Thousands of people who die by their own hand each year slipped into darkness from a broken heart, in one form or another, and left a chain of broken hearts that will never, ever be completely healed.
Maybe it’s a teenager who couldn’t see light anywhere in the future, an elderly person unable to face years of painful decline from a terminal disease, or a military veteran who could not experience the inhuman horror of seeing friends blown to bits and then enjoy sweet dreams and Saturday trips to the mall.
The realization that we must do better as a community of therapists, families and friends intensified with the deeply disturbing suicide of the brilliant actor and comedian Robin Williams. Despite being a beloved figure with access to the best treatment available for his personal demons of alcohol, drug addiction and depression, which he didn’t hide, Williams still slipped away.
Where does that leave the other vulnerable ones, who may be ostracized, poor, confused, suffering from diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illness and unaware of how to find help?
It leaves them in the hands of the rest of us.
The first thing we can do to dispel the taboo of suicide is to support someone struggling with suicidal thoughts, rather than turn away, advises the National Council for Suicide Prevention. We can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for advice or a referral, if we know someone who is feeling trapped or withdrawing from family and friends.
In just one year, more than 39,500 people in the U.S. committed suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 20,000 of those took their own lives with a firearm, about 10,000 by suffocation and more than 6,500 by poisoning. That’s according to the CDC’s 2011 statistics, the most recent available.
Those 39,500 precious souls – and thousands who committed suicide since 2011 – each have a name and a heart connection to those who loved them. Now, to honor them, we have a chance to reach out to those other fragile ones, trapped on the emotional cliff between death and life.
National Council for Suicide Prevention, Learn About Stigma http://www.ncsponline.org/suicide-prevention/learn-about-stigma/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury, Deaths: Final Data for 2011