The notion of a loved one ending their life at their own hand is one that most of us will never be able to comprehend. However, here in Jessamine County, as well as the rest of the state, and for that matter the country, suicide has become more commonplace than ever before.
Researchers have compiled volumes of documentation in attempts to identify not only the underlying compulsion for committing suicide, but how the event is triggered. Regardless of these studies, we must always face the many questions that arise and the tumult of emotions that erupt within our family and social circle.
Why did they do it? Why didn’t they talk to someone? Why was there no alternative? Why didn’t I see it? Why didn’t I or someone else do something? Why? Why? Why?
I am not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, but I have seen more than my share of this kind of tragic death in my various medical careers and too many times as coroner. What I do know about suicide is very little, but I would like to offer for thought the following:
• In 2007, suicide was the 10th-leading cause of death at 34,598 deaths.
• Suicide was the seventh-leading cause of death in men and the 15th-leading cause for women.
The major risk factors for suicide are:
• Depression/other mental illness or substance-abuse disorder (accounts for 90 percent of all suicides)
• Prior suicide attempt
• Family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
• Firearm in the home (used in more than 50 percent of suicides in U.S.)
• Exposure to suicidal behavior of others, (family, friend, celebrity)
In 2007, Kentucky ranked third in the nation for death by suicide behind Utah (first) and West Virginia (second).
Jessamine County ranked 110th by county in Kentucky.
Since depression is so relevant and is frequently associated with substance abuse including prescription medications, we need to be aware of its warning signs; but remember that everyone who exhibits a symptom may not be suffering depression.
• Persistent sadness, uncaring or empty mood
• Hopelessness or pessimism
• Guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
• Loss of interest in pleasure, hobbies, activities
• Loss of energy, fatigue
• Difficulty concentrating, memory loss
• Loss of appetite
• Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempt
If you think you or a loved one may be suicidal, don’t wait; get help right away. That may mean getting them to a hospital or, if necessary, calling 911 and asking for assistance. If there are firearms and/or narcotics in the home, try to remove them unceremoniously. If you are convinced they are truly suicidal, don’t leave that person alone, and don’t let them talk you out of getting help for them.
A closing reminder is that depression seems more rampant during the holidays, probably associated with old memories or desperate financial circumstances. To avoid the extra stress associated with the holidays, just enjoy the family, minister to others when you can, and don’t get too caught up in what you can’t afford.