04:48:51 am on
Saturday 15 Dec 2018

Suicide Awareness
Matt Seinberg

There are certain subjects that people just don't talk of on a regular basis, unless it somehow affects them personally. Suicide is such a topic. It's not something we want or like to think of considering how morbid it is and how the outcome affects the living.

You may notice someone, an acquaintance or old friend, seemingly vanished. You haven’t seen him or her for a long time, perhaps, and start paying attention, trying to find him or her. You used to see him or her at the bus stop or the walk to work, but no more. You ask around. Mutual friends know nothing. After a time, you find out what happened to that person, she or he passed at a time his or her choosing. We discuss suicide in the most hushed tones, if at all.

The subject had not entered my life until yesterday. Without going into names and too much detail, I read on Facebook that the husband of a friend, an executive, passed at a time of his choosing. The obituary gave no cause of death, but there was a hint of personal demons.

I've known the wife for over ten years. Though we were not close, personal friends, hellos and hugs were always nice when we saw each other. Actually, I knew her before she was married with children; she was always very happy.

When I read the news, of a lucky man, in many ways, who made the grade, here was my first thought. What, in life, could be so bad that he felt it necessary to take his own life? I did some reading, on suicide, and found some interesting information.

There are many reasons for suicide, which vary in intensity over time. Here are the top ones, in no particular order, sexual abuse, grief, financial problems, remorse, rejection, relationship issues or problems, breakups and unemployment. Notice how each reason might contribute to a sense, in the victim, of isolation and a sense of not knowing what next to do.

Males are thus more likely to commit suicide than are females, by a factor of roughly three to one. The success rate, if that’s the correct term, for all suicides is roughly four percent. That is, roughly, one in twenty-five attempted suicide is successful. This is a remarkably high number.

In Canada, suicide ideation is fifty percent higher among First Nations people than it is in the non-aboriginal population. Such ideation continues higher for First Nations people, in all age groups. When cultures clash, people don’t know what to do or may blame themselves.

We all experience problems and life events. Have we all contemplated, seriously, taking our lives over them? No is probably your answer, even though the majority of us can pick out at least one of those reasons, which gave us pause, and led to a fleeting consideration of ending our lives.

The cold hard reality sets in and that thought, suicidal ideation, goes away, hopefully, forever, because suicide reverberates. The life of the victim ends. The lives of his or her family and friends don’t end, but change indelibly and not for the better.

The family and friends of the victim wonder what might they have done or not done that would have saved the life. That’s a heavy burden. Family and friends wonder why they didn’t recognise the signs, which, in retrospect were everywhere but largely invisible. Family and friends live without the victim; of course, we eventually get used to living without someone that passed, but the quality of life will dim, more for those that survive suicide than natural deaths. Family and friends will wonder if they can continue their own lives.

Here are some interesting statistics, with the latest being from 2016. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death, with 45,000 lives lost, annually, in the USA. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in ages 10-to-34. In Canada, roughly three fourteen or fifteen year olds commit suicide every two days.

Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in ages 35-to-54. Usually, there are twice as many suicides as homicides, 44,965 and 19,362, respectively. In most developed societies, men are more successful at suicide than are women. Four times as many men and women commit suicide compared with death by firearms.

Firearms account for more than half of all suicides (56%), which reflect the fact that males prefer to commit suicide using the instantaneous and final result of using a firearm. More than one quarter (26%) of suicides involve suffocation, probably hanging, ten percent poisoning and eight percent other methods.

Each year, almost ten million (9.8 million) American adults report they experience serious thoughts of committing suicide. Nearly three million (2.8 million) make plans. Another one million make plans and attempt suicide. Among those that had serious thoughts of committing suicide, roughly one-third of a million did not follow up.

We always hear about the celebrity suicides, such as Anthony Bourdain, Kurt Cobain and Kate Spade. We usually don't hear about the regular folks that wait until no one is home, go into the bathroom or bedroom and do it. How many leave a note explaining why they did it, as if that makes it any easier to understand.

Years ago, I had a co-worker that I didn't especially like, but I felt something was wrong. I could see he was agitated. I asked him what was going on. He gave me some lame answer, asked a question, which I answered, and he walked away. I didn't see him again.

The following week I heard he tried to kill his wife with a gun and fatally shot himself. Although I felt a little numb, shocked, perhaps, at the news, I wasn't overcome with grief. We had never done anything together outside of work; there wasn't a big personal connection.

Here's the interesting part. His sister is a lawyer. Somehow, she kept this story from getting into the news. When I say there was nothing anywhere, I'm not kidding. I guess she wanted to protect the family and her reputation along with his wife and kids. All we could do is speculate exactly what happened.

If you or someone you know needs help and needs or wants to talk to someone, here's the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK; that 1-800-273-8255.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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