Funny how we delegate days and months to certain causes. The truth is that every day should be a suicide prevention day.
Sadly, death by suicide is among the leading causes of death overall in the United States. There are, on average, 123 suicides each day. It is the tenth leading cause of death in America — second leading for ages 23-35 and third leading for ages 15-24.
In 2019, there were 1.38 million number of suicide attempts in the US and 47,511 Americans who died by suicide. Calls to suicide hotlines have increased since the fall of Kabul as many veterans are having a hard time understanding the military withdrawal. (Source: Daily Beast, August, 29, 2021)
As an individual, I know first-hand what it feels like to have family members and friends die by suicide. As a professional, I know the grief and loss that folks experience when someone close to them dies by suicide and the challenges they face.
Suicide is not an easy subject to talk about. It’s often filled with shame and hushed whispers across the room: Did you know? What could we have done?
Few people understand that death by suicide is a brain disease, and few understand the enormity of pain that loved one’s experience.
NAMI has produced an infographic which helps us look at how suicide affects many different populations. (View the PDF)
New Directions out of Florida has a social media kit which you can easily post to help you talk with a variety of different groups. View the Kit
- Some of the warning signs of suicide include:
- Increased alcohol and drug use
- Aggressive behavior or harmful behavior to self or others
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and community
- Dramatic mood swings
- Impulsive or reckless behavior
Suicidal behaviors are a psychiatric emergency. Research has found that 46% of people who die by suicide had a known mental disorder, with depression being at the top of the list.
The isolation caused by Covid has unfortunately increased the number of people who experience anxiety and depression.
If you observe a loved one exhibiting any of the following warning signs, seek immediate help from a health care provider or call 911:
- Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
- Giving away possessions
- Restless behavior
- Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers or paying off debts
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
You don’t have to be superman, superwoman, or super partner — reaching out to a professional is an act of courage.
Here are Prevention Hotlines you can turn to:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-8255
Teen Line – 1-800-852-8336
The Trevor Project – LGBTQ 1866-488-7386
Veteran Crisis Line – 1-800-273-8255
Military OneSource -1-800-342-9647
Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
(NAMI) Home Page (Check for your local office) Or Call 888-999-6264
Surviving After Suicide
This section is thanks to the work done by Joyce Bruggeman Executive Director Survivors of Suicide Loss, San Diego, Kim Bozart LCSW PERT Field Operations Supervisor San Diego Survivors of Suicide Loss and Blaire Ehert, PHD VA San Diego Healthcare UCSD Dept of Psychiatry Survivors of Suicide Loss
When I was 7, my father died by suicide. There were no special places my mother could go to share her loss. She felt guilt and shame. No doubt she was traumatized, as I know I was when I learned at the ripe old age of 7 that my father hung himself with a tie. According to the Journal of Affective Disorders, about half of adults have been exposed to at least one suicide in their lifetime and about 35% experience some form of emotional distress.
In the aftermath of suicide, people often experience intense feelings, such as shock, rage, denial, disbelief, anger, rage, shame, and even relief. These are normal reactions to an abnormal situation.
Survivors Are At Risk
What’s important to note is that survivors are at significant risk of their own struggle with suicidal thoughts. They may also feel they should have done something to prevent their loved from hurting themselves; when in truth, they did the best they could and in the midst of myopic thinking, there was nothing they could have done to prevent it.
Parenthetically, there are many things that survivors must take care of when someone dies:
Obtaining death certificates, arranging visitations and burials, cleaning out belongings, and taking care of other family members. Having someone by your side to help navigate these things is helpful.
Shame Often Follows
Shame, as we know, needs three things to grow: Secrecy, Silence, Judgement. It’s important for survivors to be able to talk and name what they are experiencing and feeling. When you start naming the cause of your shame and talking about it with people who have earned the right to hear you, can grow.
If you know someone who is a survivor, it is possible for them to grow. This can be done thru connection with others, seeing new possibilities, capitalizing on one’s personal strength and having a positive view that life can be better through creating post traumatic growth. Seeking group or individual counseling with someone who is trained in this arena can be affirming.
Resources for you and your clients are:
- Understanding Your Suicide Grief -Alan D. Wolfelt PHD
- Falling Up; A Memoir of Renewal-Louise A. Stanger, Ed. D, LCSW.
- The gift of Second- Healing from the impact of suicide Brady Lidbeck
- Supporting Children After a Suicide Loss A Guide for Parents and Caregivers Susan S Montgomery LCSW-C & Susan M Coale LCSW-C
Growth Is Possible
As a survivor, I know first-hand that post-traumatic growth is possible. Sometimes the road is long and bumpy.
As a social worker, I am excellent at finding resources for your clients, for you or your loved ones. Feel free to reach out with additional resources or with your questions and concerns. I know that together we will make a difference!