By: SARAH GALZERANO
It’s happening everywhere around you. You don’t personally know the victim, so you shake it off. Talking about it makes you uncomfortable.
Suicide is an international issue that people tend to shy away from. Why – when raising awareness could only help us? What do we really have to help educate ourselves? But most importantly, why should we care?
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), from the 1980’s to 2000, suicide rates in our Nation were actually dropping, but over the last 12 years they increased to 12.5 deaths per 100,000. In 2012 alone, 40,600 suicides were reported, making suicide the tenth leading cause of death in America. But what I’d like to focus on is the fact that, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third-leading cause of death for our youth – ages 15 to 24. And according to the National Mental Health Association, suicide is the second-leading cause of death amongst college students.
That might not scare you at all, figuring you’re looking around you and there are, well, people. Is there anyone missing? Could anyone go missing soon? Do these smiling faces not want to be here? According to the CDC, one in five teenagers in the U.S. seriously considers suicide annually.
There’s a variety of situations that can cause an adolescent to become suicidal and if you’re dealing with somebody you know and you also think it’s your fault, it’s much more deeply rooted than that. The AFSP states that suicidal tendencies as well as depression and most other mental illness are hereditary. This doesn’t mean if you had a family member commit suicide that you’re going to die the same way, it just means that you and your family should be particularly alert to psychiatric symptoms and consider being evaluated.
As far as what can ultimately lead an adolescent to consider suicide, usually a significantly negative life change takes place prior. This could be the death of a close family member, parental divorce, substance abuse, moving to a new community, or formation of a new family. These events trigger suicidal thoughts such self-doubt, confusion, eating disorders, and even insomnia. Most prevalent in our age group are things brought on by the greater pressures of modern life like anxiety over deadlines for school assignments, stressors at work, feeling pressured to succeed, fearing the future, and competition for grades and college admissions.
It can be hard to tell when an individual becomes depressed or suicidal, especially if it’s not just a relapse. Some people become depressed out of the blue. Luckily, there are universal warning signs to help us find out when someone is suicidal. These signs are often changes in a person’s behavior and mood. Many suicide prevention websites, such as afsp.org, list in detail these warning signs. Sometimes there are NO warning signs, and not all people who end their lives are necessarily depressed. “Some people are very good at hiding what they are going through while others demonstrate typical warning signs,” says David Vorndran, supervisor of Guidance at Millville High School.
Self-harm plays a significant part in the issue of suicide. There is no complete count of suicide attempts kept in U.S. hospitals. However, the CDC gathers date from U.S. hospitals each year on injuries resulting from what are known was self-harm. “In 2013, 494,169 people visited a hospital for injuries due to self-harm behavior, suggesting that approximately 12 people harm themselves (not necessarily intending to take their lives) for every reported death by suicide.” It’s because of these statistics that it’s a mystery how many suicide attempts go unreported.
To decrease suicide rates, education is key. Okay, sure, you may be perfectly happy, but everybody needs to be aware of the warning signs of suicide and how to prevent it. By educating everybody, individuals who are depressed aren’t being singled out and being made to feel even worse about themselves. Also, they don’t always go looking for help, so why not bring the help to them?
Vorndran believes that educating people is important but, “We need to move it from a taboo subject to one that can be in everyday conversation. When you look at illness, we are usually very open to discussing the flu, but when it comes to any type of mental illness there seems to be a stigma attached.” He also says that the first step is start with the facts. “I think if we can gain a better understanding we have a better chance to help others or ourselves.”
Millville High School sets a solid example for what more schools should offer in terms of suicide prevention. Every year they host programs to fit the needs of struggling teenagers. These programs range from guest speakers about suicide, self-worth, and cyber-bullying, to Tolerance Day and RESPECT Week- “positive activities about self-worth and valuing both yourself and others.”
There are many suicide prevention and awareness organizations through media that you can turn to (for yourself or a loved one) such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK, the Youth Suicide Prevention Program at yspp.org, Active Minds – Changing the conversation about mental health activeminds.org, the Yellow Ribbon suicide prevention program at yellowribbon.org, and many more. Suicide can be prevented, and according to NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), “the most effective suicide prevention strategies is educating people about how to identify and effectively respond to the warning signs of suicidal behavior.”