Suicide; Is That Your Final Answer?

To shoot yourself in the heart with a rifle is difficult. The average length of a man’s arm is 25 inches. from the base of the neck to the wrist.  The distance from the butt of a rifle to the trigger is about 17 inches. You’d have to position the butt of the rifle over your heart then twist your arm and then contort your hand so you can pull the trigger. You have to really want this. That’s what my friend Tim did when we were in college. He packed up his room, laid out is car keys, important papers and rode off on his motorcycle with his rifle, into the mountains and killed himself. I was reminded of this when Grown ish,a show about college life aired an episode on suicide this week. Suicide is complex and as a multitude of forms. As a layperson, I see distinct groups even though we typically think of it as one thing.

  • Occupational suicide; post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).
    • Police Officers and Firefighters Are More Likely to Die by Suicide than in the Line of Duty.¹ 
    • 20 veterans each day lose their lives to suicide — a number that has not changed for almost a decade.²
  • Adolescent angst; brain maturity. These days, a consensus of neuroscientists agree that brain development likely persists until at least the mid-20s – possibly until the 30s.³
    •  This is the group with the highest risk of suicide. In that year alone, suicide claimed the lives of 5,016 males and 1,225 females between 15 and 24 in the United States.4
  • Despondency; hopelessness with life conditions. More farmers are committing suicide. The opioid epidemic, small towns ravaged by the opioid epidemic have an 80% higher suicide.
  • Senior Isolation; bereavement, depression and complicated grief. Research has found that one out of four senior citizens that attempt suicide, dies, compared to one out of 200 attempts for young adults.5

There are varying degrees of depression with these. Signs we feel like we ignored or miss and guilt. But, most of us aren’t trained mental health professionals. We see only a glimpse of the person and most of all, it’s not a conversation anyone wants to have. We don’t read about the signs, until after there is an incident. This wasn’t my first nor was it my last experience with suicide. Each situation is different, different ages, circumstances, races, genders and socioeconomic status.

Then there is the terminal illness, assisted suicide, For that, no one staged a more elegant exit than David Bowie. Carefully orchestrated so he could transition with friends and family in peace without fear of legal entanglements. Bowie had liver cancer and time to plan. For his finale, he had his 69th birthday, released his twenty-fifth album,  produced a musical and followed God on twitter before his death.6 A sharp contrast to his end of life compared to my friend Tim, the only similarity, both where white males, the group with he highest suicide rate. . Suicide in young people is the second largest cause of death. This week, observe and reflect. Do we really talk about  suicide? Do we wait until there is an incident or cause for alarm? With the alarming increase, can this continue to be the practice?

 

 

 

1 https://rudermanfoundation.org/white_papers/police-officers-and-firefighters-are-more-likely-to-die-by-suicide-than-in-line-of-duty/

2 https://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/veteran-suicide-is-not-just-military-issue-1.585829

3 https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/02/18/at-what-age-is-the-brain-fully-developed/

4 https://www.latimes.com/science/la-sci-suicide-rates-rising-teens-young-adults-20190618-story.html

5https://www.npr.org/2019/07/27/745017374/isolated-and-struggling-many-seniors-are-turning-to-suicide

6https://www.ranker.com/list/how-david-bowie-died-better-than-most-people-live/clark-benson

 

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