Out of the Darkness–AFSP–Information on Suicide Prevention and Coping

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“Suicide does not end the pain it just transfers it to the ones you love.” 

It can happen to anyone…

People rationalize, they won’t really do it: not my son/daughter, not my brother/sister, not my best friend, not my dad/mom. Don’t ever assume it won’t happen to the ones you love.  Err on the side of caution. 

General Facts:

  • 50-75% of all suicides give some kind of warning of their intentions to a friend or family member.
  • Worldwide there are more deaths due to suicide than to accidents, homicides, and war combined.
  • Over 34,000 people in U.S.die by suicide every year.
  • Currently it is the 11th leading cause of death in theU.S.
  • 95 Americans take their own lives every day, while 2,370 attempt.
  • A person dies by suicide every 14.6 minutes and an attempt made every 40 seconds.
  • Over 90% of people who die by suicide had at least one psychiatric illness at the time of death.  The most common diagnoses are DEPRESSION and DRUG and or ALCOHOL ABUSE.
  • Suicidal individuals often talk about suicide directly or indirectly.
  • 20-25% of people who kill themselves are intoxicated.
  • Serious or major depression is a long-lasting sadness that doesn’t let up for two weeks or more.  In children, depression is often indicated by irritability.
  • Suicide rates are highest for people between the ages of 40 and 59
  • Serious depression is considered a medical illness by the World Health Organization. 

Facts Adolescents:

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among college students and 3rd among all youth 15-24.  In U.S. only accidents and homicides claim more young lives.
  • Over 4,000 people 15-24 die each year by suicide in theU.S.
  • Ages 15-24, males die 6x more frequently than females by suicide.
  • 20% of American high schoolers report having seriously considered suicide during the previous 12 months.  8% of HS students make that attempt.
  • 70% of youth who make an attempt are frequent users alcohol and other drugs.  In states where the states where the minimum drinking age was raised from 18 to 21 the suicide rate for 18-20 year olds decreased.
  • Over 90% of youth who die by suicide had at least one psychiatric illness.
  • At the time of death (in about half of such cases) the psychiatric illness was present, although often unrecognized for two or more years.
  • The most commons diagnoses among youth are depression, substance abuse and conduct disorders.
  • In children, depression is often indicated by irritability. 

Warning Signs:

  • Talking about suicide
  • Writing about suicide
  • Writing about death or depression
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Giving items away
  • Depression
  • Pessimism (life is no good, I am never right, people would be better off without me)
  • Purchasing drugs or firearm or other weapons to hurt oneself.
  • Hopelessness
  • Desperation
  • Change in hygiene
  • Anxiety
  • Withdrawal from people and activities
  • Sleep problems too much or little
  • Increased alcohol and or drug use
  • Recent impulsiveness unnecessary risk taking
  • Making a plan
  • Making a will
  • Unexpected rage or anger 

Reasons a person may commit suicide:

  • Depression
  • The death of a loved one
  • Divorce, separation, breakup of a relationship.
  • Losing custody of children, or feeling that a child custody decision is not fair.
  • A serious loss such as a loss of job, house, or money.
  • A serious or terminal illness
  • Serious life altering accident
  • Chronic emotional or physical pain (or both)
  • Being victimized
  • Feeling trapped in a situation
  • Verbal/sexual abuse
  • Legal/law troubles
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Believing one has failed themselves or others
  • Being bullied
  • Low self-esteem 

What can you do to help?

  • Never ignore the warning signs!!!!
  • Listen to the person talking.
  • Tell the person they are not alone and you can help them find help.
  • Remember suicidal behavior is a cry for help.
  • Ask direct: “Have you been having thoughts about committing suicide?”
  • Follow through on getting the person professional help (ignore their protests).
  • Never leave a suicidal person alone.
  • Sometimes hospitalization is necessary; don’t be afraid to hospitalize a friend or a loved one.
  • Never ignore a suicide threat even if they’ve done it before or many times.
  • Most people ask for help before committing suicide. ( Remember 50-75% give some warning of their intention) 

How do you cope with the loss of a loved one after suicide?

