Either directly or indirectly, suicide touches us all. It costs Americans $69 billion in medical expenses and lost productivity annually. In the United States, suicide rates have spiked by more than 30% in half the states over the last two decades. Globally, it is the second leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 29. There are 25 suicide attempts for every completed suicide and a person dies from suicide every 40 seconds.
It is also telling that men are 3.5 times more likely than women to die by suicide. Even children aren’t immune: between 1999 and 2015, over 1300 American children between the ages of 5 and 12 took their own lives.
Suicide transcends race, gender, ethnicity, culture, and religion. Suicide is such a societal crisis that this month was named National Suicide Prevention Month.
It is more likely than not that you have known someone who has contemplated suicide. Signs of strong suicidal ideation can be hard to spot. But, when you see those signs, it is crucial that you take them seriously. You can be an ally to someone struggling with depression by helping that person get the professional help she needs.
If you are struggling with mental health issues, you need to know that you are not alone and that there are people out there who can help. If you are actively suicidal, get emergency help now. I’ve been there and it isn’t pleasant, but getting help when I most needed it is why I’m here today.
It’s easy to isolate yourself and ruminate over your negative thoughts and emotions. Isolation can lead to hopelessness and a sense that you are beyond help. But making that one human connection - whether through friends, family, a hotline, or even a supportive online forum - can break this destructive thought process by drawing you back into reality and the realization that you are not alone.
People who kill themselves are not selfish cowards. This misconception drives me crazy. People who commit suicide are people who are people who are simply overwhelmed by their emotional pain. They are not revenge-seekers or attention-greedy narcissists. They are people who just couldn’t take it anymore. As someone who has lived with active and passive suicidal ideation, I can say, firsthand, that the thought of ending your life is not driven by superficial reasons like egotism or self-indulgence.
I am not naive enough to think we can eradicate suicide. But awareness and support can reduce the number of people who end their lives and devastate their loved ones. So, during the month of September, and beyond, I am urging us all to stay vigilant, stay well, and understand that suicide impacts every one of us.
Editor: Peter P. Khalil