I got the call from a family member of mine. The TV was on in the background and I was sure what I heard had been mangled in the signal through cyberspace. But, he repeated the news and I had heard him correctly.
A dear family friend of 30 years had committed suicide.
I nearly dropped the phone. I sobbed out the questions, but details were sparse. My family member had been out of touch with our friend for several weeks after a move to the opposite side of the country. Tragic specifics were slowly revealed over the next few weeks – from discovery of the body, to the last call that was made before the suicide.
Out of respect to the family, and other friends devastated by this loss, those specifics will not be revealed here.
Why did it happen? So many wonderful events had occurred during the 18 months beforehand. A bump or two, but our friend was resilient and had been rigorously challenged before and done well. When mention was made of a job loss, negative reactions from the circle of friends and family were non-existent because that was the nature of employment in that industry – five years at any position and then move on to the next within a month or two. Plans moved ahead to increase their real estate holdings, so lack of money was never an issue.
Nevertheless, depression hit and a downward spiral began. Psychological counseling, residential therapy, words of support and comfort, strategy sessions, midnight phone calls, tough love, and more, all played a part in the story of a life unwinding. Our friend would feel encouraged for a few hours and then be overtaken by those inner demons again.
In hindsight, we suspect that the move to the other coast was an act of isolation. The support system was here, not out there. Was our friend religious? No.
In the months since this tragedy, we have searched our memories of what led up to that day, how our lives intersected with our friend’s. There are hundreds of articles, studies, even novels that focus on the act and causes of suicide and not only the loss of the loved one, but the rippling effects on those left behind. Enough time has passed that we can remember the truly positive, self-less persona that left us all too soon.
There are no easy answers, no sure-fire cure for the prevention of suicides, but there are warning signs often revealed to the inner circle. Sadly, most of us are unaware of those signs, or discount them as not being indicators of anything serious.
From the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP):
“There’s no single cause for suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair.”
The majority of people can manage the challenges of life and move through those challenges, but there are signs that loved ones might look back on and recognize, even if not appearing to be serious beforehand. AFSP states: “Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.”
The common warning signs involve Talk, Behavior, and Mood:
A person may talk about:
- Feeling hopeless
- Being a burden to others
- Feeling trapped
- Unbearable pain
A person may have behaviors that may signal risk, perhaps related to a painful loss or change.
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Withdrawing from activities
- Isolating from family and friends
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
- Giving away prized possessions
People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:
- Loss of interest
According to the AFSP, research has found that risk factors can add to the possibility of suicide thoughts or actions. Risk factors can include:
- Mental health conditions
- Serious physical health conditions including pain
- Traumatic brain injury
- Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs
- Prolonged stress, such as harassment, bullying, relationship problems, or unemployment
- Stressful life events: divorce, financial crisis, life transitions or loss
- Previous suicide attempts
- Family history of suicide
The rate of suicide is highest in middle-age white men.
· In 2017, men died by suicide 3.54x more often than women.
· On average in 2017, there were 129 suicides per day.
· White males accounted for 69.67% of suicide deaths in 2017.
In 2017, 47,173 Americans died by suicide
Suicide, while now legal in the U.S., has a stigma attached to it. Some religions do not allow burial on church grounds and most insurance companies will not honor suicide claims on insurance policies involving the deceased. That most likely has led to under reporting of suicides.
Two groups that were a source of help and information in writing this article:
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention –
A Kerrian follower suggested this valuable link for information about teen suicides:
If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States.
May your heart be at peace, today and always.