I guess by now most of you have heard the sad news from “Hollywood Hills.” Heath Ledger, an Australian actor whose rise to fame had just begun, died this past week at age 28. And although it’s not been ruled as a suicide, all evidence seems to be pointing in that direction––at least that’s what the media wants us to believe.
Gossip and speculation escalate almost as if we wish to find sorrow and misery behind the lives of the rich and famous. And yet at the back of it all is a family like yours and mine simply grieving the loss of their loved one. My deepest sympathy goes out to the family (especially the parents).
Suicide is never a pleasant topic. I think most of us would agree that suicide attempts or deaths are very upsetting to anyone. It’s sad to think that some people think death is the only answer to their troubles in life. But let me assure you, there is always another solution.
Did you know that over 30,000 people in the United States die by suicide every year? It’s currently the 11th leading cause of death in the United States. It’s estimated that approximately 80 Americans take their own life every day, and 1,500 more attempt to do so.
And among the youth suicide is the fifth leading cause of death among those 5-14 years old. It’s the third leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old. The suicide rate has doubled in the last two decades among young people aged 10-14 years.
About 60 percent of elderly patients who take their own lives see their primary care physician within a few months of their death.
Over 60 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression.
Alcoholism is a factor in about 30 percent of all completed suicides.
Firearms are used in more suicides than homicides. Death by firearms is the fastest- growing method of suicide, and it accounts for 60 percent of all suicides.
It seems the statistics are rather grim. You may be reading this wondering what you could or would do if you knew someone was contemplating suicide.
I think the main thing to remember is that suicide can be prevented. By becoming more aware of the warning signs of suicide, we can help protect the ones we love from taking their own lives. Some of those warning signs are:
- Observable signs of serious depression:
Unrelenting low mood
Anxiety, psychic pain and inner tension
- Increased alcohol and/or other drug use
- Recent impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks
- Threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die
- Making a plan:
Giving away prized possessions
Sudden or impulsive purchase of a firearm
Obtaining other means of killing oneself such as poisons or medications
- Unexpected rage or anger
Recognizing the warning signs of suicide is only the beginning. You must act on them. So, what do you do?
Take It Seriously
Be Willing to Listen
- Take the initiative to ask what is troubling them and persist to overcome any reluctance to talk about it.
- If professional help is indicated, the person you care about is more apt to follow such a recommendation if you have listened to him or her.
- If your friend or loved one is depressed, don’t be afraid to ask whether he or she is considering suicide, or even if they have a particular plan or method in mind.
- Do not attempt to argue anyone out of suicide. Rather, let the person know you care and understand, that he or she is not alone, that suicidal feelings are temporary, that depression can be treated and that problems can be solved. Avoid the temptation to say, "You have so much to live for," or "Your suicide will hurt your family."
Seek Professional Help
In an Acute Crisis
- In an acute crisis, take your friend or loved one to an emergency room or walk-in clinic at a psychiatric hospital.
- Do not leave them alone until help is available.
- Remove from the vicinity any firearms, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
- Hospitalization may be indicated and may be necessary at least until the crisis abates.
- If a psychiatric facility is unavailable, go to your nearest hospital or clinic.
- If the above options are unavailable, call your local emergency number or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Follow-up on Treatment
Together we can help each other face life. The depths of despair shouldn’t lead us or the people we love to commit suicide. Instead, with loving support we should uplift our “brothers” and “sisters” to find hope for tomorrow.
All the quotes and information found in this article were taken from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Please visit their website at www.afsp.org to learn more about suicide prevention.