As a parent who has lost a child to suicide, my mind often reels with questions….
About. Everything. To. Do. With. His. Suicide.
Also, as a parent, I like to think that I knew everything about him, about all of my children. I am fooled into thinking that they tell me all about their lives, leaving nothing out.
The sad truth is: children, especially those in adolescence, do not tell their parents ever half of what is in their minds. I think back to my adolescent years and I cringe at all the things I kept from my parents because now I have an idea of what my children keep from me. So, what leads an adolescent to keep secrets from parents?
Again, thinking back on my own adolescent years, I kept secrets because:
- low self-esteem
- believing I wouldn’t be accepted as I was
- not trusting the adults that my life would go right
- not wanting to hurt the people that I loved
- fear of repercussions
- feeling alone and unheard.
These are feelings and thoughts that I can remember about my own adolescence.
Now, do all teen and young adults fell and think this way? I couldn’t tell you that. I suppose at some point they do because they are trying to figure out who they are outside of their parents. I am inclined to believe some of these feelings/thoughts are true of most teens and young adults, but I also believe whether these feelings are true of all young people depends on their home life, where they are raised, how they are raised, and other contributing factors.
Okay, so then I look at my son’s suicide. I keep asking myself why. I suppose why is the biggest question parents and loved ones face when an individual takes that route. While I may never know the exact why, if it can be pinpointed to any one thing or not, I can learn something from his death that will hopefully strengthen my the relationships with my other children.
Not a consolation by any means, but……I feel guilty for even thinking these thoughts, but letting something good from his death is on the road to healing….or so I’ve been told.
My question now, is:
Can suicide be prevented?
Non-profit organizations such as American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and International Association for Suicide Prevention believe through research, education, and bringing awareness, society can get a reign on suicide.
Current suicide statistics
According to the AFSP (https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/), suicides statistics in the US are as follows:
- the 10th leading cause of death in the US
- 44, 965 people die by suicide each year
- for every suicide, 25 attempt
According to North Dakota Department of Health (http://www.ndhealth.gov/suicideprevention/?id=57), suicide statistics in ND are as follows:
- the ninth leading cause of death overall
- second leading cause of death between ages 15 and 24
- North Dakota’s suicide rate is higher than the national average
No, facts and statistics aren’t any fun to most people. I, myself, hate reading stats and figures because they make no sense to me. I can see the numbers, but that’s really all it is: numbers.
My question is: how do we help lessen the numbers? How do we make those figures smaller, almost non-existent?
The answer: pay attention. Pay attention to your children, your loved ones. Pay attention to their behaviors, routines, words, and actions. Pay attention closely because then even the slightest change will be noticed.
According to ND Suicide Prevention Program (http://www.ndhealth.gov/suicideprevention/?id=57), the following information can be helpful:
- Most people exhibit warning signs: words, actions, and behaviors
- Ask direct questions if suicide becomes a concern
- Offer help to anyone who exhibits suicidal signs.
- Most suicide attempters and victims don’t want to end their life, they want to end their pain, their confusion so intervention, even forced, is always worthwhile.
- Long-term care is necessary for those considering suicide, but knowing the warning signs and immediate intervention can save lives.
- Take every suicide mention or behavior seriously — this one I cannot stress enough. In my son’s case, his mentions were not taken seriously by his father and father’s girlfriend, his own girlfriend or an employee of the juvenile court system.
Of course, knowing risk factors of suicide can be helpful as well. According to the AFSP (https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/), these factors include:
- mental health conditions
- serious physical health
- traumatic brain injury
- access to lethal means (guns, drugs, etc.)
- prolonged stress: harassment, bullying, relationship problems, unemplyment
- stressful life events: divorce, rejection, financial crisis, loss
- previous suicide attempts
- family history of suicide and
- childhood abuse, neglect or trauma
Can suicide be prevented?
I believe my son’s could have and if his could have, then anyone else’s can be as well.
And again, I cannot stress enough:
Pay attention to your loved ones. If you think you do it sufficiently already, then double your efforts.