Monday, October 12, 2009

Shocking Suicide Statistics

Tonight I heard of yet another family devastated by suicide, again a young man, again in the spring. I don't know this family, but my heart goes out to them. I know what they are going through.

It seems like an epidemic to me, and I read that the suicide rate is increasing in the USA for the first time in over a decade. The website cites this statistic:

Survivors (i.e., family members and friends of a loved one who died by suicide): 
       • Each suicide intimately affects at least 6 other people (estimate) 
       • Based on the 766,042 suicides from 1982 through 2006, estimated that the number of survivors of suicides in the U.S. is 4.6 million (1 of every 65 Americans in 2006); number grew by at least 199,800 in 2006 
       • If there is a suicide every 15.8 minutes, then there are 6 new survivors every 15.8 minutes as well 
That is a very conservative estimate, because they don't count all those who committed suicide prior to 1982 (like my dad in 1960) and after 2006, so I believe it is way more than double that number, meaning that it's more like one out of every 30 Americans who has been directly affected by the suicide of a family member or friend. 

The most recent statistic I could find was for 2006, and that was 33,300 nationwide. That same year, the deaths from auto accidents were 38,648. I don't think most people (certainly not me) had any idea that the suicide rate was that high or that close to the number who died in auto accidents. The rate among our soldiers and veterans is frightening.

We can read that, but what can we do about it? We have suicide prevention programs, but do they work? Do those who commit suicide want to be prevented or are they so miserable they just want it all to be over? Sometimes their problems are acute and with time would heal but for others, the misery seems to go on for years and years, especially those with severe clinical depression, bipolar syndrome, or PTSD.

I know that our family is forever changed. We will go on. We will learn how to live with it, but how can we look at a photo like the one above, of my joyful-looking fourteen-year-old son and not forever wonder how it all went so wrong?
The photo of Leif and Jerri was taken in the old stone house in Manhattan, Kansas in July 1989. At the time we were living at Fort Sheridan north of Chicago and Jerri's mother was living in the old stone house. We made a trip there that summer to visit. Leif was fourteen.

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