After returning from my trip around Iraq the other day, my shop got our Suicide Prevention and Awareness briefing. I knew it was only a matter of time before we got this mandatory briefing from the Army. From my years on active duty, this is about the time we would get the briefing, right before the season of the highest percentages. In the USA, spring time yields the highest percentage of suicides and suicide attempts. Another reason I was expecting this briefing is the fact we are getting close to redeployment back to the states. With that said, although I do not know the actual numbers of suicide attempts of soldiers recently returning from combat, I would imagine we are considered high risk due to rapid change in environment, depression, and other stressful factors. I actually have known someone who committed suicide right after we returned from a 6 month deployment to Bosnia in 2003. It is real and it can happen to anyone. I will indulge into that story another time, but for now I would like to shed some sobering and frightening facts about suicide:
In 2001 in the USA, a person committed suicide every 18 minutes.
2001- Suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the USA
Suicides outnumber homicides 3 to 2.
Suicide killed more people than HIV/AIDS (14,175)
In the age group of 15-24, suicide was the third leading cause of death.
Suicide is no longer taboo. It is said that in a person's lifetime, they will know at least one person who will commit suicide. I have already known someone and I have a few more years to go in my lifetime. At the time I was unaware of the signs of someone who may attempt suicide or risk factors to help identify possible victims. I say victims because in the end we become a victim of our own conscious. Here are some signs to look for in case someone you know may be on the brink of contemplation or silently screaming for help:
Number one is Depression. Here we become a victim of our own mind. We all get depressed, it is a part of life. The people who are a risk are those who can't seem to shake the feelings. They become chronically depressed.
Mental illness is another which most often is confused for depression.
Physical Illness-someone who may be terminal or a low chance of becoming healthy (cancer,HIV patients)
Physical Loss- people who lose family members or someone dear to them can slip into depression and feelings of guilt.
Family problems- rough childhoods, abusive parents, family members who have attempted or committed suicide.
Abuse of alcohol/drugs
Also people who may become financially in debt and feel their is no way out due to gambling, loss of job, sudden loss of money (stock market).
These are all risk factors with the number one being depression. The rest of the factors can lead to depression. Sometimes people who are close to us may try to reach out for help without saying they need it. It is then, that if we are not paying attention, may miss the clues that might save that person. If someone comes to you and says they are thinking of committing suicide, always take them serious. Do not write it off as someone trying to gain attention or ignore their warnings. Instead, listen to them, let them use your shoulder. Talk to them and together you can overcome this feeling of taking one's life with professional help. Suicide is a real killer and I feel their is not enough awareness out there, especially with teens.
My friend who committed suicide, I had talked to him the day before he took his life. I constantly replay that conversation in my head to see if I missed a hint or clue that may have prevented his death. I do not let it haunt me, but I vowed to get the message out as often as possible and have devoted my life to talking to everyone I know and letting them know they have a shoulder to lean on if needed. I never want to have to go through that again and if I can prevent it, I will. So for all of you who read this, please pass on the word. The more awareness of this deadly killer we spread, the less lives will be lost.
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