- Posted by Neal O'Farrell
- On July 21, 2020
- 0 Comments
- DEPRESSION, mentalillness, SUICIDE
So let’s talk about suicide for a moment, shall we. Because if we don’t, there’s probably a good chance that you won’t have this discussion anywhere else. And that means you might lose an opportunity to save a life.
We lose another life to suicide every 12 minutes in America, around 1,000 each week, week after heartbreaking week. And the #1 cause is depression.
Depression is a merciless demon. I cried when Anthony Bourdain died. Suicide is the poison apple of depression. It’s constantly there, awake and asleep, and relentlessly tempting its victims with the promise of sweet relief, the only relief, the only way out. And it has such power, such a draw, there’s no one we’re not willing to hurt just to grab at it.
And I heard the word selfish a lot after Bourdain passed. How dare he bequeath such sorrow to others just to finally escape his demon? There is a selfishness. Those of us who suffer from depression often get angry at those who succumb, escape, because it makes it so much harder and yet easier for the rest of us. His choice just moved the rest of us up the line.
Every time depression pulls another one in, it pulls the rest of us closer. Not to each other but to the same edge, like a conveyor belt. And when depression steals someone strong and beautiful it makes the rest of us wonder how we can possibly resist.
But depression isn’t selfish. It’s generous to a fault. It welcomes any and all, the best and worst, with open arms and without discrimination.
Imagine a sold-out game at one of the top baseball teams in the US, a packed house, no seats to spare. Now, imagine if every single person in that stadium took their own life. That’s roughly the number of people we’ll lose to suicide every year.
For every person that dies by suicide, another 25 will attempt to take their own life. Or about 300 people every 60 seconds. For individuals aged 15 to 34, suicide is the second leading cause of death in the US.
Yet we know that many if not most of these individuals are reaching out for help and desperately want it, even just someone to talk to, to talk them back down, away from the edge. And how do we know that? Because suicide prevention hotlines in the US alone now report more than 2 million calls every year.
For many who commit suicide, there’s often just one final straw, and sometimes it’s the suicide of a celebrity – almost the idea that if a famous person can do it and has the courage, then I’m making the right decision and in the right company. I have permission now. Time to move up.
One study called it “prestige bias.” In the months after Robin Williams suicide, suicides spiked by 10%. I recall after Bourdain’s suicide the warning that many people wrestling with depression might feel compelled or emboldened to harm themselves.
We know that the major cause for suicide in America, and around the world, is depression – a mental illness that affects around 16 million Americans directly, and indirectly, the impact on their families, millions more.
We also know that in most cases, people who commit suicide don’t decide on a whim. For most, it’s the tragic end result of months or even years of struggle, often being haunted and tormented by suicidal thoughts. Until that awful moment where they feel there’s no other choice, no options, no paths left, that terrible final word.
If those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide are going through that struggle for years, doesn’t that mean that the rest of us have years to help stop it.
Wouldn’t it be great for everyone if we could all understand the recognize those warning signs of suicide, and the telltales of what might trigger it, like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or substance abuse – and often all in the same person.
If more of us knew how to recognize those telltale signs, and how to react, how to talk, to help, to prevent, then prevention could be possible in so many of these cases, these lives.