I wrote the bulk of this article in 2015 after the tragic passing of a 43 year old friend, a local man that many of you knew, a man who I babysat as a toddler, a soldier, and finally- a man still very much missed today. While many of my essays are largely my opinions on various topics this essay has been researched for accuracy as there is no room for error with this topic. Most sources are listed at the conclusion of this piece.
I am revisiting the topic after yet another suicide has occurred. This one has the firearms community reeling as Bob Owens, founder and editor of Bearing Arms has apparently taken his life with a firearm at 46 years old. He leaves behind a wife and two kids. Bob was a staunch advocate for the Second Amendment so we can expect to hear both positive comments about Bob as we remember his tireless advocacy for our rights and cold heartless comments from opposing sides of the gun debate. Sadly, the depths of insensitivity I’ve observed online is staggering.
The medical/mental health community cannot not reach consensus on exactly what drives suicide. Depression and low levels of the brain chemical serotonin are likely players in the downward spiral that claims lives this way.
Everyone goes through rough stretches now and then and at some time most people have questioned their reasons for living. I have and I trust you have as well. Thankfully, these are usually fleeting thoughts and we regain our equilibrium and life goes on. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Suicide is not talked about often enough so few recognize the warning signs if there were any, until after the tragedy. For that reason I wanted to address the topic head on.
While the professionals who deal with this issue cannot pinpoint its exact cause let’s at least for the benefit of the survivors determine what suicide is not: Suicide is not a weakness. It is not selfish. It is not a cowardly way out. It is a mental health crisis and mental illness. It’s a disease, a pernicious and pervasive disease whose victims; caught in the downward spiral are often powerless to pull themselves from it. At best it is misunderstood and too often ignored. At worst it is attacked. No one would tell someone suffering from another disease such as cancer or heart disease to “cheer-up, get over it, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, it’s not that bad, you have so much to live for, etc.” They would encourage them to get the professional help they deserve and need. This is no different. Anyone considering suicide needs professional intervention! The number for the National Suicide Hotline is in the photo header and near the bottom of this article. I’ll add it a third time: 1-800-273- 8255
The victims of suicide doesn’t deserve our anger and skepticism. They deserve compassion. Their family deserves compassion.
Suicide at a glance:
- Suicide rates among active military and veterans average 23 per day!
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. (CDC)(1)
- A suicide occurs in the US every 13 minutes. (CDC)
- 38,000 lives are lost to suicide annually, impacting nearly a quarter million people. (CDC)
- Depression affects 20-25% of Americans 18+ in the US each year. (CDC)
- Only half the people experiencing depression are treated for it. (NAMI)(2)
- Suicide among males is 4x’s higher than females, representing 79% of suicides. (CDC)
- Firearms account for 51% of male suicides. (We have an obligation to secure our firearms)
- Females are more likely than males to have suicidal thoughts (CDC)
- Females experience depression at twice the rate of males (SMH) (3)
- Females attempt suicide 3xs more often than males. (CDC)
- Poisoning is the most common method of suicide for females. (CDC)
- 80-90% of adolescents seeks treatment for depression and are treated successfully using therapy and/or medication. (TADS) (4)
Depression is a major contributing factor in suicides:
Research has consistently shown a strong link between suicide and depression, with 90% of the people who die by suicide having an existing mental illness or substance abuse problem at the time of their death. (5)
Signs of depression in adults:
- Persistent sad or “empty” mood.
- Feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, pessimistic and/or guilty.
- Substance abuse.
- Fatigue or loss of interest in ordinary activities, including sex.
- Disturbances in eating and sleeping patterns.
- Irritability, increased crying, anxiety or panic attacks.
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions.
- Thoughts of suicide; suicide plans or attempts.
- Persistent physical symptoms or pains that do not respond to treatment.
Warning Signs of Suicide: Please note that some will exhibit many of these signs, others none. Sadly, few wave a white flag of surrender prior to taking their lives.
- Ideation (thinking about suicide)
- Substance use or abuse (increased or change in substance)
- Purposelessness (no sense of purpose or belonging)
- Trapped (feeling like there is no way out)
- Hopelessness (there is nothing to live for, no hope or optimism)
- Withdrawal (from family, friends, work, school, activities, hobbies)
- Anxiety (restlessness, irritability)
- Recklessness (high risk-taking behavior)
- Mood disturbance (dramatic change in mood)
- Talking about suicide.
- Statements about hopelessness, helplessness, or worthlessness.
- Preoccupation with death.
- Suddenly happier, calmer.*
- Loss of interest in things one cares about.
- Visiting or calling people one cares about.
- Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order.
- Giving things away, such as prized possessions.
*Sometimes someone who has been struggling will seem happier and calmer, and those around them interpret that to indicate the sufferer is getting better. Quite often the opposite is true and the soon-to-be victim seems happier as the decision to commit has been made and they believe their struggle will be over soon.
A suicidal person urgently needs to see a doctor or mental health professional.
This information is not meant to answer all questions or fully explain suicide. My goal is to increase awareness in the hope that someone will benefit. The internet is full of information about suicide. Much of this information came from Save.org.
NATIONAL SUICIDE HOTLINE
Please feel free to share this with anyone who might benefit.
1.) Center for Disease Control
2.) National Alliance on Mental Illness
3.) Society and Mental Health
4.) Treatment for Adolescents With Depression Study
This article was originally posted on facebook.com and written by Tony Yeley