It's not a pleasant word. And it's not a topic often brought out in the light of day. In fact, it usually surfaces only if a celebrity does it or if the incident occurs in public, as happened here in Norwalk recently. But the topic should not be reserved for these occasions.
Suicide is the eight-leading cause of death for U.S. men, and the third-leading cause of death for all people ages 15 to 24. Suicide is more dangerous to society than drunk driving. More than 30,000 people committed suicide in 2001, and another 130,000 were hospitalized following suicide attempts in 2002, according to the center for disease control (CDC). In comparison, about 17,000 people were killed as a result of drunk driving in 2001, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
But, while many interest groups have rightly spent a great deal of time and money to raise awareness about the dangers of driving drunk, many people have no idea how prevalent suicide is. Part of the reason is those at risk must deal with the stigma attached to depression and mental health disorders. The CDC warns that many people in need of help neither willingly seek it nor talk openly about their suicidal thoughts, for fear of what others will think.
If you think someone close to you might be suicidal, it is important to understand the warning signs, which include:
Talking about suicide
Withdrawing from social contact
Wide mood swings
Preoccupation with death
Changes in routine, including reduced appetite
Self-destructive behavior, such as substance abuse
Giving away possessions
Saying good-bye to people as if they will not see them again
Once you have identified that someone is thinking about suicide, it is crucial that they are offered family and community support in addition to professional help.
If someone you care about is exhibiting any of the aforementioned warning signs, be willing to talk with them openly and, most importantly, without judgment. Having an outlet and a path to recovery could offer hope to someone in despair.