Suicide is no laughing matter. There is nothing glamorous, dignified or special about a human being taking his or her own life. In the aftermath of such tragedy, families and friends are left to pick up the pieces of their confused and shattered hearts.
The suicide rate in the United States has risen steadily for the last decade, and according to the The Guardian, the UK has also experienced a sharp increase in suicide deaths. The causes are uncertain, but economic downturn, overuse of prescription pain medications and the media’s portrayal of perfect human beings that no mere mortal could ever live up to could all be contributing factors.
There is no doubt stress plays a prominent role in a majority our lives these days. Many people report that stress is their #1 daily battle. Stress is a relentless hammer that, unless dealt with, can constantly beat down on homes, jobs and relationships until the worry, fear and helplessness become too much to bear. Many people just don’t know how to combat those feelings, so they turn to extreme options such as suicide. What’s most terrifying about this trend is that younger generations are seeing these extremes as viable options.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has 145 crisis centers in 49 states. Those who call the Lifeline are connected to a local crisis center with the goal of helping the caller reach local resources as fast as possible. For military heroes, the NSPL has contracted with the Department of Veteran Affairs and can connect them directly to the VA hotline.
Surprisingly, only 20-30% of the phone calls are specifically suicide related, said Lidia Bernik, Director of Network Development the NSPL. The other 70-80% are people who are desperate, hurting and need help but have nowhere else to turn.
Suicide is preventable, but only if you’re extremely aware of the signs and symptoms. According to the NSPL, these are:
- Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself.
- Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills or other means.
- Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person.
- Feeling hopeless.
- Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger, or seeking revenge.
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities—seemingly without thinking.
- Feeling trapped—like there’s no way out.
- Increasing alcohol or drug use.
- Withdrawing from friends, family and society.
- Feeling anxious, agitated or unable to sleep, or sleeping all the time.
- Experiencing dramatic mood changes.
- Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life.
The most important thing is to not be afraid to open up the lines of communication. There is never harm in asking someone if they have had or are having thoughts of suicide. If you are worried about a child and feel you can’t communicate with them directly, talk to your child’s school counselor or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Suicide can be prevented. Love, kindness and friendship are the strongest tools in our arsenal, and we can’t be afraid to use them. Combating everyday evils can seem overwhelming, but who knows how many lives could be saved if we just took the time to ask, “How can I help?”
~Miri Rossitto, 2010