There are a lot of ways to kill yourself. Of course there are the socially acceptable ways, like overwork and stress and pickling your liver.

But I’m talking about more dramatic departures. One friend of mine drove his van full speed into a brick wall – the weird paint pattern that covered the patched hole was visible for decades until they tore the building down.

Another guy lay down on the railroad tracks. He was drunk. High school.

A friend’s teenage son shot himself. He was on anti-depressants at the time.

Another friend of mine says that every day his niece doesn’t kill herself is a good day.

A young woman I used to teach in Sunday school hung herself in August 2011.  Heather was a beautiful, spunky, talented angel. You never would have guessed.

Heather getting some love from her twin cousins

Heather getting some love from her twin high school buddies

These aren’t famous sportswriters creating detailed farewell blogs about their suicides. They are just regular people who couldn’t handle life. They didn’t get the help they needed for whatever reason.

The Sad Statistics

Tomorrow is World Suicide Prevention Awareness Day, September 10. It’s a good day to educate yourself, because if you don’t already know someone who has taken their own life, the sad odds are that you will.

The World Health Organization says that suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the world, especially among young people. Worldwide, there is one suicide every forty seconds. The number of people who die by suicide every year exceeds the number of deaths from homicide and wars combined.

In the U.S., suicide is the second leading cause of death for people 25 to 34, and the third rated killer for ages 15 to 24. It’s not just the young — in 2010, an elderly person (65-85) committed suicide every 90 minutes. For the population as a whole, it’s the #10 killer. Nearly a million Americans try to kill themselves every year.

Warning Signs of Suicide

You’ve probably seen this list, but it’s worth taking a look at again – just in case. Warning signs vary, and they aren’t always obvious. Some people keep their struggles a secret, some verbalize them. But here are potential signs to watch for. A suicidal person may:

  • Talk about suicide, death and/or no reason to live.
  • Be preoccupied with death and dying.
  • Withdraw from friends and/or social activities.
  • Have a recent severe loss (esp. relationship) or threat of a significant loss.
  • Experience drastic changes in behavior.
  • Lose interest in hobbies, work, school, etc.
  • Prepare for death by making out a will (unexpectedly) and final arrangements.
  • Give away prized possessions.
  • Have attempted suicide before.
  • Take unnecessary risks; be reckless, and/or impulsive.
  • Lose interest in their personal appearance.
  • Increase their use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Express a sense of hopelessness.
  • Be faced with a situation of humiliation or failure.
  • Have a history of violence or hostility.
  • Have been unwilling to “connect” with potential helpers.
  • Start saying goodbye to people in a “final” kind of way.
  • Suddenly exhibit a strange sense of calm (the decision has been made).

What to Do if You are Worried about Someone

If you suspect someone is contemplating suicide, the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research recommends:

  •  Encourage the person to seek treatment. Ideally, the individual should consult a doctor or mental-health provider. But if they won’t, then suggest reaching out to a support group, crisis center or faith community. Or the person can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Help the person get assistance. For example, you can research treatment options, make phone calls, review insurance benefit information, or take the person to an appointment.
  •  Facilitate open communication. Be supportive and understanding. Listen attentively and avoid interrupting.
  •  Be respectful of the person’s feelings. Even though someone who’s suicidal isn’t thinking logically, the emotions are real. Not acknowledging how the person feels can curtail communication.
  •  Don’t be patronizing or judgmental. Instead of contending that “things could be worse” or “you have so much to live for,” ask questions such as, “What would make you feel better?” or “How can I help?”
  •  Never promise to keep someone’s suicidal feelings a secret. The reason is simple. If you think that the person’s life is in danger, you’ll have to get help.
  • Offer reassurance. Emphasize that, with appropriate treatment, he or she will feel better about life.
  •  Encourage the person to avoid alcohol and drugs. Using drugs or alcohol can lead to reckless behavior and increase depression.

If you think that someone is in danger of committing suicide or has actually made a suicide attempt:

  • Don’t leave the person alone.
  • Call 911.
  • Try to find out if he or she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or may have taken an overdose.
  •  If these options aren’t possible, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Say Something

Please don’t feel silly or self-conscious talking about this. If you’re worried, there is probably a reason. Better safe than sorry. Say something. Do something.

Here is a link to a great website about how to help someone you are concerned about. When someone in my family was suicidal a few years ago, I used many of these talking points almost verbatim. They gave me confidence, and he tells me that when I told him, “Whether you believe it right now or not, you WILL get through this, you WILL feel better,” it gave him the strength to make it through his worst depression.

,You might want to keep this number in your wallet. You never know when it might save a life: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Light a Candle

Please light a candle in a window at 8 p.m. tomorrow night. In support and solidarity, or in memory of someone you love.

I wish you peace.

Light a Candle at 8 PM on World Suicide Prevention Day e-cards or postcards in English

Please light a candle

Advertisements