According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), every 13.3 minutes another person dies from suicide, which is the 10th leading cause of death in America. Robin Williams had been very public about his long struggle with depression and substance abuse, and we all felt a great sadness when he recently took his own life. A statement from the Association of Suicidality is as follows:
“On behalf of the American Association of Suicidality (AAS) our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of Robin Williams. The sad reality is that severe mental illness has claimed another life, and while nearly all of us are familiar with the great work of Mr. Williams, we are perhaps less aware or impacted by 107 other suicides that occurred yesterday (or the 108 that will occur today, based on the national average).
“Robin Williams was the consummate ‘funnyman’ who brought joy, laughter and pleasure to millions around the world. While we won’t dare speculate on contributors to recent events in a life that we know little about, Mr. Williams’ challenges related to substance abuse and mental illness were public knowledge.”
Other high-profile suicide deaths include Don Cornelius of Soul Train, the movie, and Fame, and more recently, Lee Thompson Young, former Disney star “Jett Jackson.” It can sometimes be difficult to understand why people take their own lives.
Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among persons aged 15-24 years, the second among persons aged 25-34 years, the fourth among person aged 35-54 years, and the eighth among person 55-64 years.
Risk factors for suicide include:
• One or more prior suicide attempts
• Personal or family history of mental health disorders
• Personal or family history of suicide
• Family violence
• Physical or sexual abuse
• Keeping firearms in the home
• Chronic physical illness, including chronic pain
• Adverse or traumatic
events, including loss of a loved one.
Many suicide attempts occur when someone is drinking or using drugs. Some drink alcohol when feeling depressed. Alcohol and drugs can impair your judgment and reduce inhibition, which may cause you to do things you wish you hadn’t. Alcohol use is closely related to lowered impulse control, which can increase risk for suicide attempts and self-injurious behaviors.
The most common method of suicide for men is with a firearm; for women it is hanging, ingestion of poison, or medication overdose. Many of those who attempt suicide will not make a verbal threat beforehand; however, you must take action on any suicide threat as if it is genuine.
If you suspect that someone you know is contemplating suicide, ask them directly if they are having thoughts of harming themselves. The stigma of mental health concerns and suicide can create barriers for those experiencing the emotional pain of depression and hopelessness.
It is a myth that African American men are “too macho to attempt suicide” or that “African American women never crack under pressure.” Hopelessness, depression and despair can occur across races, cultures, religions and ages.
The Crisis Connection (locally 612-379-6363 or statewide 1-866-379-6363) provides 24-hour, 7 days per week crisis counseling, information and referral. Other options include calling the Mobile Crisis team at 612-348-2233 for children and 612-596-1223 for adults, calling 911 or going to HCMC Psychiatric Emergency Center.
Deirdre Annice Golden, Ph.D., LP, is director of Behavioral Health for NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center Behavioral Health Clinic, 1313 Penn Ave. N. She welcomes reader responses to Deirdre.Golden@co.hennepin.mn.us, or call 612-543-2705.