Suicide Prevention, Myths and Signs
A long-term solution to a short-term problem. That’s suicide. A kind of darkness that begins and ends from within. The silent, voiceless, unrelenting scream that never gets heard. It neither seeks harm to itself nor others. It instead craves the cessation of pain. That’s suicide.
Celebrity suicide, or death by suicide in general, is a sobering reminder that certain mental health illnesses are more prevalent than we want to know. It’s also more occurring in women and ought to be taken as seriously as any physical malady. Among the many celebrities lost: Marilyn Monroe, Virginia Wolf, Kate Spade and now Anthony Bourdain who tragically fell under the radar.
“Suicide is a serious public health problem that causes immeasurable pain, suffering, and loss to individuals, families, and communities nationwide. The causes of suicide are complex and determined by multiple combinations of factors, such as mental illness, substance abuse, painful losses, exposure to violence, and social isolation.” –SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Suicide also brings to light a few myths: winter months have a higher rate, it’s a permanent condition, or that it’s such a violent act that if they reveal thoughts of hurting themselves, that they can hurt someone else
Suicide is More Common in the Spring
Many people think that depression and suicide are more common when there are fewer hours of daylight, typically around the holidays. In fact, data from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics states in 2015 that the suicide rate was lowest in December! Not only was it low around the holidays, but it annually peaked in the springtime and into the summer months.
There’s a distinct difference between depression and suicidal thoughts. There is a distinct difference between seasonal affect disorder (SAD) and suicide ideology. Researchers can’t even explain why suicide spikes in the spring. “It’s still rather a mystery,” says Christine Moutier, MD, the chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Seasons with less sunlight are more challenging for people with mood disorders, particularly seasonal affective disorder, but the statistics on suicide rates stand opposite of that fact.”
There are several possible explanations. For one, people who don’t receive much family support during the holidays may reset their expectations, forcing them to “white knuckle” every day thereafter. After several weeks or months, they slowly lose their ability to connect and just can’t do life anymore.
“There are also theories around issues related to inflammation, the immune system, and natural cycles in the human body,” she adds. Unfortunately, there’s not solid science to support those theories. There’s been some correlation year after year among experts, but nothing solid enough to make it a claim.
Keys to Suicide Prevention
SUICIDAL THOUGHTS ARE NOT A LIFE SENTENCE. Debunking myths about suicide and mental health plays a huge role in getting people the help they need. Suicide isn’t a choice or sign of weakness or failing, Dr. Moutier emphasizes, but a combination of mental health with other factors like genetics and history of trauma.
“When the public begins to understand that suicide is more like death from a fractured spirit than it is a criminal act, then they can understand that prevention and treatment are possible,” she said. “Everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide. Your radar will go off if someone you know is acting differently because you know their patterns. It could be that they stay fully engaged but they’re more easily aggravated or start drinking more.” They may even begin abusing prescription drugs or start taking street drugs.
Some suicidal warning signs include:
- Change in sleep patterns
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Reckless behavior
- Mood swings or changes
- A feeling of lack of life purpose
- They may not start anything new
- Sell off personal possessions
- Prolonged periods away from home and others.
- Declining hygiene
- Grand purchases like expensive clothing.
The signs are remarkably similar to those suffering from chemical addiction. The court and many religious doctrines consider suicide a criminal act and made it illegal. Not an effective deterrent. But just because it’s considered a crime against self, doesn’t mean it extends to others.
Suicidal Prevention – What to Do:
Support loved ones through caring conversation, and if you pick up on signs of hopelessness or feeling trapped, you can ask people directly if they’re having suicidal thoughts. “That’s not going to make them worse or plant a seed,” Dr. Moutier said. “If you’ve created a safe environment to have this conversation, they will feel a sense of relief that they’ve been able to share this experience with someone who’s not judging them.”
Make a call to some you haven’t spoken to in a while. You may not get a return call, but at least they’ll know someone cares. If we all just made one a call a day, the world might still be blessed with those loved ones who thought we didn’t care.
And remember, it’s perfectly normal to question life and wonder what it’s like not to be here. It’s NOT normal to chronically hide feelings of despair, hopelessness or thoughts of suicide.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Don’t let it scream in silence.
If you believe that you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).