In light of watching those who read my publication and others, speaking tremendously on social media today about depression and suicide and in shock over the death of one of the most beloved actors of our recent times, Robin Williams, I felt this an important topic to discuss.
Before you even read this, please keep this number handy if you or someone you know is depressed or considering suicide: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-TALK (8255). Also seek medical help immediately. Know you and your life are precious and you are loved.
I’ve used the picture of “The Elephant in the Room” today as a depiction of what depression and suicide can be and do…that elephant in the room…that is so big and obstructs our lives, especially when we sometimes know of it happening to someone else. Yet, many find a way to navigate around this massive creature, though it is blocking our way, without addressing it…or recognizing it is there and pretending it is not. Or sometimes we are just busy and pass it by. And for those who have the thoughts, the elephant may be something they also do not wish to talk about.
Suicide deaths are not an incidental matter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most recent chart on the organization’s website, lists suicide among the top ten of causes of death in the United States. In 2011, the most recent year fully-reported, there were 39,518 deaths by suicide. That equates to approximately 108 Americans daily who committed suicide in 2011.
That was already an increase from 2010, where suicide ranked 34,690 for the year, or approximately 95 United States residents daily.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), data for suicide deaths for 2012 and 2013 are not available yet. However, the group notes that the Western part of the country has the highest rate of suicide. This is a helpful website that provides many statistics about this topic for anyone seeking more information.
I would honestly suspect, as someone who works in the news business, the numbers for 2012, 2013, and 2014, for suicide statistics, are only going to climb. Our economy has been rough, there are tragic things going on in the world that have been upsetting, and much more.
The first person that I personally knew who took his own life was a police officer. I was about 12 years old when I met this man and his girlfriend at a family party that I attended, which was mostly populated with police officers that were friends of the host and hostess. The gentleman and his girlfriend were extremely kind, and spent the time talking to me, a kid, while many of the adults at the festivities hung out and socialized among themselves. I think they felt badly that here I was this little girl without other kids at the event. They even made a point before leaving for the evening to seek me out and to say goodbye to me.
So, when I learned that this lovely person took his own life, I was dumbfounded. Here he was a nice and good-looking person with a sweet girlfriend, who was also a kind and pretty woman. He had a decent and steady job as a patrolman.
What broke inside of him to lead him in that direction?
There were others too when I was in high school, who threatened it, and even a few who succeeded at it. Also, some who had deaths by suicide in their families. It is a lonely journey for those who were left behind, and I felt sad for both the victims and their families.
When I was in college, and shortly after, in two separate conversations, two friends talked about “ending it.” I would not hear of it. I remained strong on the other end of the phone and waited until I felt it was “safe” and they were calmed down. After ending the conversations, in both cases, I broke down in tears and cried myself to sleep. It was copious hours on the phone telling these friends how special they are and how much they mean to various people in their lives. Both of these friends are thriving and doing strong today. It was a harrowing experience, though I think I handled myself well and obviously the end result is…they are both here…but could I have done things differently?
Another friend had a significant other who succeeded at a suicide attempt about five years ago…it left us all stunned. There came a point when this person seemed “safe” and everyone had talked to this person, after their behaviors had been erratic. Then, this person disappeared into a secluded place, and sadly took his life. Only a few weeks earlier, a group of us was dancing around at a German festival…and next we were at his memorial service. Who knew? We later learned this person had lost their job and was in horrible debt. They felt they had no other choice.
Then there are a few people who have crossed my path, who have used suicide as a manipulation tool. What I mean is, they say, “If you don’t do this”…typically making some kind of a demand…they will take their own life. As if a life is a trade-off for something minor. One of these individuals actually had a history of a failed suicide attempt and continued to use this threat towards several people including me. Once, I was singing in a church choir for Easter, and this person sent a text message while I was singing that their life would be over when the song was over. After one of these threatening moments, I consulted with a pastor who I prayed with on the phone, and then I called the police to have them check on this person. In the meantime, this person also left a note on my door that they “were not going to hurt” themselves that they were “too much of a coward.” I will just say that police and other professionals handled this situation.
It is important to be sensitive to all types of depression and suicide issues, though it is wrong for someone to make suicide threats for manipulation. Obviously, there are also deep issues in a person like this to even make suggestions of this nature. Even these “crying wolf” comments show a greater and deeper pain that they would use the threat of self-inflicted death to scare others their way, bully, and to get their way. The people that I know who have done this have succeeded in their manipulation tactics and gotten their way. But, how much longer can they bluff? Always? Or will one day, they actually follow through on their threats?
Why don’t some seek help for depression and thoughts of suicide? As someone who is a reporter who won an award from the New Jersey Governor’s Council on Mental Health Stigma for reporting on mental health matters, I will say I have learned, often times it is because of the stigma. It’s the fear of what others will think about them. What their employer will think about them. What their friends, neighbors and loved ones will think about them.
The stigma is sometimes an even greater “Elephant in the Room”…meaning greater than the actual depression and thoughts of suicide. Which is what can lead to a breakdown in the person’s condition, and may yield suicide. The suicide, in turn, feeds into the stigma and judgment.
People who are undergoing these thoughts of depression and suicide need to remember they are human…and we need to treat them the same way…some have been too judgmental of Robin Williams. “He’s this rich guy”…”what did he have to die for?” “What was he upset about? He was famous and had an easy life!” That’s some of the stuff I’m hearing.
