Most likely, and unfortunately, we've all known someone who has committed suicide. Perhaps you've even attempted it. Or, at least, considered it. I have. Being bipolar wreaked havoc in my life for more years than I'd care to admit. During the manic stages, I was either brilliantly creative and energetic, or I was mean and vile, leaving a path of destruction in my wake. During the low times, I was without hope, felt worthless, and definitely contemplated the benefits of leaving this world. Over and over again.
Why am I telling you this? Because, if you're struggling with the same feelings, I want you to know you're not alone. Others have walked the same path and many of us have made it through. Thank God I did. And thank God, you can, too.
If you are considering suicide right now, PLEASE
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They are there 24/7 and are willing to talk to anyone in distress.
- Chat with someone online through the Lifeline Crisis Chat.
- Teens -- text "listen" to 741-741.
- Veterans -- call 1-800-273-8255.
- Call 911.
A friend of mine made that call to 911 ten years ago and I am forever grateful that she did. People do care. Even if your mind has twisted that fact. Even if your heart is broken. It can be fixed. It can. Trust me.
The thing is that suicide doesn't just end your life. It can end the lives of countless others who love you, because when you die, you take a little bit (or a lot) of them with you. Nearly 30,000 Americans commit suicide each year. When someone is entertaining thoughts of suicide, it must be recognized as a psychiatric emergency requiring immediate intervention. Close to 1 million Americans receive treatment for suicidal thoughts, behaviors, or attempts annually.
Like me, over 90% of people who take their own lives have been previously diagnosed with a mental illness, such as depression, bipolar depression, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder (and other personality disorders), anxiety disorders, including PTSD (which I suffered from for over a decade after the tragic death of my husband), and eating disorders.
Of course, substance abuse and addiction put someone at an increased risk for suicide. Sometimes, as is suspected in the case of Robin Williams, prescription drugs can even play a devastating role in suicide attempts.
Who's at risk?
There is no distinction between race or ethnicity -- it's a level playing field.
Men are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than women.
Age is a factor, with an increased risk with the elderly.
Widows, divorcees and people who feel socially isolated have a greater chance of attempting suicide.
People with traumatic pasts are at risk.
And, sadly, people who have a family history of suicide are at an increased risk.
Every one of us knows people who fit in at least a few of these categories. If you think someone may be at risk, what should you do?
Encourage this person to get help. Don't be afraid to broach the subject -- you won't be planting ideas in his/her head. By voicing your concern, you may actually be defusing a bomb without even knowing about it.
Here are some resources to help you learn more about suicide prevention. Don't drag your feet on this.
American Association of Suicidology 1-800-273-TALK (8255) Crisis line
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 1-800-333-AFSP (2377) Note: this is not a crisis line.
National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
Suicide is a preventable tragedy. And, in some cases, only you can prevent it. Please do. You matter. You really do.
Caring about you,