By: Alicia D
I know that Suicide Awareness week isn’t until September, but I felt that this is an important topic to talk about year around. Many of us have either tried to commit suicide, or know of someone who has been a suicide victim or tried to attempt it. I know of few people in my life who have attempted suicide. I have never attempted suicide, but I do know someone who has completed the suicide process. My friend I will call her “Rose” (out of respect for her family I won’t release her real name) suffered for many years of mental and physical illness, and almost three months ago she decided she had enough and ended it all. Rose was just a bit older than me and no one had a clue. Rose was the most positive person you’d ever meet. She had been raped 4 times in her life, and suffered from cancer, but that didn’t hold her back. Deep down inside she hid her pain. It was so shocking to hear about that she committed suicide. This story probably sounds familiar to you who have witness someone close to you who have either tried or did complete the suicide process. The part in my story about the fact they didn’t see it coming is what is often said. Most people say that they didn’t even see it coming and it is a shock! It has been estimated however that up to 75% of suicides victims display some warning signs or symptoms. Through this article I hope to make you more aware to the signs of someone who is suicidal plus a lot more information. I have graduate from the two year program of Social Services Worker, and through my course we have talked about suicide. I am taking the one year Graduate Degree of Victimology next year. I hope that this information I have gathered is successful, and helps you who need it.
Some Information on Suicide
Suicide is a major health problem, with more than 32,000 deaths a year in the USA; which is roughly 80 suicides a day. There are 1,500 unsuccessful suicide attempts a day. In the age 18-65 age group suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in the USA. Nearly 1 million people worldwide commit suicide each year, with anywhere from 10 million to 20 million suicide attempts annually. About 32,000 people reportedly kill themselves each year in the United States; however the true number is likely higher because some deaths that were thought as accidents were actually suicide. Suicide is the 16th leading cause of death in females, and 8th leading cause of death for males. Suicide occurs in people of all ages and backgrounds, but certain groups of people are at increased risk for suicide attempts. This includes people with a psychiatric illness and a past history of suicide attempts. In the USA boys ages 10-14 commit suicide twice as often as their female peers. Teenage boys (15-19) complete suicide five times as often as girls their age. Overall males tend to commit suicide more, but females attempt it more often. LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) youth are more at risk for thinking about suicide then heterosexual youth. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people 10-24 years of age. Teen suicide statistics for youth 15-19 years of age have increased 300% from 1950-1990, but from 1990-2003 has decreased by 35%. From 2000-2006 the rates of suicide has gradually increased, both in the 10-24 category, and 35-64 category.
Firearms are the most common means by which people take their lives, and other common methods include overdosing of medication, asphyxiation, and hanging. As said previously there is gender, age, ethnic, and geographical risk factors for suicide, as well as those based on family history, life stresses, and medical and mental-health status. In children and teens, bullying and being bullied seem to be associated with their committing suicide, and being bullied may put them at risk for committing murder-suicide.
Definition and Brief Summary
The first thing I am going to do is give a definition of what suicide is. Suicide is the process of purposely ending one’s own life. The way societies view suicide varies widely according to culture, religion, ethnic norms, and the circumstances under which it occurs. Many Western cultures, as well as mainstream Judaism, Islam, and some societies also treat a suicide as a crime. Suicides are sometimes seen as understandable or even honourable in certain circumstances.
Opposed to suicidal behaviour self-mutilation is defined as deliberately hurting oneself without meaning to cause one’s own death. Examples of self-mutilating behaviours include cutting any part of the body, usually of the wrist. Self-tatooing is also considered self-mutilation. Other self-injuries include self-burning, head banging, pinching and scratching.
Warning signs of someone who is planning to kill themselves may include the person making a will, getting his or her affairs in order, suddenly visiting friends or family members for one last time, buying instruments of suicide like a gun, hose, rope, pills or other forms of medications, a sudden and significant decline or improvement in mood, or writing a suicide note. Contrary to popular belief, many people who complete suicide do not tell their therapist or any other mental-health professionals they plan to kill themselves in the months before they do so. If they do tell someone it is more likely to be someone with whom they are personally close, like a friend or family member.
