Suicide is not selfish, it’s a symptom

I recently wrote a new edition of my column for the newspaper I work for. It was on suicide prevention and treatment. The recent high-profile suicides of celebrities Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade has brought it back the public’s eye. Suicide should not just be made aware of when a celebrity dies from it. According to recent figures from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, it is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. This amounts to nearly 45,000 Americans dying from it each year. Suicide is now being considered a health epidemic, as it seeing steady increases in recent years. I just have been asking myself what perhaps many of you have been asking, “why?”

It relates to the last blog on loneliness I wrote on. I don’t believe it is mere coincidence that these two are both seeing increases together. Suicide can often result from people struggling with feelings of hopelessness, deep depression and profound loneliness. In turn, the death of a loved one from suicide can leave one feeling confused, angry, guilty or lonely as they mourn their absence. These two tragedies are intertwined.

What can we do about it? Thankfully, there is a lot we can do. it starts with doing away with the destructive stigma that suicide is a selfish act by individuals that aren’t strong enough to “just deal with it” and who don’t care about the pain they put on others. That could not be further from the truth. People who kill themselves think they are actually benefiting their loved ones by removing themselves. They see themselves as a burden on others and suicide is a way to remove that burden. Other mental health challenges such as substance abuse, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety disorders also are common with those who are struggling with the thought of suicide.

These people need an empathetic, understanding ear to genuinely listen to their concerns, doubts and fears without having stigma or unwarranted opinion thrown at them. Keep connected with your family and friends, especially those who you know who have or might be struggling with the challenges listed. Don’t be afraid to ask sincerely how someone is doing and be prepared to genuinely listen and not just desire the typical “Oh, I’m fine.” Dig deeper. Ask questions. Be present and invested in their well-being. You might just save a life.

You can find more information on preventing and treating suicide at http://www.//afsp.org. If you are having thoughts of suicide or know someone who might be, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Above all, remember life is precious and worth fighting to save. Jesus sure did.

“Life is precious. Life is sacred. And it ought so to be observed.”

~ Gordon B. Hinckley

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