This article will tackle active suicide and may not be suitable for sensitive audiences.
Suicide is a word we whisper when someone dies by their own hand. Often we are surprised to learn that the person died by suicide because we thought they were doing well.
As members of society, we have a responsibility to spread the news that people who look well are not always well. We must discuss suicide out in the open so we can beat it. Suicide is not inevitable, but it is unnecessary. Having open and honest communication about this difficult topic can open people up to an understanding of the cause of suicide and its prevalence.
The Vital Importance of Talking About Suicide
Suicide is a serious public health crisis in the United States, with suicide rates increasing by approximately 36% between 2000-2021. As many as 48,183 deaths were attributed to suicide in 2021. More people have died by suicide in 2022 than in 2021, with the number of deaths increasing by 5% to 50,000 people taking their own lives.
In 2021, the number of people who thought about or attempted suicide increased to 1.7 million people, while one person every minute completed their suicide.
Obviously, the statistics are horrendous and reflect a failure of society to recognize and help those who are suicidal. Instead, society expects the few counselors and crisis helpers to make a difference, but we are all responsible for helping those who are in emotional trouble.
Talking about suicide saves lives and helps cushion the impact of the loss of a precious life. Any death causes a ripple effect of loss and sorrow among family, friends, and the community.
Know the Risk Factors
The National Institute of Mental Health in the United States says that suicide is not a discerner of persons, and it affects people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, or any other demographic group. Suicide is a complex problem, as there is not one cause or factor that results in the completion of an attempt.
However, most suicidal people share some similar characteristics, as indicated in the list below.
- Depression or other mental health disorders
- Chronic pain
- Substance abuse
- A family history of surviving someone else’s suicide
- Owning guns or other firearms
- Exposure to a celebrity’s suicide
- Recently being released from prison
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Increased mood swings
- Feeling trapped or hopeless
- Engaging in reckless behaviors
- Giving away belongings
- Saying goodbye as if they will not be seen again
The list above is not all-inclusive but highlights some of the risk factors involved with suicidal ideation or attempts. Someone who is talking about suicide, even passively, should never be ignored.
Men, CPTSD, and Suicide
Our men are struggling because their role in our society is ever-shifting. The number of men who died by suicide in 2023 so far is 39,255, that’s a 7% increase over 2021. These stats indicate that our men are dying from their demons, and we are not doing enough to make sure they do not fall through the cracks.
The question these stats bring is why? Why are so many men losing their lives to suicide? There are many reasons.
One, men are expected to not express their emotions. Men believe and are taught that they must be tough and never cry. We discourage male children from crying by stating, “Big boys don’t cry,” instead of allowing them to express how they truly feel. When these children grow into adults, the idea that they must not show emotion is deeply ingrained, leading some to pent up their emotions until they are destroyed by them. We must discuss and change men’s gender roles if we are to save lives.
Men self-medicate. Men are more likely to attempt to treat their anxiety and depression by using substances such as drugs or alcohol. However, alcohol further depresses men, and drugs only push forward dealing with the emotions that caused them to use. Those who use alcohol and drugs to escape are more likely to have suicidal thoughts and actions.
Men are encouraged to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” Showing how they really feel opens up men to ridicule and stigmatization. For this reason, many men choose to suffer alone and not disclose their emotional distress even to their doctor.
Misdiagnosis. Men are more likely to receive a diagnosis from their doctor of being overworked and in need of a vacation rather than listening to their distress and getting them the help they need.
We must open a dialogue about men’s gender roles and suicide to prevent more men from dying.
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Suicide
Complex trauma is a growing problem in the United States and the world, and it impacts children the most. Early childhood trauma refers to the traumatic experiences of young children who cannot verbalize their reactions to threatening events. Some of these events may include:
- Sexual abuse
- Narcissistic abuse
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Witnessing domestic violence
- Natural disasters
- Living in a war zone
- Medically painful procedures
- The loss of a parent/caregiver
Most of us know someone who experienced complex trauma as children, and those experiences they had as a child have led to the development of a condition known as complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD).
CPTSD in adults causes dysregulated emotions and sometimes a feeling of needing to escape. Hypervigilance is part of complex post-traumatic stress disorder, meaning people living with it regularly feel on edge as though something terrible is going to happen at any moment.
Adults who have CPTSD are sometimes so overwhelmed by their emotions due to CPTSD that they become suicidal.
Suicide Prevention and Advocacy
Suicide is not just a calamity for those left behind after someone dies; it is a national tragedy. Suicide is a public health disaster that requires cooperation among individuals, families, healthcare providers, and government leaders.
The main thing that must happen is for advocates to rise up from the public and talk about the realities of suicide. Suicide is a highly preventable death, and it requires all of society to work together to defeat it.
The first step in advocacy must be speaking out and letting people know that suicide isn’t somebody else’s problem, it is a national disaster that must be talked about. No one must escape the conversation if we are to save lives.
To advocate for the prevention of suicide and for those who are affected by it, don’t be afraid to ask someone if they are feeling suicidal. Talking about suicide will not cause a person to die by it; that is a myth. People who are asked if they are thinking about harming themselves often change their minds because someone expressed that they care.
Do not leave a suicidal person alone. Instead, call 988 to receive help for that person. 988 is the new national hotline number that is connected to crisis counselors who will help in a totally confidential environment.
By calling 988, you might be assigned a crisis team who will come to the suicidal person’s side and evaluate them. No police are involved, only caring people who are trained to deal with mental health crises provide the help you need.
Ending Our Time Together
Remaining silent on the topic of suicide is literally killing people. People dying by suicide is a sad commentary on our society, where the expression of strong emotions and suicidal ideation are looked down upon.
Instead of whispering about suicide, we as a society must begin shouting about it from the rooftops, if necessary, to gain the ability to open a dialogue about it.
Please, do not become a statistic. If you are feeling like harming yourself, reach out for help today. No problem is so great that we cannot solve it together.
No one wants to die by suicide; instead, they need someone to care enough to stick with them and to make sure they are not alone.
“As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself. The critical issue is to follow yourself to know what you know. And that takes an enormous amount of courage.” — Bessell van der Kolk.
“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” — Lucius Annaeus Seneca
My name is Shirley Davis and I am a freelance writer with over 40-years- experience writing short stories and poetry. Living as I do among the corn and bean fields of Illinois (USA), working from home using the Internet has become the best way to communicate with the world. My interests are wide and varied. I love any kind of science and read several research papers per week to satisfy my curiosity. I have earned an Associate Degree in Psychology and enjoy writing books on the subjects that most interest me.