Individuals who take their lives tend to suffer from severe anxiety or depression, symptoms of which may include moderate alcohol abuse, insomnia, severe agitation, loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy (this is called anhedonia), hopelessness, and persistent thoughts about the possibility of something bad happening. Since suicidal behaviour are often quite impulsive, removing guns, medications, knives, and other instruments people often use to kill themselves from the immediate environment can allow the individual time to think more clearly and perhaps from the immediate environment can allow the individual time to think more rational way of coping with their pain.
Effects on Love Ones with Suicide
The effects of suicidal behaviour or completed suicide on friends and family members are often very devastating. People that lose a loved one to suicide are called suicide survivors, and are more at risk for becoming preoccupied with the reason for the suicide, while wanting to deny or hide the cause of death. Also they wonder if they could have prevented the suicide, and feel blame for the problems that preceded the suicide, feeling rejected by their loved one, and stigmatized by others. Survivors may experience a great range of conflicting emotions about the deceased, feeling everything from intense emotional pain and sadness about the loss, helpless to prevent it, longing for the person they lost, and anger at the deceased for taking their own life. This is understandable these feelings about the person they are grieving is at the same time victim and the perpetrator of the fatal act. Individuals left behind by the suicide of a loved one tend to experience complicated grief in the reaction to that loss. Symptoms of grief that may be experienced by the suicide survivors include intense emotion and longings for the deceased, severely intrusive thoughts about the lost loved one, extreme feelings of emptiness, avoiding doing things that bring back memories of the departed, new or worsened sleeping problems, and having no interest in activities that the suffered used to enjoy.
Coping with a Love One’s Suicide
When a loved one dies, your grief may be heart-wrenching. When a loved one commits suicide, your reaction may be more complicated. Overwhelming emotions may leave you reeling, and you may be consumed by guilt, wondering if you could have done something to prevent your loved one’s death. As you face life after a loved one’s suicide, remember that you don’t have to go through it alone. A loved one’s suicide can trigger intense emotions. For example:
- Shock. Disbelief and emotional numbness may set in. You may think that your loved one’s suicide couldn’t possibly be real.
- Anger. You may be angry with your loved one for abandoning you or leaving you with a legacy of grief or angry with yourself or others for missing clues about suicidal intentions.
- Guilt. You may replay “what if” and “if only” scenarios in your mind, blaming yourself for your loved one’s death.
- Despair. You may be gripped by sadness, depression and a sense of defeat or hopelessness. You may have a physical collapse or even consider suicide yourself.
You may continue to experience intense reactions during the weeks and months after your loved one’s suicide including nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal and loss of interest in usual activities especially if you witnessed or discovered the suicide.
The aftermath of a loved one’s suicide can be physically and emotionally exhausting. As you work through your grief, be careful to protect your own well-being.
- Keep in touch. Reach out to family, friends and spiritual leaders for comfort, understanding and healing. Surround yourself with people who are willing to listen when you need to talk, as well as those who will simply offer a shoulder to lean on when you’d rather be silent.
- Grieve in your own way. Do what’s right for you, not necessarily someone else. If you find it too painful to visit your loved one’s gravesite or share the details of your loved one’s death, wait until you’re ready.
- Be prepared for painful reminders. Anniversaries, holidays and other special occasions can be painful reminders of your loved one’s suicide. Don’t chide yourself for being sad or mournful. Instead, consider changing or suspending family traditions that are too painful to continue.
- Don’t rush yourself. Losing someone to suicide is a tremendous blow, and healing must occur at its own pace. Don’t be hurried by anyone else’s expectations that it’s been “long enough.”
- Expect setbacks. Some days will be better than others, even years after the suicide and that’s OK. Healing doesn’t often happen in a straight line.
- Consider a support group for families affected by suicide. Sharing your story with others who are experiencing the same type of grief may help you find a sense of purpose or strength.
Possible Causes of Suicide
Why people commit suicide are multifaceted and complex, life circumstances that may immediately precede someone committing suicide including the time period of at least a week after discharge from a psychiatric hospital or a sudden change in how triggers (precipitants) for suicide are real or imagined losses, like the breakup of a romantic relationship, moving, loss (especially by suicide) of a friend, loss of freedom, or loss of other privileges.
