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Suicide Prevention: A Glimmer of Light in Depression, Darkness

By Martha Michael

Suicide Prevention: A Glimmer of Light in Depression, Darkness

Experiencing a cloudy day is a connotation that goes beyond a description of the weather. If you’ve ever felt the weight of depression descend upon you, it’s not surprising to know that some people cannot seem to escape feelings of despair and powerlessness. World Suicide Prevention Day -- recognized every September 10 -- exists to raise awareness about causes and treatment for suicide and its impact on individuals, families, and society as a whole.

There’s plenty to discuss here, but if you don’t get to the bottom of the article, commit 988 to memory; it’s the 911 for people thinking of ending it all.

Facts About Suicide

A leading cause of death in the United States, suicide is responsible for nearly 50,000 fatalities per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When someone takes their own life, it impacts far more than the suicide victim; friends, loved ones, roommates, coworkers -- there’s typically a constellation of individuals affected by the loss.

Suicide is a significant mental health problem, evidenced by an estimated 12.3 million individuals every year who consider ending their lives. For many people it’s a fleeting thought, but there are other related behaviors impacting families and their communities, including the 3.5 million who create a plan and 1.7 million people who attempt suicide but fail.

Statistics related to the issue continue to show alarming trends. For every suicide death there are:

  • Eight visits to medical emergency departments
  • Three hospitalizations for self-harm
  • 265 people who seriously consider suicide over the span of a year
  • 38 suicide attempts self-reported

Why Do People Commit Suicide?

Just as everyone’s life experiences are different from one another, there are a wide range of reasons people commit suicide. From an inability to cope with depression to ending your life due to chronic pain, committing suicide can be the result of a combination of problems, according to an article by Verywell Mind.

Stress and Trauma

Traumatic experiences leave a lasting impression on a person’s brain and the more trauma someone experiences, the greater their risk of lasting mental issues.

Experiences causing significant personal trauma include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Live combat
  • Childhood neglect

Many individuals who seek help after enduring years of abuse are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. There are mental health professionals specializing in treatment of PTSD.

Mental Illness

There are many psychological issues that can lead to suicide, but the most common diagnosis is severe depression. The emotional pain of depression often incites feelings of loss and failure to regain a sense of hope.

Mental illnesses contributing to thoughts of suicide include:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Substance Abuse

People who abuse drugs or alcohol raise the risk of becoming suicidal. Addictive behaviors can damage relationships and subsequently cause depressive feelings. Loss of inhibitions caused by chemical abuse makes people more impulsive, which raises the chance they will follow through and act on suicidal ideations.

Chronic Pain or Illness

From relentless aches to incurable diseases, it’s easy to lose hope when you don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. Suffering painful symptoms over a long period of time, combined with side effects such as a loss of dignity and lack of control over your life, can erode the will to live. It sometimes leads to anxiety and depression, common features of people who commit suicide.

Health conditions known to contribute to the risk of suicide include:

  • Asthma
  • Back pain
  • Brain injuries
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart disease
  • HIV/AIDS
  • High blood pressure
  • Migraine headaches
  • Parkinson’s disease

What Cities And Regions Have the Most Suicides?

When research is unveiled about suicidal cities, the results are surprising to many people. Places in the United States with the most people at risk for suicide don’t match some of the stereotypes associated with it, such as big cities.

An article on the website for Becker’s Behavioral Health lists U.S. cities with the highest suicide rates by citing research by WalletHub.com. They studied 30 factors indicating levels of happiness, including depression, rate of income growth, and the amount of time residents have for leisure activities.

The five cities with the most suicides, in ranking order, are:

  • Casper, Wyo.
  • Rapid City, S.D.
  • Juneau, Alaska
  • Billings, Mont.
  • Colorado Springs, Colo.

The five cities with the fewest suicides, beginning with the lowest are:

  • Newark, N.J.
  • Jersey City, N.J.
  • New York, N.Y.
  • Columbia, Md.
  • Yonkers, N.Y.

Going back a decade to a 2011 list by Business Insider, which listed the 15 most suicidal cities per 100,000 population, the results aren’t exactly what you’d expect:

  • Las Vegas, Nev.
  • Colorado Springs, Colo.
  • Tucson, Ariz.
  • Sacramento, Calif.
  • Albuquerque, N.M.

Sure, maybe we can guess Vegas, but picking the other four cities in order is about as likely as winning the lottery.

What Jobs Have The Most Suicides?

Because the reasons for suicide vary from person to person, experts need to narrow down the research. Casting a wide net -- such as regions with higher levels of depression -- can be explained through other indicators.

An article on the website for the Joshua York Foundation discusses the reasons that certain professions have higher suicide rates than others. For some workers, there’s a combination of long hours and scant mental health support. People in jobs with less financial security can have trouble managing such emotions as anxiety and depression, so they’re at higher risk for suicide. Professions that involve a risk to physical health or life-threatening situations sometimes pose higher risks for taking their own life.

Medical Professionals

Doctors, nurses, and dentists are part of a group with an ironically high rate of suicides. Though they’re in a field that’s adjacent to the mental health profession and are certainly knowledgeable about some of the signs of distress, doctors top the list of professions with the highest suicide rate. The pressure involved in practicing medicine and their contact with human suffering are some of the factors contributing to the number of physicians who choose to end their lives.

Law Enforcement Officers

The demands of sheriff’s deputies and police officers are often considered among the most daunting when compared to other vocations. Witnessing traumatic situations and facing threats to their lives make law enforcement personnel a specialized group requiring a high level of fortitude. The pressure to remain calm in dramatic situations and maintain the appearance of strength and bravery can lead to feelings of isolation. There can be a stigma associated with mental health services among men and women in these professions, which can lead to serious consequences of untreated trauma.

Veterinarians

It’s a surprising fact that veterinarians continue to rank on the list of professions with high rates of suicide. Treating sick and dying animals is an emotionally stressful practice and, when combined with pushback from pet owners, vets walk a tightrope of negative emotions.

Some vets also work atypical hours, remaining open after people leave their workplace and sometimes keeping a clinic open 24 hours a day. Other issues, such as the burden of student loans, can compound their pressures, and some individuals find the easy access to lethal medications a tempting solution to battling negative emotions.

Financial Planners

Managing money is a universally difficult task and those in the field of finance juggle the cash flow of many individuals. Taking on the responsibility of providing security for your own family and others can be stressful as it fluctuates according to an economy you can’t control. Their efforts to please clients compounds the chance they develop anxiety that can lead to suicidal thoughts.

Where Can Suicidal People Go For Help?

When you or a loved one show symptoms of depression and sense it’s moving toward suicidal thoughts, there are resources available to you for support. If you are already spending time with a psychotherapist or a support group where you can talk about suicide and other struggles, share your thoughts with them so they can help you address negative emotions and keep you safe.

Most people are aware that when you’re ill or in pain you can call 911 for assistance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest you call or text 988 when you or a loved one is experiencing any mental health distress. It is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, and you will speak to a counselor for confidential crisis support.

If you feel suicidal and you served in the armed forces, you can reach the Veterans Crisis Line by dialing 988 and pressing the number 1 when prompted.

For more information, visit 988lifeline.org. There is an option to chat with a crisis counselor on the site.

Everyone feels down at times, but when it feels like it’s getting worse or you’re losing control of your ability to remain hopeful, reach out to someone for support. Whether it’s a mental health professional or a friend, making someone else aware that you’re struggling helps you weather the storm of anxiety, depression, or other emotional challenges you’re facing.

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