Death by Suicide Is Now A Public Health Crisis

by Yvonne Chase on May 23, 2022

On January 18th, Peter Robbins who was the voice of Charlie Brown died by suicide at the age of sixty-five. The next day on January 19th, twenty-six-year-old Ian Alexander, Jr., the only child of award-winning actress Regina King died by suicide. Six days later, on January 25th, Kevin Ward, forty-four-year-old mayor of Hyattsville, MD died from a self-inflicted gunshot to his head. Five days later, on January 30th, Cheslie Kryst, Miss USA 2019 died by suicide after jumping from her apartment building in Manhattan. When a person is overwhelmed and hopeless, Flemons (2013) says death can seem like the only way out of an impossible predicament, the only way of achieving relief or peace.” Death by suicide is a public health crisis. It is time to talk about it.

Facts About Suicide

According to Flemons (2013), most suicides can almost always be linked to interpersonal issues. “We are constituted by our relationships with others, and when those relationships are disturbed or troubled, our relationship to life itself can be undermined. In contrast, positive relationships—those characterized by trust, respect, caring, and meaningful engagement—can serve as profound protections for those facing pain and suffering.” It should be noted that, guns are the most common method of suicide. A family that has a gun is 5x more likely to experience suicide than a family that chooses not to own a gun. Most suicidal individuals are NOT homicidal. For every two homicides in the U.S., there are three suicides.

Risk Factors for Suicide

  • Loss of social position and financial status.
  • Legal or disciplinary troubles.
  • Previous or ongoing sexual abuse, bullying, peril.
  • Substance abuse or disordered eating.
  • A recent loss.
  • School/relationship/family difficulties.
  • Overwhelming and difficult expectations.
  • Untreated mental health problems.

Warning Signs of Suicide

  • Dramatic changes in personality or behavior
  • Dropping out of activities.
  • Weight gain/loss.
  • Excessive or insufficient sleep.
  • Talking or writing about death.
  • Disheveled appearance.
  • Verbally less articulate.
  • Giving away prized possessions.
  • Making out a will.
  • Withdrawn from life.
crisis

People avoid talking about the crisis of suicide because of the discomfort that comes with the subject; however, I believe we need to talk about it now more than ever. The number of deaths by suicide has increased since January. I suspect it will continue to increase as we trudge our way through what seems like a never-ending pandemic. Furthermore, many people are living in isolation because trying to connect authentically with others can seem impossible. In addition to all of the above, there is a war in Ukraine, gas prices are through the roof, the baby formula shortage is getting worse and monkeypox is on the rise. Did I miss anything? Life is hard for many.

What To Do If You Suspect Suicide

  • Empathize with the individual.
  • Avoid pep talks.
  • Access help.
  • Get professionals involved; a counselor or therapist.
  • Take action right away.

What Not To Do

  • Claim to understand.
  • Claim to have a similar experience.
  • Tell the person what they should do or how to feel.
  • Sound dismissive or tell them to snap out of it.

I began writing this post in January and pulled it out of my Drafts folder today because May is Mental Health Awareness Month and also because Cheslie’s mother sat down recently with Gayle King and CBS Mornings to discuss the aftermath of her daughter’s suicide. In addition, Board Certified Psychologist Dr. Sue Varma added her wisdom to the conversation. Below are nuggets from the interview that you can watch below:

  • Depression comes in many forms. It does not always look sad or burdened.
  • Gratitude is good for the soul.
  • Seek what you need (a hug, laughter, a smile, kind words, etc.) when you need it.
  • A support system is essential.
  • Be kind.
  • Check-in with people; are you taking care of yourself? How are you?
  • Therapy and mental health treatment should be a part of our preventative self-care.
  • Ask two simple questions: Have you felt depressed lately? Are you getting pleasure out of the things you once used to enjoy?

Each nugget above is important. I especially love the recommendation to schedule preventative mental health treatments, however, the most important nugget to me is kindness…be kind. We are living in a world of perpetual evil where people wake up daily and intentionally choose violence. I feel sad for those people. In 1 Thessalonians 5:11, we are told to, “Encourage one another and build one another up.” Also, “Anxiety, the cousin of depression according to Proverbs 12:25 weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”

Something to think about…

What say you? Did you know about the number of public suicides in January? What do you believe is the answer to this crisis? Do you have a favorite quote or Bible verse about kindness? Please share it in the comments. Thanks.

Here are 2 things I would like you to do now:

1. Leave a comment below

2. Share this post if you like it

References

Flemons, D. G., Gralnik, L. M., & Meichenbaum, D. (2013). Relational suicide assessment: Risks, resources, and possibilities for safety. W.W. Norton & Company.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741, or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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