Like I said previously firearms are by far the most common method, accounting for roughly 60% of suicide deaths per year. Older people are more likely to kill themselves using a firearm compared to younger people. Another suicide method used by some individuals is threatening police officers. This is called “suicide by cop”.
Risk Factors of Suicide
Non-Hispanic whites and Natives are the ones most at risk. The lowest rates are in Non-Hispanic blacks, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics. Former Eastern Bloc countries are currently the highest rate for suicide worldwide, while South America is the lowest. The majority of suicide completions take place during the spring. In most countries women attempt suicide more, but men complete it more often. The frequency of suicide for young adults has been increasing in recent years; elderly Caucasian males continue to have the highest suicide rate. Other risk factors for taking one’s life includes single marital status, unemployment, low income, mental illness, history of being physically or sexually abused, a personal history of suicidal thoughts, threats or behaviours, or family history of attempting suicide.
Some mental illnesses that can lead to the increase probability of suicide attempts and completion are as follows schizophrenia, substance abuse, eating disorders, and severe anxiety. Nine out of 10 people who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental-health problem, and up to three out of four individuals who take their own life had a physical illness when they committed suicide. Behaviours that tend to be linked with suicide attempts and completion include violence against others and self-mutilation.
Risk factors for adults who commit murder-suicide include male gender, older caregiver, and access to firearms, separation or divorce, depression and substance abuse. In children and adolescence, bullying and being bullied seem to be associated with an increased risk of suicidal behaviours.
Generally the absence of mental illness and substance abuse, as well as the presence of a strong social support system, decrease the likelihood that a person will kill themselves. Having children who are younger than 18 years of age also tends to be protective factor against mothers committing suicide.
Immediate assistance is available for people who are overwhelmed by pain and loneliness and need somebody to talk to. When a person is in distress, telephone counselling, crisis lines, and suicide hotlines offer a no-pressure context in which to talk to a caring and anonymous counsellor. Telephone hotlines are also useful if you are worried about a friend who is suicidal and want to know what you should do in a particular situation.
Local services are listed in city or regional phone books. You can also call directory assistance or 2-1-1 in some areas for community service agencies. If there is a problem getting through to the phone service, don’t give up; either call again or phone a different service. Help is often very close at hand, and can give a suicidal person the extra time they need to reconsider their options and circumstances.
If you are urgently concerned that somebody is in a suicidal state, try to get them to the emergency ward of a hospital. Medical professionals can most effectively deal with suicidal tendencies and ensure that people gets the care required to stay alive.
Individuals who have hit an emotional rock bottom often cannot see how to pull themselves back up. Reaching out and finding support – either among friends and family or in religious or social institutions – can provide people with some relief and new hope in their lives.
When suicidal thoughts are brought on by an immediate interpersonal life event, then reliving this event or talking with a close friend or family member may resolve the crisis.
Individuals considering suicide should have a professional evaluation by a family physician or mental health professional to consider any of the following treatments:
- ongoing psychological counselling (e.g., psychotherapy, marital therapy)
- medical intervention (e.g., more aggressive treatment of a pain syndrome)
- psychiatric treatment (e.g., treatment of a mood disorder, substance abuse, or schizophrenia)
- 1-800-273-TALK (8255) (Free 24/7 confidential suicide helpline for if you know someone who is suicidal, or have suicidal thoughts
Here are several ways to find assistance: ( according to Centre for Suicide Prevention http://www.suicideinfo.ca/csp/go.aspx?tabid=40)
Check your phone directory for the listing of your local crisis centre.
Access the list of Canadian and American crisis centres from this web-page.
- On-line counselling is available at the following addresses and sites:
- http://www.befrienders.org/ – A 24-Hour confidential e-mail service by the Samaritans)
- http://www.kidshelpphone.ca – A service for young people – also addresses issues other than suicide.
- National Crisis Helpline – for use in locating the nearest crisis service in the United States. Phone Toll Free 1-800-999-9999
- http://www.metanoia.org/suicide – Contains conversations and writings for suicidal persons to read. If you’re feeling at all suicidal, be sure to read this page before you take any action. It might just save your life.
- San Francisco Suicide Prevention (SFSP) – Services are provided 24 hours a day by over 250 trained volunteers. Basic information on suicide (warning signs, advice, statistics and more) is also featured.
