We should be talking about suicide

Published on Tuesday, 19 June 2018 18:55
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By: The Providence Journal

Two much-admired celebrities took their lives this month, a stark reminder that emotional pain isn’t bound by class, fame or wealth. It can disable anyone among us, persuading us that our lives aren’t worth living.

Out of the self-inflicted deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and chef-adventurer Anthony Bourdain has come another round of public discussion about the signs that someone may be contemplating suicide and how to intervene.

But lest we derive too much hopefulness about that, let’s recall that similar conversations occurred after the deaths of Robin Williams, Chris Cornell, David Foster Wallace, Iris Chang and far too many others.

The fact is that depression is an illness, a potentially fatal one. And it is as egalitarian as cancer, stalking the office worker and the artist alike.

Suicide rates continue to climb, according to much-cited statistics compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in this country, taking the lives of roughly 45,000 Americans each year, and the rate is rising.

Suicide call centers say they’ve noted an increase in the volume of calls over the last couple of years.

Experts say the best thing friends and family members can do when someone is deeply depressed is to be present for them, hearing without passing judgment or giving advice, and perhaps offering to sit with them while they dial a suicide prevention line or accompanying them to an emergency room.

Some signs that someone may be contemplating suicide include: withdrawing from friends and activities; speaking of helplessness or powerlessness or being wronged; giving away possessions; acting recklessly and other changes in behavior.

We should not be afraid to ask directly about suicide. We won’t encourage someone to act by asking “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” “Have you ever attempted to kill yourself?” “Have you made a plan to kill yourself?” “When you say (fill in blank), do you mean you’re thinking of killing yourself?” It’s important to be clear and direct in this conversation.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Columns on Tuesday, 19 June 2018 18:55. Updated: Tuesday, 19 June 2018 18:57.