Sometimes though, it’s those like Robin Williams who are the strongest people, who are breaking inside and feel they just can’t use one extra ounce of their strength or give anymore…and the one with the largest smiles on the outside are sometimes the ones who are the saddest to their core.
We need to treat those who are struggling with depression with love, hugs, and care. We need them to know that they are worth it. We need them to know too, it is OK to seek help.
Actually, I need to rephrase that…we need to treat everyone with care as best as we possibly can…because we don’t know sometimes…we don’t know the internal battles that each person is fighting.
What are some of the signs of suicide? For a complete list, click here to view SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education). They might include: talk of suicide or hopes of dying, feelings of hopelessness, feeling of pain or being trapped, insomnia or excess sleep, mood swings, giving away items, preoccupation with death.
If stigma is an issue for someone reading who is battling depression or suicide…please know you do not need to be ashamed…and there is confidential help…even a quick Google Search on the Internet will yield a few results that are confidential and toll free.. For those feeling too upset to search right now, or if you are someone helping a friend going through this…I’ve listed a few numbers below, as well as any websites…remember, with any life-threatening and immediate medical emergency, call 911…do not wait.
The Samaritans – 24-Hour Crisis Hotline – staffed with volunteers, completely confidential…helps those with depression, domestic violence, anxiety, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress, gender issues, unemployment, divorce, sexual assault, thoughts of suicide and more: (212) 673-3000. Click here for website.
Psych Central website (click here) numbers for suicide and depression hotlines, teen violence, runaways, child abuse, pregnancy and more. Numbers in both the U.S. and UK listed.
National Suicide Prevention Helpline as listed on the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) – click here for website. Tel: (800) 273-8255 (800-273-TALK).
Teen Health and Wellness website, listing phone numbers about AIDS, alcohol abuse, bullying, cyberbullying, depression, eating disorders, grief, loss, rape, sexual violence, domestic violence, runaways, school violence, sexuality, suicide, teen parenting, teen pregnancy. Click here for complete information.
Contact “From Breaking Point to Turning Point.” The crisis line (972) 233-2233, Teen Help Line (972) 233-8336, and Spanish Help Line (972) 233-2428. Click here for the website.
Other places that provide assistance, which are local to our reading area:
Center for Prevention and Counseling (973) 383-6576 – For youth, adults, families, teaching life skills, working with alcohol related issues, providing individual and family counseling, and more.
DASI with 24-hour helpline. (973) 875-1211. DASI can help with providing safe housing, providing assistance to those who’ve suffered sexual violence, domestic violence, and more.
Morris/Sussex Resource with hotlines for families, suicide prevention (tel is (908) 232-2880), Jersey Battered Women’s Services (tel is (973) 267-4763), NJ Veteran’s Counseling Hotline (tel is: (866) VETS-NJ4), and more. Click here for website.
Help is always confidential, even for those who decide to enlist local help, whether it’s calling a helpline confidentially, or reaching out to a doctor or counselor. Don’t be afraid…seek help…and if you don’t feel courageous enough to seek out the assistance, go to a friend you trust and have them speak on your behalf. If you don’t feel you have a friend you trust, remember, there is always a caring line on the other end of the phone with one of the many resources provided in this article.
If you are, or someone you care about is battling depression of any type, according to the American Psychiatric Association, you may be experiencing signs as well, which could put you or your loved one at an increased risk of suicide. Take care of your depression before it goes too far.
Please always remember, above all, you are worth it. Your life is worth it. There’s someone who loves you. That someone may not even be born yet. You are here for a reason.
Take care of yourself, nurture yourself, heal yourself, love yourself…don’t give up.
I close with what I think is one of the loveliest songs ever is below (at least one of my favorites)…Peter Gabriel…Don’t Give Up…please watch the video and listen to the music.
Please Don’t Give Up. I hope my column has helped you. Please feel free to leave comments or write me at: firstname.lastname@example.org with any feedback. God bless you…please take care and take care of those who you love.
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Don’t Give Up (Lyrics Copyrighted by Peter Gabriel)
In this proud land we grew up strong
We were wanted all along
I was taught to fight, taught to win
I never thought I could fail
No fight left or so it seems
I am a man whose dreams have all deserted
I’ve changed my face, I’ve changed my name
But no-one wants you when you lose
Don’t give up ’cause you have friends
Don’t give up you’re not beaten yet
Don’t give up I know you can make it good
Though I saw it all around
Never thought that I could be affected
Thought that we’d be last to go
It is so strange the way things turn
Drove the night toward my home
The place that I was born, on the lakeside
As daylight broke, I saw the earth
The trees had burned down to the ground
Don’t give up you still have us
Don’t give up we don’t need much of anything
Don’t give up ’cause somewhere there’s a place where we belong
Rest your head
You worry too much
It’s going to be alright
When times get rough
You can fall back on us
Don’t give up
Please don’t give up
Got to walk out of here
I can’t take anymore
Going to stand on that bridge
Keep my eyes down below
Whatever may come
and whatever may go
That river’s flowing
That river’s flowing
Moved on to another town
Tried hard to settle down
For every job, so many men
So many men no-one needs
Don’t give up ’cause you have friends
Don’t give up you’re not the only one
Don’t give up no reason to be ashamed
Don’t give up you still have us
Don’t give up now we’re proud of who you are
Don’t give up you know it’s never been easy
Don’t give up ’cause I believe there’s a place
There’s a place
Where we belong
Don’t give up
Don’t give up
Don’t give up