  • If you have lost someone to suicide, know that you are not alone.  Each year over 34,000 people commit suicide in the U.S.  The devastated family and friends they leave behind are known as “survivors” or “grievers”.  There are millions of survivors like you trying to cope with this loss.
  • Remember it is never your fault that a person commits suicide.
  • Remember the person who committed suicide was not in the right state of mind at the time of their decision.
  • Survivors often experience a wide range of grief reactions.  Shock is a common immediate reaction.  You may feel numb or disoriented, and may have trouble concentrating.  Depression, disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, intense sadness and lack of energy.   We question why we weren’t enough for them. We never stop asking why to the question that truly has no answer. We feel Anger toward the deceased and other family members, therapists, ourselves and or everybody around us. Oftentimes faith is shattered, questioned, or abandoned.
  • Guilt, including thinking, “If Only I had…”
  • Survivors deal with two types of anger: one is anger that their loved one did this to them…and the other is that they did not see it coming.
  • These are all normal feelings however they can be overwhelming and seeking professional help should always be and option. 
  • Find a survival support group.  Get grief counseling.  DO NOT BE ASHAMED OF COUNSELING!!!! 


  • For the person who is dead the pain is over.
  • For the survivors, the immense pain is just beginning.
  • It feels impossible that the survivors will ever heal but with time, therapy, and help from those who love them they will mend.
  • They learn to live a “ NEW NORMAL”
  • After suicide the survivors are never the same person they were.
  • Suicide grievers are different they carry a unique guilt that they could or should have done more.
  • They often wrestle with religious beliefs, or the beliefs and comments from others that the person who died may be punished in an afterlife.
  • People will say things like “it is better now”, or “get over it” or they will say “was the deceased always crazy?”
  • Survivors often seem to move forward then slip again at anniversary dates, season changes that trigger memories of losing their loved one.
  • Triggers will come up unexpectedly; grievers reactions to small things may seem out of balance.  Respect them as they touch the heart of the pain unexpectedly.
  • Suicide survivors take much longer to heal because there are so many more feelings and emotions and questions to deal with than other deaths.
  • There will come a time when friends and family members will no longer be able to comfort grievers.
  • There are many support groups for survivors of suicide specifically, AFSP, LOSS, COMPASSIONATE FRIENDS.
  • Unique to suicide survivors is the strong feeling of guilt about moving forward and enjoying their lives when their loved ones could not. 

Something to think about: the American Psychiatric Association ranks the trauma of losing a loved one by suicide as “catastrophic”—on par with that of a concentration camp experience.  


  • The same stigma that often did not allow the person who committed suicide now exists for the survivors.
  • Survivors are often afraid to tell the truth about how their loved one died.
  • Society still says committed suicide which likens it to a crime.  The phrase committed was coined because it was believed that people “committed suicide” to avoid paying taxed, therefore committing a crime.
  • People often ask or assume if the person who died was on drug or deranged.
  • People will ask survivors if they had bad childhoods or blame parents for the death.
  • People don’t want to talk about suicide because it is still a cultural and religious taboo…This leaves grievers isolated from the outside world.  


Survivor’s risk of committing suicide rises significantly…

Survivors often describe these feelings:

  1. I feel like I am walking in quicksand.
  2. I live in a fog: things are hazy and confusing.
  3. I feel like they killed me too, all I do is cry.
  4. How will I ever be happy again?


Credits: I take no credit for any of the information above.  All information in this blog was taken from AFSP and from Dr. Elizabeth Ladin-Gross who came to our area and gave a presentation about suicide awareness and prevention.  I just took some of what was in her presentation and transferred to this blog.  Dr. Elizabeth Ladin-Gross was a school social worker for 14 years, Dean of students for 4 years, Substitute acting Principle as needed for 2 years, and Masters Thesis on Suicide Prevention in Schools.  She lost her brother to suicide last year.   Thank You Dr. Elizabeth for coming to speak to our families and students who have been touched by tragedy such as yours in hopes that someone may be helped and saved in the future.


Suicide Survivor’s Bill of Rights 

  • I have the right to be free of guilt.
  • I have the right not to feel responsible for the suicide deaths.
  • I have the right to express my feelings and emotions, even if they do not seem acceptable, as long as they do not interfere with the rights of others.
  • I have the right to have my questions answered honestly by authorities and family members.
  • I have the right not to be deceived because others feel they can spare me further grief.
  • I have the right to maintain a sense of hopefulness.
  • I have the right to peace and dignity.
  • I have the right to positive feelings about the ones I lost through suicide, regardless of the events prior to or at the time of their death.
  • I have the right to retain my individuality and not be judged because of the suicide deaths.
  • I have the right to seek counseling and a support group to enable me to honestly explore my feelings to further the acceptance process.
  • I have the right to reach acceptance.
  • I have the right to a new beginning.
  • I have the right to be.


