Friday, November 20, 2009

Honoring Survivors of Suicide

An American dies by suicide about every 16 minutes, with an attempt being made every minute. Further, suicide is the leading cause of death among adults (18-65), the third leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds, and the elderly show an alarmingly high rate. Suicide rates have also reached an all-time high among the military in 2008, and are expected to rise further this year.

But these figures do not begin to capture all who are affected by suicide. For each victim, there are many survivors… family and friends left behind to try and make sense of the loss of their loved one.

Tomorrow (November 21, 2009) is the 10th Anniversary of National Survivors of Suicide Day. The result of a U.S. Senate resolution, this day is an opportunity for survivors to gather in support of one another, and to heal.

As survivors prepare to gather to remember their loved ones, my thoughts focus on the importance of the research that has, and will continue, to decrease suicide rates. Over 90% of those that die from suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death (including depression, the most common mental illness leading to suicide). Drugs and other therapeutic treatments have been, and continue to be, developed to help those that suffer from these conditions. Cognitive therapy has been shown to reduce repeat suicide attempts by 50%; community-based prevention programs were successful at decreasing the suicide rate in the U.S. Air Force by 1/3; and participation in teen awareness programs, such as Signs of Suicide, resulted in a 40% drop in suicide attempts.

The hardest part of preventing suicide is recognizing the signs. So, to honor those survivors gathering this weekend, spend some time researching the signs preceding suicide. Research continues to provide us with the treatments, but we need to make the effort to recognize the conditions.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Suicide Prevention at NIMH
Survivors of Suicide

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