American Foundation for Suicide Prevention logo (afsp.org)
Huge numbers of us decide as well to self-destructive via less obvious means, like my friend, Jimmy, who burned up in a lonely room where a spark set off the fumes from his homemade drug lab, or others who have picked highly dangerous hobbies, eaten way too much or too little, driven their cars wildly, selected partners who are abusive and given to out of control rages, deliberately confronted police with firearms ("suicide by cop"), selected terrorism as a way of having "meaningful lives," overdosed, etc.
How many have given serious thought to suicide or have tried it? It is not only those with severe depression. The stats are inaccurate, for people seldom file official reports, but estimates are that for every successful suicide there are 25 attempts and that many more still have developed suicide plans. Surveys of college students suggest that at one time or another at least half have thought of suicide, while 15-20% have seriously contemplated doing themselves in.
Among returning vets, frequently suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, the percentages are shockingly higher. Though vets make up less than 10% of the general population, about 20% of this nation's actual suicides are committed by veterans.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. overall. It is not, though, a problem unique to this country. Annually around the globe scores of millions of people attempt suicide. Many of these succeed.
For new mothers and people aged 25-34, suicide is the second most common cause of death, after accidents. A goodly number of the deadly mishaps are also due to self-destructive behaviors. For people throughout the 10-54 years of age spectrum in the U.S., suicide as a cause of death ranks second, third, or fourth.
Typically each of those who "off themselves" also affects thereby a wide circle of friends and relations who grieve for the loss and wonder if they might have done something to prevent this outcome.
Besides the incalculable emotional price, there is a high economic cost to society from people taking their own lives, averaging about $1,000,000 each, due to lost wages, unused training and education, reduction in the tax base, added financial burdens for others, etc.
So, granted that there is a problem, what, if he or she wishes to, can a single individual do to help? Here are a few suggestions:
For more information:
Suicide Prevention: How to Help Someone Who Is Suicidal. Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Lawrence Robinson in HelpGuide.org; last updated in February, 2016.