistics (and completely changing the future for a family).
- talking or thinking about death or killing themselves
- depression diagnosis or symptoms of depression such as sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping, eating or concentrating
- having no fear of death or injury
- losing interest in hobbies, sports, school, friends, family
- making comments about their lack of self-worth and making comments about “better if I wasn’t here” or “wish I didn’t have to wake up tomorrow”
- giving things away, cleaning up their office or room, changing a will
- visiting or calling people to say goodbye
Sadly, not all suicidal people ask for help or exhibit signs, but if you know anyone with these signs, tell them you are worried and get them help. You may lose their friendship, but you could prevent losing them entirely. Work with your children to make this less taboo — talk about it — empower our community to make a difference.
For further learning: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has manyresources for those with suicide ideation, parents, teens, as well as educational resources for schools. And the Suicide Prevention Resource Center is working to push this as a public health priority.