David Briceno: Suicides are preventable, not inevitable
September 1 marked the start of National Suicide Prevention (Awareness) Month, an annual educational effort aimed primarily at significantly reducing our nation’s suicide rate, among other things.
The topic rarely crops up in daily conversation. Suicides receive far less media attention than murders, unless the homicides are murder-suicides, like many school shootings and all Middle East suicide bombings are. They get media coverage.
But insofar as suicides generally are concerned, unless they’re celebrities, they receive minuscule media exposure or none at all. It renders the problem “outta sight, outta mind” — thus outta control. How much? Over twice as many people kill themselves intentionally than those murdered are killed by other people in America.
So, the suicide rate has already outstripped the murder rate 2 to 1. Suicide persistently continues being a “silent epidemic,” considering the fact that it ranks as the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. today.
The nation’s huge suicide rate speaks volumes about a society in which the people are so happy living there that someone commits suicide, on average, every nine minutes. In fact, in 2016 alone, nearly 45,000 people committed suicide in this country (all statistics’ source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Suicide threats have become so common that they’re now just another routine call for those in law enforcement (cops must get tired of constantly going on suicide-threat calls after awhile). But then it’s definitely the sign of the times when people require police protection in order to save themselves from their own selves during a self-imposed hostage situation. It’s sheer pathos.
In neighboring Placer County in eastern Auburn lies the Foresthill Bridge. It towers 730-feet high making it the highest bridge in California and the fourth highest in America. It’s already become a premier finalization destination. As of this writing, an estimated 87 people have already plunged to their deaths off the bridge into the north fork of the American River down below.
If the Foresthill Bridge jumpers could somehow be interviewed and speak, when asked what was their main impetus or reason for terminating their lives, every (dead) body would unequivocally agree that major personal problems resulting in unhappiness drove them to leap off the bridge into a watery grave.
In fact, there’s innumerable reasons why Americans commit suicide. Nearly every cause of suicide involves trouble(s), such as: insurmountable financial problems — especially unemployment, relationship difficulties and breakups, psychological issues especially undiagnosed mental illnesses — untreated depression topping the list, pressures of life, old age, inabilities to function, work-related issues, past trauma(s), drug and/or alcohol (ab)use, physical and sexual abuse, being bullied, eating disorders, social isolation or loneliness, genetic family traits, religion and philosophy landmines, terminal illness, chronic pain, loss of close friends or loved ones like family members, toxic media culture, and so on. So, practically any serious personal problem (even ones imagined) can precipitate suicide. And anyone can have suicidal tendencies.
How can you tell when a loved one or one of your friends is suicidal? Know suicide’s warning signs. Telltale warning signs include: changes in sleeping; dropping favorite activities; severe apathy; excessive drug and/or alcohol use; giving away possessions; having a suicide plan; intolerance for emotional depth; saying goodbyes to many people; socially withdrawing; expressing feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness — especially hopelessness since those who attempt suicide are experiencing such utter hopelessness that they believe there’s no other solution to end their pain. Also watch for talking, writing or posting on social media obsessively about death or suicide. And be aware of numerous out-of-the-blue contacts of friends, relatives and acquaintances; and other unusual changes in their behavior. Seek help, if necessary.
If someone is talking to you and tells you they’re going to commit suicide, don’t run off. It’s probably very serious. Stay. It’s an emergency. Call 911. Or get help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number 1-800-273-TALK or try to get them to an ER. Don’t play psychologist. Be a good listener. Pay attention to what they’re talking about and develop some type of rapport. Be sympathetic. Be caring. And be extra careful what you say.
Knowing suicide’s causes, warning signs, and what to do during someone’s suicidal crisis can and does save people’s lives. In virtually every failed suicide, the victim (who is now getting help) is happy to be alive. They rarely attempt suicide again.
Tough times do not last, but tough people do. Endeavor to persevere, cope, and overcome personal problems before they overcome you. If you have insurmountable problems, get help if you can. Who knows? You might save a very dear, valuable life someday — your own.
David Briceno lives in Alta Sierra.
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