September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. Two years ago this month I had to do a bit of parenting I never thought I would ever have to do. I had to answer a text from one of my sons at college and on a church retreat regarding a news story he wanted to know about, more specifically if I had heard or seen on television. Was there a report of a body found in an area lake? I answered yes and then asked why. Two days later I was hugging him as he came home for the funeral of one of his closest friends who had committed suicide.
Every year more than 800 000 people take their own life and there are many more people who attempt suicide. Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities and entire countries and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind. Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds globally in 2012.
Let me repeat that number – eight hundred thousand. For every person who commits suicide there are many more who attempt it and even more who have thought about it. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among those ages fifteen to twenty-nine years of age. While seventy-five per cent of all suicides occur in love and middle-income countries, suicide is a problem that touches all socioeconomic levels. The ingestion of pesticide, hanging, and firearms are some of the most common methods of suicide worldwide.
Suicide is a serious public health problem, one that is completely preventable. Today and tomorrow I will focus on this health problem and hope you will take five minutes to connect and show care to someone in your midst. Trust me – Someone is counting on you and you might just be a life-saver to that person.
Everyone is at risk for suicide. The link between suicide and mental health disorders, particularly depression and substance abuse such as alcohol is well-known, especially in high income nations, many suicides are impulsive acts. They occur in a moment of crisis and exemplify a breakdown in the ability to cope with the stresses of life. Financial problems, relationship breakups or chronic pain and illness are often the leading stressors that result in suicide.
There are some events associated with suicidal behavior, events such as conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, or loss of a loved one. Suicide rates are also high among those groups often bullied or targets which are seen as being outside the mainstream. These vulnerable groups experiencing discrimination include refugees, migrant workers and their families, indigenous people, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/intersex (LGBTI) people, and prisoners. The strongest indicator and risk factor for suicide is a previous attempt.
Someone you know has thought about suicide, possibly even yourself. Each and every life is too precious for us not to take five minutes out of our busy day to connect with someone, everyone, and show them we care. I will post more tomorrow on how you can be a superhero and save the life of someone who know and care about. For today, please know that suicide is not an answer and that we do care. You are a valuable member of mankind. We need you, not just your memory. Your life has meaning and purpose.