“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.
  • NEVER KEEP A PERSON’S CONVERSATION ABOUT SUICIDE SECRET…BECAUSE THEY ASKED YOU TO…(GET THEM HELP IMMEDIATELY).
  • 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!!!! 

 UNDERSTAND/TWO STEPS FORWARD ONE STEP BACK/SURVIVORS TIMELINE/FEELING GUILTY ABOUT BEING HAPPY

  • 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.  

Stigmas:

  • 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.

FOR THOSE OF US WHO ARE STILL SUFFERING UNDER THE IMMENSE PAIN OF THE SUICIDE OF A FAMILY MEMBER OR A FRIEND…

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