Suicide and those it affects the most

Published 8:11 pm Tuesday, June 12, 2018

It has become a part of our national consciousness. For loved ones who are left behind, there is often a feeling of betrayal. Suicide happens more frequently than we can imagine. When it happens among celebrities we often wonder why. We just can’t validate in our mind why someone who appears to be on top of the world in their respective field could make the decision to take their own life.

Fans and admirers, and even family members, often respond in anger and condemnation. Such was the case of celebrity chef, television host and international traveler, Anthony Bourdain who recently killed himself in his hotel room in France. As media reports came in concerning his death, some of his closest friends were interviewed. Comments clearly revealed their love, but also anger at his having committed suicide. Anthony Bourdain was one of several celebrities who have committed suicide during the past five years.

For the record, the suicide rate in the United States has seen sharp increases in recent years. It’s now the tenth leading cause of death in the country, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. To be more specific, nearly 30,000 Americans commit suicide every year. You might be surprised to know that suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds and second for 24 to 35-year-olds. Each suicide intimately affects at least six other people. It is unfortunate but about 2/3rds of people who complete suicide are depressed at the time of their deaths. Depression that is untreated, undiagnosed or ineffectively treated is the number one cause of suicide.

I must say that I have known three people during my lifetime who have committed suicide. In retrospect, I could not tell even today that they were capable of taking their own lives. My first experience was during the period I lived in Ghana, West Africa as a student. A Ghanaian friend received a scholarship to attend a major university in the United States. For some reason, during her second year in the country, she jumped out of a dorm window, immediately killing herself.

This was the ultimate betrayal to her family. If she had not been a Christian, tradition would not have taken kindly to her being memorialized in a church. The body would have been considered unclean and quickly interred. In fact, the tools and any other instruments associated with her burial could not have been used again and would have been burned.

My other two friends also appeared to have everything to live for and did not give any indications that within a few hours of having talked with me that they would take their lives, shocking me and their families. Neither was more than 20 years old.

Depression, again, is the major precursor to suicide. In fact, 65 percent of suicides are committed by individuals experiencing some form of depression. If you know of someone who is depressed, and you are concerned about them, seek professional help immediately.