13 September 2012

Suicide Awareness and Prevention

Suicide Awareness Week

My great grandmother committed suicide.
My husband has survived two suicide attempts.
I do not know a single person who doesn't know someone that has either attempted or completed suicide.

Nearly 30,000 people every year die of suicide.
An estimated 18 veterans of our armed forces commit suicide every day.

People call them cowards.
People say how selfish they are, killing themselves and letting their loved ones live with the pain and the guilt.
People are idiots.

The CDC reports that about 9% of Americans are depressed occasionally and that 3.4% of Americans suffer from major depression.

For all of the progress being made, there is still a very real stigma attached to mental illness, and very little understanding. 
Clinical depression is a very real and very painful illness.
For everyone concerned.

Major depression isn't something you can just get over.
You can not make a decision to simply suck it up and be happy.
Major depression must be treated with drugs to reestablish the chemical balance of the brain.
Most depressed people do not  even know they are depressed, they find themselves self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, food, or what ever, adding substance abuse problems to the original mental illness.

I am not a doctor and I may be totally off base here, but to me suicide is not so much something a person does as much as it is something that happens to people.

For example,

I remember a friend of mine being admitted for suicidal ideation.
She should never have been suicidal.
Her doctor, a general practitioner, had prescribed her an anti-depressant for mild depression.
When that failed to treat the depression successfully, the doctor prescribed TWO additional anti-depressants as well as an anti-psychotic drug.
All four drugs carried a black box warning, all four were known to actually cause suicide in some cases.
Her doctor, quite obviously an idiot, as they can't all graduate at the top of their class, had no business prescribing these drugs in the first place.
A responsible doctor would have referred her to a psychiatrist or at least reconsidered the drugs when the pharmacy and insurance company insisted that it was a dangerous cocktail and at first refused to fill the last of the drugs until the doctor called to argue with them, claiming she knew what she was doing, she was a doctor for God's sake.
My friend was admitted to a psychiatric locked ward weeks later.

Most people can not image a moment so hopeless and dark and painful that there is seemingly no other way out than death.
I certainly can't.

I guess I'm rambling here, but what I am trying to say is that it is Suicide Awareness Week, and if you are going to be aware of suicide, you must be aware of mental illness also.
If there were less stigma attached to mental illness, perhaps more people would seek the help they need without such drastic measures.
Mental illness is obviously not a choice someone makes and seeking help for it should be no different than seeking treatment for diabetes or cancer.

And then, also, this family lost a loved one to suicide, they run an annual fundraiser for the Out of Darkness Walk for suicide prevention.
So come on down if you are in the area and support a worthwhile cause that doesn't get nearly enough attention.


  1. Very tough subject. My father killed himself when I was 4. He was active duty Army at the time. I'm 61 and still alternate between understanding and being pissed off about growing up without a father. But I have no way of knowing what he was thinking and what he was feeling. The military declared it service connected as a result of service in WW II and Korea. And I think my mother did a wonderful job raising me and my two younger brothers. Wondering how my life was changed is just an exercise in futility.

    But I can say that his death has kept me from doing the same thing at times. I refuse to do that do my family.

    1. I'm so very sorry for your loss. There was even more of a stigma attached back then to depression and PTSD... If only more people knew they weren't alone in the fight. Thank you for sharing.