Suicide is the number one killer of Americans in their prime. Too many of our young and our veterans fall victim to this preventable cause of death. Its toll can be reduced. We can all help.
The frequency of suicides live-streamed across the country in the span of less than a month is troubling to a top mental health professional — who says the trend could be a potential trigger for others to broadcast their deaths. Dr. Richard McKeon — head of the suicide prevention unit of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services — is just one of the nation’s leading mental health professionals who have noticed an uptick in the disturbing videos. As gruesome and troubling as this trend is, the greater reality behind suicides is truly alarming and is the reason why I have decided to shed some light on the matter and provide some tips on how we can help others or ourselves. who are contemplating suicide.
Suicide robs the world of far too many people. It's the biggest killer of people in their prime and at least tenth overall for the general population. Bigger than auto accidents and opioid overdoses, the worldwide suicide epidemic rivals global warfare in mortality and morbidity. The origins of suicide are complicated and not well understood. No simple cause and effect can be expected. The work of psychologist Thomas Joiner suggests a combination of three factors underlie most suicides. He finds loneliness to be a critical contributor. Other researchers have labeled isolation and loneliness as deadly factors.
Combine aloneness with a feeling of uselessness and you reduce the victim's will to live. Change is stress. Unpleasant events in life—like divorce or job loss—thrust many people into such situations. Their social and professional networks evaporate. Returning veterans run into similar problems adjusting to civilian life. Most people weather the depression and survive. A few lose their fear of death and are tempted to end their hopelessness.
Those contemplating injuring or killing themselves will find ample opportunity to do so. Toxic household and industrial chemicals are readily available. Cliffs, bridges, and tall buildings are everywhere. Hanging yourself is a cliché. Guns are everywhere. Three out of every four gun deaths are self-inflicted. Take guns away, and they turn to the next deadliest weapon in their arsenal—their car. How many single car-accident fatalities are suicides? How many ninety-mile-per-hour wrong way drivers are suicidal?
This haunting text message exchange was posted by Nakia Venant, who hanged herself at a Miami Gardens foster home while live-streaming on Facebook.
We can all help reduce the level of self-inflicted injury and death. People intent on injuring themselves need professional help. You and I can administer the first aid that will get them there alive. Watch for changes in friends' behavior. Withdrawal can be self-imposed isolation. Depression, rage, and ranting may signal a crisis. Be especially careful of talk about suicide. It's a cry for help—not a joke. When in doubt:
Don't walk away from them.
Remove drugs and alcohol from the scene.
Remove guns, knives, and other potential means of suicide.
Get your friend immediate medical attention.
You'll be glad you did.
If you're contemplating suicide, administer the antidote right away:
Phone a friend.
Call the suicide hotline 1-(800) 273-TALK.
Get medical attention.
Join a local organization and volunteer your time to help someone less fortunate than you. We will be glad that you did.