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  • Withdrawn from life.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.

Jan May 24, 2022

Once again you address a vital subject to our health and wellbeing…well done!

Candace May 24, 2022

I cried like I knew Regina King personally when I learned about her son, her only child. My heart breaks for her and then it broke again when I heard about Cheslie. So beautiful. So accomplished. We never know what another person is going through. All of it is just heartbreaking.

Jackie Chan says, “Sometimes it takes only one act of kindness and caring to change a person’s life.” I agree!

Yvonne Chase June 2, 2022

Hi Candace,

I am right there with you. Ian’s suicide shook me to my core. I wonder how Regina is doing these days. My Lord!
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Jerralea May 25, 2022

So simple … be kind. Yet it is something all of us can do. I also want to be more observant of what is going on in the lives of my friends and family. I don’t want to miss warning signs.
Jerralea recently posted…Surviving by Sitting at the Feet of JesusMy Profile

Yvonne Chase June 2, 2022

Hi Jerralea,

Yes, we must pay attention to those closest to us. Sometimes we can catch the warning signs and other times we don’t and yet other times there are none because people mask it so well.
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Lauren Renee Sparks May 25, 2022

Thank you for writing about this important subject. I was surprised at all of the January occurrences. Let’s keep talking about this.
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Michele Morin May 26, 2022

Death from despair is rampant in our country. Every 5 minutes, someone dies from an opioid overdose.

Yvonne Chase June 2, 2022

hi Michele,

You are right and fentanyl is taking people out left and right. We are living in a world of public health crises.
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Donna May 27, 2022

Thank you Yvonne for addressing such a difficult subject. One of my best friend’s 13 year old son committed suicide several years ago and I had a patient recently commit suicide. Often those left behind feel blind-sided, they never saw it coming.
Mental health awareness is so vital especially in the times in which we live. Such good reminders here, thank you!

Yvonne Chase June 2, 2022

Hi Donna,

So heartbreaking to hear about your best friend’s 13-year-old son and your patient but a 13-year-old is so young. So much life ahead to live. Mental health awareness is indeed vital especially today as we live in such challenging times.
Yvonne Chase recently posted…Death by Suicide Is Now A Public Health CrisisMy Profile

KEVIN FOODIE May 28, 2022

People from all socioeconomic backgrounds are suffering in silence. One of the ways to help is to shed light on mental health to break the stigmas. Thank you for doing your part.

Yvonne Chase June 2, 2022

Hi Kevin,

Great point. Socioeconomic status does not exempt us from suffering.
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Debbie Wilson May 31, 2022

Yvonne, your opening paragraph is chilling. Our area has been shaken by this tragic trend in teens. Thank you for tackling this uncomfortable subject.
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Joanne Viola June 1, 2022

Once again you have brought a most informative and needed post for us all to read and learn from. May we always be kind to those around us as we truly can never know the depth of the burden they may bear. Thank you, Yvonne!
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Yvonne Chase June 2, 2022

Hi Joanne,

Indeed! We never know the burdens another person is carrying. Cheslie looked like the picture of life and light yet that was not the reality.
Yvonne Chase recently posted…Death by Suicide Is Now A Public Health CrisisMy Profile

Donna B Reidland June 1, 2022

It is heartbreaking, isn’t it! It is so important to talk about this subject even with someone we’re concerned about. We’re often afraid because we think talking to someone will cause them to do it. Yet, talking to them and listening can make a difference. And if we believe they are in imminent danger of hurting themselves, we shouldn’t hesitate to call 9-1-1.

Yvonne Chase June 2, 2022

Hi Donna,

Thanks for including the importance of calling 911 if we believe the person is in imminent danger. Also, many people do think talking to someone who is thinking about suicide will make them do it. The reality is we are supposed to ask them directly if they have thoughts of killing themselves.
Yvonne Chase recently posted…Death by Suicide Is Now A Public Health CrisisMy Profile

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