- Crisis Support Services of Alameda County, California Services provided include 24-Hour Telephone Counseling, Grief Counseling, Stress Counseling, Community Education Program, Seniors Program.
- Boys Town National Crisis Line – 24 hours a day, every day: the only national crisis line that children and parents can call with any problem, any time. The Hotline is staffed by caring professionals. Phone toll free 1-800-448-3000, or for TDD call 800-448-1833.
- You have made the right choice to look for help. We hope you will contact someone right away.
On the following pages I have two testimonies from friends who were at one point suicidal. They have been through a lot and wanted to share their stories to show that you are not alone!
Well I was in middle school when I said I wanted to kill myself. All through school I was bullied and teased and made fun of because I was ugly. They would call me a teachers pet and stuff like that. So one day at school I was feeling sad because my sister moved away and we were so close. This kid kept picking on me and I just couldn’t take it, so I told someone that I wanted to throw myself out the window. They told the teacher and I had to go to the schools therapist. I was so scared and didn’t want to go. I told them I was just joking, but deep down that’s how I felt. So I went and they called my parents. My mom was so furious with me that when we got home she just didn’t want to talk to me. I lost her trust for a really long time. Then I had to go to a therapist for two months. Now that was scary. I was always crying when I went, but it was ok. The therapist would play games with me and talk to me. It was nice. So after that I started getting better and those thoughts left. Then when I got older after high school I started working. Within the first year of work things were so stressful. My grandmother who may R.I.P. was living with us at the time and she was very sick. So between her always complaining and working a lot and losing sleep I couldn’t take it. I got depressed and started cutting myself. I really don’t know why I did, but in a way it helped. I did it for a while but then stopped. Another thing is that DCF had to get involved. They had gotten involved because of me wanting to commit suicide. But one story that I will share is this. It was thanksgiving and we weren’t doing anything, and I had told my mom I was going to visit my sister because it was during school vacation. She said no but I kept insisting. Then she grabbed me and threw me against the couch and I hit my face against the arm of the couch and had a bruise on my face. Then she allowed me to visit my sister. When they saw the bruise they called DCF. When I got back and went to school I got called to the principal’s office and DCF was there. When I got home my mom packed up my stuff and kicked me out, and I ended up living with my sister for a while. A social worker then kept coming to check on me. After two months I went back to my mom’s house and things got a little better. I was 14 or 15 at this point. So what I did to seek help was talking to my friends at church and getting their support and having them pray for me. That really did work. I haven’t thought about suicide in a while. I mean lately I thought about because of what I went through when I was younger and the memories of being molested was getting unbearable but then I think back at how many lives i can touch if I stick it out and share my life with them, and hopefully they will overcome their own struggles. I hope this helps. It could have been worse you know but it wasn’t.
When I was 13-14 I fell into a dark and deep depression. My father that abused my whole family was trying to wedge his way back into our life, and my “father” aka my ex step father’s alcoholism and anger was at its peak. On top of that my disease was acting up at its worse. I suffer from physical illnesses. With yelling and haunting memories filling my everyday life I tried coping with it with a razor. I also took more of my depression medications than I was supposed to. I would cut my arms and legs while in the shower, and when asked about cuts I would say I slipped. A couple of times I even cut my breast so it wouldn’t be seen. Sometimes when dealing with bullies at school I would go as far as taking the metal spiral and cut myself under my desk. One day after my dad had thrown my sister into a counter top I locket myself in my dark closet and put the razor on my left wrist. It was pressed into the skin, and I realized that though it’s hard I have too much to live for. How could I leave my family and friends like that; leave them wondering. I had been watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU for short) for a couple months and because of that show and what my mom had gone through I realized that people go through worse things every day. I could get through this. No matter what was going on I should be grateful for I have, and I still live by that today. It is hard sometimes not to go back there, and have cut myself a couple times since then. Now I appreciate life. It’s too much to just give away. Once you do it, it is final. You made your final act taking you away from everyone you love, and everyone that loved and tried to help you. You have to grasp to any open hand when you are that depressed. Even though you may not want to, and think they don’t really care, they do. I chose to help people by my story and not let it control my life. I hope this helps those that are reading it. There is my story.