In the United States, there are 123 suicides per day. That means nearly 30 women die each day by their own hand.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, America’s premier institute for study of health issues, suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States. Among middle-age people, suicide rises No. 4 as cause death.
These statistics are stark and sobering.
Designer Kate Spade was just the latest high-profile victim. Instead of playing a game of Where’s Waldo with the First Lady, we really should be having a community conversation about suicide prevention.
When a person appears to have everything in the world going their way, what causes he or she to kill themselves? The answer is at once simple and complex. Suicide is not a major illness, as clinically defined. It is, however, a serious symptom of many treatable mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, addiction and eating disorders (bulimia and anorexia).
Often, there are signs when a person becomes serious about self-harm. If they have expressed a detailed plan and have the ability to carry out that plan, you need to take them seriously. If there have been previous attempts, there could be another. Do they feel hopeless, worthless, agitated, socially isolated or lonely? Have they experienced a recent stressful event (death, divorce, financial or legal problems)? Do they have substance abuse issues?
Do they have access to firearms? Have they been diagnosed with a mental health issue or have a family history of them? Do they have a terminal medical condition? Are they LGBTQ with an unsupportive family or do they live in a hostile environment?
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 32. Prior to that diagnosis, I attempted suicide for the first time when I was 19. A friend took me to the ER and I was admitted under observation. I attempted suicide three more times.
With intervention, I was able to move forward and I am thankful I couldn’t complete these attempts to take my own life.
It is easy to judge and label us as selfish or unable to cope. Thankfully, those who choose to judge us will never know the maelstrom of despair and self-loathing that leads someone to believe death is the only option; the only way to stop that bone-deep psychic sense of self destruction.
I truly felt my family would be better off without me. Thankfully, with treatment, a supportive network of family and friends, I am no longer in that ugly, bleak, hopeless place.
If you see a loved one who appears stuck in deep depression, do not remain a bystander. Reach out, talk to them. If they appear to be serious, get them help. There are resources. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline and website provide a place to start. The website is at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org; the phone number is 800 273-8255. Both are staffed 24 hours every day.
It is long past time that suicide continues to be the “elephant in the room.” Help is out there.
Kathleen Rowe-Glendon is a former Bee visiting editor and a community activist. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.