 Other resources:  www.catholiccharities.net/loss  The Loss Program  -Catholic Charities

                                     www.suicide.org Suicide.Org  

                                     www.afsp.org  American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

                                     http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/Default.aspx    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

                                     http://thecompassionatefriendsfw.com/  Compassionate Friends


Suicide is Painless…IN WHAT WORLD???


I will never understand the utter desolation, despair, anguish, fear, shame or whatever it is that it takes to actually drive someone to that place of final acceptance of knowing they are going to take their own life.  And then to actually carry it out.  Oh there have been times I have struggled with feeling “blue” or even mildly depressed but there has never been a time I thought I wanted to end it all.  There has never been a moment that I didn’t know that this “feeling” was just fleeting.  Sometimes I feel that person is the most selfish, self-centered person in the world.  Because if you think about it they certainly were not thinking how their awful self-inflicted murder would affect their loved ones and they obviously were not thinking of the …  “who’s going to find me?” aspect.    This is a pretty graphic and burdensome thing to carry for a loved one.  I have been wishy washy because of the pain and my anger towards my own family members who have taken their life but I have come to the conclusion that most people who do this are so deep in depression they can’t see anything else but their own problems, pain, illness that they can find no other options, no other way out.  So deep down I know it’s not selfish, it’s a sickness that needs to be treated.

The first time I had any real connection to suicide was when I first became a Paramedic.  We were called to a Possible Suicide.  It was my first time dealing with a suicide and my first time dealing with the grieving family of a suicide.  It wasn’t a normal grieving family over a “regular” death like a heart attack, this I’ve seen, this I’ve dealt with.  Oh no, this was much different, much worse.  We had just found their father, husband, grandpa, friend with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  But what really got me was when we found his slumped-over body on his knees, he was grasping his rosary.  At the time I wasn’t quite  “with God” yet.   I couldn’t understand why this man who had this huge seemingly loving family, who had been out looking for him and was now so very indescribably distraught and inconsolable would do something like this.  This man who seemingly had a faith to grasp onto and cry out to, even unto death.  It haunted me in my dreams picturing this man on his knees crying out and praying to God right before he shot himself.  At what point do you stop talking to God and just do it?  It haunted me for a long time and this wasn’t even my family.  We didn’t know these people from Adam.  My partner was an Evangelical type Christian and he was going around praying with and trying to console the family and really doing an amazing job helping them in their grieving process, even if they didn’t realize it then.  I just felt so awkward and useless.

This family had a little something my family didn’t.   A little something that might have helped with the grieving process if only the slightest bit.  That little something was a note.  An answer.  A reason from their father, husband, friend on why he felt he couldn’t go on anymore.  If only a selfish one, at least they had something.  Most people don’t even get to have that much.  The rest of us just have our wild imaginations to run with.  They will never know how much that little bit can keep someone from going over the edge with all the questions WHY.  The forever asked question WHY, but never answered.

When my Uncle Ben killed himself it was a terrible tragedy that this family has still not gotten over.  The grief that his self-inflicted murder sent through this family was like shock waves with after shocks and after shocks, never knowing when the tidal wave of crazy is going to come crashing down.  Then, as if one suicide in the family isn’t bad enough my Uncle Lynn killed himself the same way his brother Ben did.  These deaths were years apart but they may have well have been only days.  Suicide never goes away.  Both these men left behind devastated children, significant others, sisters, cousins, a Dad, the list goes on.   Family who’s lives have been altered forever.  Fractured.

I don’t have many words of wisdom about how to get over something like this because my family is still such a tattered mess.  However we are a family of Faith in the Christian God.  I won’t lie though this has shaken some of the strongest Christians in my family but I see God working in the lives and deaths of this family.  That is the only way I know how to cope.

This is a permanent, life-ending end.  All you kids, young adults in school who are thinking or have thought about suicide…please tell a friend, teacher, neighbor, MOM or DAD or SIBLING, OR ME.   Point is TELL SOMEONE how you’re feeling.  There is more to this life than what you are going through right now at this moment.  Whether its sex, drugs/alcohol, pregnancy, sickness, divorce, abuse, breakups, bad grades, things get better, things change, this is just a small minute compared to the rest of your life.

I get a physical sick feeling in my stomach when I hear of another suicide anywhere let alone our county.   God please bring comfort to those who have lost loved ones to depression and help those who are dealing with it now and help them to have enough strength and courage to come forward and get the help they so deserve and need.  Amen.

God Bless,


Please seek help if you are contemplating suicide.

Illinois Suicide & Crisis Hotlines

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline