Death is an inevitable part of living, and most humans struggle to remain alive for as long as possible. But, in the past century suicide has been romanticized as being a hero’s way to leave life, with Hollywood painting it as something that someone does as an act of love for his or her family.
However, the truth is much grimmer. There is nothing romantic about dying prematurely by your own hand because you have become overwhelmed and lost hope. Too many families are devastated every year, leaving them broken and wondering what they could have done to save the ones they loved.
In fact, suicide has become one of the most significant national tragedies to affect the United States in recent times, as too many of its citizens choose to take their own life.
The Sobering Statistics
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, is the United States leading public health watchdog that attempts to protect citizens of the U.S by controlling and preventing disease, injury, and disability. Recently a report was released from this national institute outlined some very sobering facts.
● The rate of death by suicide in the United States has risen 30% since 1999.
● In 2015, over 44,000 people, one every twelve minutes, lost their lives to suicide.
● In 2016, 45,000 people lost their lives up by 1% from the previous year.
● In some states, such as Wyoming and Utah, the suicide rate rose from 1999 by 38-58%
For even more shocking news, one need only look up the national statistics of suicide by age and causal ranking. Suicide has become the number two cause of death in ages ranging from 10-34 years, ranking right behind accidents. Death by suicide is also the number four cause of death in ages ranging from 35-54 years, ranking just ahead of cancer.
A long-held illusion is that the majority of those who take their own lives have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. The facts are much more troubling. Fifty-four percent of those who die by suicide have not been diagnosed with any type of mental health condition before the time of their deaths. In fact, no one factor makes a person give up on life, as it is usually a combination of many problems the person is facing. Some of these include, but by no means are limited to, are relationship problems, money problems, legal problems or substance abuse.
Another myth people believe is that young women choose suicide more than any other demographic. However, the truth is more sinister. Men die by suicide almost four times more often than women, and 7 of 10 deaths are completed by white middle-aged males using firearms. White males are followed closely by American Indians and people living on the Pacific islands.
There is also a huge difference between rural and city communities in the suicide rates. Death by suicide occurs a staggering 35% more often in rural areas than in cities.
The Possible Causes of Choosing Suicide
There are as many reasons people may choose to die by suicide as there are human beings on the planet. However, some of the most common causes are listed below:
● A family member has died by suicide
● A history of a traumatic childhood
● A recent loss, such as a job or the end of a relationship
● A recent severe trauma, such as rape
● Being prone to impulsivity
● Failure of a relationship
● Death of a loved one
● Loss of a job
● Economic hardship
While the list goes on and on, most of these possible causes relate to one crucial factor, the person who chooses to die by suicide feels devalued and demoralized.
There are warning signs that everyone in the country need recognize to help them see that someone they know is in danger. There are common warning signs that may help you realize that an adult you love is contemplating ending their life by suicide. It is vital to remember that these are only the most common warning signs.
● Expressions of feeling hopeless
● Feelings of desperation
● Panic Attacks
● Isolating from friends and family
● Giving away belongings
● Feelings of being a burden
If you think you see these signs, talk to that person about what you are seeing. Do not hesitate because it may make that person upset or angry. If you are right, then you are saving a life. If you are wrong, then at least they know for sure that you care for them.
A Difficult to Accept Statistic
As hard as it is to contemplate children taking their own lives, it does happen. The CDC reported that from 1999 to 2015, over 1,300 children ages 5 to 12 took their own lives. While some of the signs are the same as in adults, there are some that are significantly different. Again, this is only a list of the those considered to be the most common.
● Expressing thoughts of wanting to die
● Substance Abuse
● Expressing feeling they have no purpose
● Expressing they feel trapped
● Withdrawal from family and friends
● Unusual mood changes
If you see these warning signs, do not be afraid to act. Children are impulsive and do not understand that death is permanent. If you wait, your child or a child you know can lose their life. Get help immediately. Even if you are wrong, it is always better to err on the side of caution than to mourn later.
Open a Dialogue to Save a Life
It is a myth that talking to someone about suicide will put it into their head or help them to choose suicide to end their pain. Research shows that 50-75% of people who are suicidal choose to talk about their feelings and their plans before they act. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that the first line of defense against losing your friend or loved one is to talk about what you have observed.
Talking about suicide opens a dialogue between yourself and your loved one that can save their lives by allowing them to not only vent their feelings but to understand that someone genuinely cares about them.
Love and Understanding Must Come First
It is essential to not be judgmental. People who are suicidal are already self-condemning and need a voice telling them they are loved, respected and understood.
Showing compassion and empathy can help suicidal individuals come to terms with their emotions. While speaking to someone who is suicidal is vital, it is not up to family or friends to feel responsible for talking them out of dying. Instead, talking about suicide is to help the person desire and find help so that they can receive treatment.
No matter what the age of the person who has stated they want to die, or how well they look, do not leave that person alone. Stay with them while either they or you make the call to get them help. Do not rely on your judgment as to the seriousness of the threat they pose to themselves. Every threat of self-harm should be taken seriously. Call 911 or one of the hotlines listed at the bottom of this article right away.
How Local Governments Can Change the Statistics
The Centers for Disease Control has outlined some areas where local governments can aid in lowering the horrendous suicide rates it recognizes in the United States. Some of the many things they suggested are to identify and support people at risk for suicide. These folks include those who are homeless and people who are unemployed. Also, teaching coping and problem-solving skills to people starting in grade school and continuing into adulthood, and bringing people together in community events so that people feel connected and needed. They also suggest requiring screening for everyone for suicidal ideation by physicians and law enforcement officers.
What You Can Do
The number one way to end a tragedy is to acknowledge its existence. Hiding our heads in the sand when forced to look at the ugly statistics listed above will not make the problem go away. It’s only by working together that the people of the United States can end the needless deaths that occur every day.
No demographic group in the United States isn’t touched by death by suicide. No matter the color of your skin, your sexual orientation, your age or your education level, suicide touches everyone.
By allowing yourself to think that your family is immune from suicide, you are saying you deny you, and those you love are human. All humanity is prone to becoming overwhelmed and exhausted, which means we are all likely to think about dying by our own hand. Do not make the mistake of saying to yourself, “It will never happen to me” because it can.
Discussing suicide is tough, but so the tremendous guilt, remorse, and mourning that follow the death of someone by suicide. Keeping the lines of communication open between yourself and those you love and care for is vital to ending the tragedy that is suicide. While the statistics are staggering, so too are the number of ways communities can band together to stop the needless isolation of those who need us most. By pulling together for the common good, there is hope that the United States can pull itself out of the increasing rates of suicide it has observed in the past decade.
If you or someone you know is experiencing the dark times of having the desire to self-harm, please, get help. Don’t wait. Act now.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Available 24/7 in English and Spanish.
Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline. Available 24/7
Talk: 1-800-273-8525 Press 1
Suicide Prevention Hotline for LGBTQ Citizens, via the Trevor Project
Text: the word “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200 Available Tuesday through Friday 4 pm to 8 pm ET.