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Suicide Happens. Help Stop It.

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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

America’s Suicidal Personality Disorder(s)

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“Your son and daughter are going to die in a car crash!” The short, red-faced man is poking his finger at me and standing way too close for comfort. This might feel like super-bad mojo if I had kids. It still feels a little crazy, as so many things do these days.

I had just left the grocery store and made a friendly comment to an older fellow on the sidewalk. “I love your overalls – you don’t see enough of them anymore.” He smiled, his chubby cheeks rounding. “Very practical,” he said.

From behind me, a voice said, “Pretty soon we’re all going to be dressed the same.”

“Excuse me?” I turned to see Short-Angry man hurrying to catch up to me.

“Yeah, in drab, gray jumpsuits like the Russians when the Communists took over.”

(I think he was talking about the Chinese, but hey, what’s the difference?)

I hope Obama still lets us wear heels!

“Oh,” I said, now understanding what I was dealing with. “I don’t see any indication of that. Now excuse me while I go get in my car over here with the Obama sticker.”

Short-Angry followed me to my car. “You know, he wants cars to get 50 miles-to-the-gallon!”

“Yeah, wouldn’t that be awesome?” I said. “We would get a lot more gas for our money.” I didn’t mention climate change or air pollution, not wanting to have to physically defend myself.

This is when he cursed my non-existent children. “Your son and daughter are going to die in a car crash! The cars will be made out of all light shit, and we’re all going to die!” This might not have been his words exactly, but I caught the gist and exclamation points as I closed and locked my car door.

I might have just chalked this up to some sort of mental imbalance, impulse control, whatever, except that I’ve been hearing and seeing so much of it lately.

It seems America has a raging personality disorder.

 

 

Diagnosing the Patient

I used to think it was pure Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Some of the characteristics used to identify NPD are vanity, conceit, extreme self-centeredness, arrogance, bravado, entitlement, grandiosity, and self-righteousness. In the extreme, this can result in exploitation of others, manipulation, isolation, and rage.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my country, but I do see signs of this disorder from time to time. It can be more or less apparent depending on who is president, but there’s a poisonous streak of it in our DNA, I think.

Poisonous Pride

Lately, I’ve come to believe that our diagnosis is more complicated. There’s a touch of Borderline Personality Disorder, surely. Swinging from one extreme to the other every election cycle, blaming others for our ills, and believing that our version of reality is the only possibility and anyone who doesn’t agree is evil or delusional. And worthy of a few drone attacks, or maybe going to Hell.

These days, there is a strong streak of Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as multiple personalities. Red state, blue state. The media feeds this – journalists are taught to look for conflict, not harmony. “The People,” though, are sick of it — even as we often engage in it ourselves. My finger is pointed at myself, here.

Suicidal Nation – Guns & Climate

Sadly, this combination of chronic disorders becomes seriously acute when gun control or climate change gets mentioned. This has literal life and death consequences.  We can’t get our fingers out of our ears and stop yelling, “Nyah, nyah” at each other long enough to stop our own suicide.

I don’t believe in climate change. What school shootings?

I’ve ranted on climate change in this space before. Today’s irrational, reality-denying, suicidal issue is gun control.

Setting aside the National Rifle Association going completely over the sanity cliff and the conspiracy theorists who say that Sandy Hook was a hoax, here is an authentic recent offering from a “Friend” of mine on Facebook:

“I’m talking about our government dictating what our rights are, taking them from us when the constitution guarantees them for us. Spouting it’s for our own good. Ok. Then… Outlaw cigarettes. They are cancer causing and addictive (and I don’t smoke so others shouldn’t either) No reason for them. Outlaw alcohol. This would eliminate drunk driving and related health issues (or did they try that already). Outlaw fast food. Causes obesity and no reason go it [sic] (I don’t eat it so I don’t care about it). Outlaw muscle cars and sports cars. They are designed to go faster then the national speed limit and have no place on the road. And since I don’t own a corvette or any other car like that then others shouldn’t either. Outlaw them all !!! I want the government to step in and regulate our lives, tell us where to go, what to eat, control what TV we watch and take that and the Internet also (yes, other countries control all of that). There is a huge band wagon out there which has spun as politically correct which everybody is jumping on… You better hope your [sic] right, and I want to see how every body [sic] who does jump on it reacts when the government we have strips you all of something you believe in… Let’s take religion. If the government feels like it wants to control how we pray, or if we can, or to who! How would you feel. It’s in the construction [constitution], but hey, that can be changed apparently. And Obama is stating he can step over the congress to do so with out giving them a say in the matter. Don’t think that could happen? It’s happening right now on another issue that you don’t care about. Wait till it happens to one you do. It may be to [sic] late by then…”                                                               

How is that anything but certifiable paranoia? He forgot the part about all of us dressed in “drab, gray jumpsuits;” otherwise, he’s done a good job of channeling the red state psyche. (In southern Virginia the other day, I saw an “O’Vomit” bumpersticker. Har, har, har.)

I don’t believe my response to his rant was paranoid, but I will own up to being passive-aggressive. For my “gun-toting friends,” I posted this:

Another friend pointed out that “gun-toting” might not have been the most constructive term. I meant it as tongue-in-cheek, similar to the way they call me a “tree hugger,” but OK, I’ll try to behave.

Anyway, I’m willing to lay down my sarcastic, passive-aggressive behavior and take my fingers out of my ears if the people in the red states would be willing to admit that maybe, just maybe,

WE SHOULD NOT HAVE FREAKIN’ MACHINE GUNS IN OUR NEIGHBORHOODS!!!

That’s my humble opinion. What’s yours?

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