When celebrities tragically take their lives, we mourn the loss of the gifts they have provided the world. When families or friends lose a loved one to suicide, the grief is personal, the shame burdensome, and the suffering private.
To those individuals who complete suicide, who have suffered such hopelessness and despair, the decision to take their lives seems rational. They are unable to see their pain as temporary, although it often is.
How are we to understand suicide, not as a problem of “others” but as a problem deeply personal to our community?
The Sedgwick County Health Department has reported the rate of completed suicides for the county as consistently higher than the national rate every year since 2000 and higher than the state rate since 2005. This is the problem of our community – our neighbors, our relatives, our friends. The consequences of ignorance are far too great. With knowledge comes understanding; with understanding come power and compassion.
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The American Association of Suicidology reports the risk of suicide with a diagnosis of major depression at about 20 times that of the general population. However, thoughts of suicide can affect anyone, especially someone faced with a catastrophic loss or change. Having these thoughts is not normal, but a sign of great distress.
You can make a difference. Be aware of these warning signs. A person experiencing suicidal thinking may:
Talk about suicide, death or having no reason to live; withdraw from friends or activities; have a recent severe loss or threat of a significant loss (such as job or relationship); experience drastic changes in behavior; lose interest in hobbies, work, school; give away prized possessions; take unnecessary risks; lose interest in his or her appearance; increase use of drugs or alcohol; be faced with humiliation or failure.
If you see these warning signs, offer to help. Direct the person to one of any number of resources that are available to provide guidance. This may be a community mental health center, school counselor, crisis center, therapist, family doctor, or faith or spiritual leader.
Treatment can help. Through the use of medication and therapy, treatment for depression is effective 60 to 80 percent of the time. Despite this, the World Health Organization reports less than 25 percent of individuals with depression receive adequate treatment.
For emergency help, contact Comcare Crisis Intervention Services at 316-660-7500. Prairie View, serving Wichita and surrounding areas, provides both outpatient and inpatient care to address whatever level of intervention is necessary, and can be reached at 800-992-6292.
Be part of the solution. Join in recognizing World Suicide Prevention Day on Tuesday and National Suicide Prevention Week, which continues through Saturday. By working together, we can reduce the incidence of suicides and strengthen our community. Show compassion. Become involved.