Suicide rates are increasing, especially among young people, and many suicide tragedies are making headlines lately. Although it can be a difficult subject to face, it's vital that all of us become aware of the tragic facts about suicide. Awareness and swift action can save lives!
When a boy from my high school named Steve committed suicide, I suffered from “survivor’s guilt.” Although I barely knew Steve aside from seeing him occasionally at school, I wondered if I could have befriended him, or in some way helped him. Survivor’s guilt is a crushing aspect of grief, from losing someone to suicide. You wonder: Could I have stopped this action? Did I do enough for the person? Is it my fault?
And if I, who barely knew Steve, was suffering so much, I could only imagine the deep pain of his surviving loved ones.
Since that experience in my adolescence, I’ve studied the epidemic of suicide – especially among young people. When I later graduated with degrees in Counseling Psychology from Chapman University, I worked as a counselor with young people in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Some of them suffered from depression and hopelessness, which can be dangerous precursors to suicidal ideation. We took their suicidal talk seriously, and gave them immediate clinical evaluations and help to save their lives.
I learned from those clinical experiences, and by working under the licenses of medical doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists, just how serious the suicide epidemic is! According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 800,000 people die annually by suicide, which translates to one person every 40 seconds. The WHO estimates that for every suicide, 20 others attempt suicide.
And suicide amongst young people is an epidemic! It is the second leading cause of death among college students and those who are between 25 and 34 years old, and the third leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. A new article in the Journal of the American Medical association reported a "significant increase in emergency department visits for self-inflicted, non-fatal injuries among children and young adults." In other words, suicide attempts by young people are increasingly being seen in hospitals.
What I learned from all of these experiences and research is that we must be vigilant and take the issue seriously. If you hear someone talk about hopelessness, or they express a wish to disappear or die, take it seriously. If you are the person who is wishing to die or disappear, please call your local emergency number, or a suicide or crisis hotline immediately. Often, a mental health or medical professional is sent to the scene to evaluate the acuteness of suicidal ideation. While this can be embarrassing for the person and their family, it is a necessary and often life-saving preventative measure. Do not allow the fear of what others may think, to stop you from seeking help for yourself or the person who is considering ending it all.
Other signs of suicidal intentions include the person giving away all of their belongings, posts about suicidal thoughts on social media (you should press the Report button next to the post if you read any suicidal posts on social media), changes in sleeping or eating patterns, stopping their medication, or displaying mood swings.
Here is a list of suicide hotlines, listed by country: http://ibpf.org/resource/list-international-suicide-hotlines In addition, in the Netherlands, the suicide crisis hotline is telephone 0900-0113
Seeking immediate help from a qualified and licensed mental health or medical professional can save a life!