MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
As a society, many struggle to find their place. We often attempt to define who we are by how we see ourselves fitting in with others. And, although we deal with similar issues of our purpose and direction in life and grapple with self-esteem, our ability to ask for help is often impeded by our ego tendency to “go it alone”. This does not serve us well in time of crisis. The Center for Disease Control follows statistics on suicides. Their most recent suicide study from 2014, reports that there were 42,826 suicides in the U.S. and the overwhelming majority, 77.9 percent, were males.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death of those between the ages of 10 and 24 years old. Further, both nationally and in the military, the data reveals that over 74 percent of suicides had a precursor of a relationship conflict prior to the suicidal event. While this statistic does not signify causation, it is telling in that it speaks to the emotional turmoil that may be present for the person who commits suicide. Other factors associated with suicide are histories of depression or other mental health issues, excess alcohol consumption and social isolation.
Often, when we first hear about a suicide our thoughts go to the person who is lost. We often wonder “Why”? Why would someone choose suicide to end their despair or hurt? But more importantly, we need to turn our attention to the suicided person’s family, coworkers and friends because they are the true victims of suicide. Those wondering why this person would choose to end their own life are the ones who truly suffer during this time of loss.
Many of us experience difficult issues in our personal lives but we do not see suicide as the answer to resolving these issues. Many of us might deal with failed relationships, legal troubles, hopelessness, helplessness, depression, physical illness and mental illness and don’t see suicide as the answer. Through it all, we recognize that these are often temporary and they can be endured through our resiliency, hope, prayer, faith in God, ourselves and those around us who often help to sustain us through our trials and tribulations of life.
When someone close to us commits suicide, we are filled with heartache and grief because we don’t understand how someone can make this decision to end their life. We also often deal with guilt because we wonder if we could have done something to keep this from happening. This again makes us a victim of this person’s poor decision. In many cases, while family, friends and coworkers may be the most obvious of those adversely affected, there are often many others who we rarely consider. People such as those who may attend church with the person and may not know personally, those who ring up their groceries when they shop, or the bank teller that processes their financial needs when they come to the bank. As a society, we to some extent, are all victims when a person commits suicide. This is mainly due to the fact that the majority of us see this as a senseless act. It causes us despair because we struggle with trying to make sense of such poor judgement and we are often left asking ourselves; why didn’t the person ask for help or talk to someone?
Now, there is a place and a time to reconstruct and analyze why someone chose to end their life. I am sure that upon further discovery there may be a multitude of reasons we may find where someone irrationally believed this was their only option. In my role as a mental health professional, I have conducted many psychological autopsies to reconstruct suicides of those we’ve lost to try and make sense of what we see as a senseless act. And to be clear, the statistics reveal that there are multiple factors which may have been present in the person’s life prior to this irrational act. However, the presence of any of these factors can never justify taking one’s own life.
Statistics show that in our country on any given day, there are approximately 57 million Americans who suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder, and still live happy and fulfilling lives. This suggests that as human beings we have the capacity to endure significant difficulties and still prevail. But sometimes we must recognize that we may need help along the way and we need to have the courage to ask for help.
Our ability to reach out to others around us and talk about our troubles are some of the most effective ways in coping and making sense of those issues we at times find too heavy to bear on our own. It is a well-known fact that our courage to reach out and talk to someone is one of the best ways to work through our troubles. The term “Talking Cure” originated with the work of Sigmund Freud well over one hundred years ago in reference to one’s ability to find peace and relief by confiding in someone their troubles and the accompanying emotions.
So, whether you are a victim of someone who has committed suicide or someone who may be struggling with burdens that have become too much to bear, please recognize that you too can find the courage to reach out and ask for help. Your resources may be a spouse, friend, neighbor you trust in, your supervisor, the Chaplain or your Wing DPH. But, please remember to have the courage to ask someone for help.
Dr. Paul Wade
Director of Psychological Health
24/7 SCANG Behavioral Health Line (800) 681-2558
Wing Chaplain (803)647-8265
1 (800) 273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week
Languages: English, Spanish
Military One Source
• Toll-Free: 800-342-9647
• En español llame al: 877-888-0727
• TTY/TDD: 866-607-6794