Is Suicide Your Answer?

Life events seldom happen the way we plan. And often we are left stunned. Especially when someone we know elects to snuff out their own life.

The recent news of a young teacher committing suicide caused memories to groan deep from within me. Leaving behind a young wife and child was tragic enough. But added to that, he left his students with a plethora of confusion and despair. He was beloved by these precious young people, especially by my friend's daughter, who happens to be a senior.

Imagine the horror her tender spirit felt upon finding out he not only took his life, but he plunged to his death by jumping off of a bridge.

And just the day before, through tears, he had shared his love for the students. Which left them even more perplexed and not without guilt.

False guilt, but still. Guilt that why didn't they see it coming? Why didn't they recognize he was saying good-bye? Their youthful innocence being dismissed in their own minds. Not realizing even adults were amiss in the drama. So how could they have possibly "called" it even if it was staring them in the face? Regardless, somehow they felt responsible for this injustice placed in their lives.

People In My Own Life
Yes, indeed his suicide created my own set of dismantled emotions from the past. Memories of different people but in particularly one dear friend. Who always wore a smile. Whose eyes endlessly seemed to dance. Yet, behind the appearance of happiness was the torn and broken heart that was cleverly hidden and covered with the painted smile ever before us.

Should I have taken note when just months before he shared with me the story of his friend who committed suicide? His friend who seemed to have it all together but was shockingly found with a gun to his head? Should I have noticed that something just didn't seem quite right? That a tiny piece was missing? That his eyes somehow seemed deeper yet darker? I told myself it was just my imagination and or that it was just his given personality.

Should I have felt some guilt when I moved away without even saying good-bye?

One month later, he considered taking his life. Thankfully he chose to come under pastoral care. He relinquished his gun to his minister with the agreement to call if he felt the "urge" to consider the attempt again. Darkness grabbed his mind and heart because within the next month, he had bought a second gun.

Days later, he sat down at his desk, with pen in hand and wrote his last words. Then took the gun, and he left this life and those of us who loved him.

A few more months passed before I stumbled onto the sobering news. At a sandwich shop, I ran into a mutual friend. When I asked had she spoken to him lately, her siren stare spoke loudly. Only I didn't know why. She stood, took my hands and said, "Oh, Ellen, I guess you didn't know, he took his life." Everything around me began to spin out of control. I lost all sense of where I was. I gave no thought to onlookers. And I broke down in a flood of tears as she held me in her arms. I'll never escape that day.

Since then, I've come to grips with his untimely death. Yet, his smile is forever imprinted upon my heart. And I will forever miss him.

What To Make Of Suicide
Some say, "Suicide is the most selfish act a person can commit." Or, "It's the unpardonable sin, and you will for sure go to hell for it." Perhaps, you, too, believe that. But is it really? Perhaps it's a matter of perspective. We can debate it all day long, but what does it accomplish? Little.

Why not take a fresh look at it and discover ways to be more aware of how to recognize signs and help rather than flipping it off as selfishness. We can tag it all day long as the most selfish choice we could ever make. And the benefit? Little to none. Suicide is NOT going away.

What Do The Stats Tell Us?
Statistics show that while women take the lead in "attempting" suicide, men take the lead in actually accomplishing it, for the lack of a better word. Why is that? Many conclude it's because women truly don't want to die, but are screaming for help. They want to be stopped.

Whereas men typically have made up their minds, and it's a done deal. Logical? Left brain at work?

Women typically resort to using "pills" while men use more drastic measures: Firearms.

Pills give the opportunity to possibly giving life a second chance. While a bullet pretty much eclipses all considerations.

Nation Stats:
Starting in 1933-had the highest % of suicides. The Great Depression?
Today: 11% per 100,000 commit suicide
Men-17.7 %
Women- 4.5%

Youth (15-24)- 10.0%

Elderly (65+)- 14.7%
male- 29.5%
female- 4.0%

Who Are The Most Likely?
#1-White men
#2- Elderly (65+)
#3- Youth (15-24)
#4- Women

Firearms Used- 52.1%
Who uses Firearms?
Elderly- 72.0%
Men- 57.6%
Youth- 46.6%


Other measures: about 8%

On average, someone attempts suicide every 40 seconds in the U.S.

On average, someone commits suicide every 16 minutes.

On average, 88 people die by suicide each day in the U.S.

More people kill themselves than are killed by others.

Northwestern states highest % of suicides.
Alaska had highest (29%) for youth.
Stats= 2005

Looking Behind Their Eyes
While we can't take responsibility for a person's decision to take his/her own life, we can choose to become more aware of the signs. Here are just a few to consider.

  • Depression
  • Loss of interest in relationships, academics, occupations, just life in general
  • Withdrawal
  • Extreme wt loss and or loss of appetite
  • Talk of suicide, even hints of it
  • Loss of belief in their purpose in life
  • Extreme highs and lows
  • Looking at gender and age might be a sign as well if there is a question
  • Having gone thru trauma of some sort
  • The sense that they are saying their good-byes
  • Prematurely finalizing aspects of their life

Most suicide choices were made out of some sort of desperation. A loss of self-worth to their world around them. The feeling of no value to loved ones.

Yes, the focus maybe inward, yet it extends outward. They are usually NOT trying to hurt anyone, but in their minds spare others from being hurt. Many times they believe they are inadequate in supplying the needs for their loved ones.

Clearly their thoughts are not rational. So to try and rationalize "why" will only lead you to more confusion. It will never make sense. Rather, let's accept that our minds are a piece of Divine Work. And within that comes humbling complexity. We understand very little about the mind. Get past the whys and move into prevention via awareness.

What Are Some Things YOU Can Do To Help?

  • Listen, no I mean really listen.
  • Don't try to be their savior. There's only One of those!
  • Encourage them to seek solid counsel.
  • Help them find a pastor/counselor or someone who is qualified to help.
  • Give them hotline #s (see below for a list).
  • Ask them to join you or someone they trust in a suicide prevention contract (if they even begin to think they are being drawn into taking out their life, they will call you first).
  • Know when you have done all you can do, and refer them to someone who is more equipped to help. Know your limits.
  • And if they are a minor, you should report them to trusted officials and family.
  • Not to dismiss the possible importance of contacting help if they are an adult.

FOR HELP: Call toll-free: 800.SUICIDE (784-2433), 1-800-273-TALK (8255), for Spanish: 1-888-628-9454, Deaf: 1-888-628-9454.


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