In Missouri the suicides outnumber the homicides. Missouri recorded 8, 211 suicides from 1999 to 2009 compared to 4,442 homicides. In neighboring Johnson County, Kansas between 2006 and 2010 there was a 70 percent increase in suicides. Keep in mind that suicides are often underreported. If an auto accident causes a death, it is termed a traffic fatality when in reality it might have been a suicide. This same scenario occurs in several other states and yet we don’t seem to be doing anything to stem this growing tide.
We continue to hide the fact that sometimes mental illness kills just as cancer kills and just as any debilitating illness claims a victim. In obituaries we seldom read that the cause of death was suicide or that the individual had grappled with depression for a number of years. We don’t ask for donations to be made to research mental illness or ask people to fight for the cure. People don’t go around wearing hats or other paraphernalia proclaiming, “Suicide Survivor.” Instead we sweep it under the rug. Suicide victims and their families deserve better than that.
I propose that we take two small steps to begin to understand the disease that sometimes causes suicide as its outcome.
One, let’s not be afraid to talk about it. If you are concerned a friend is contemplating suicide, ask them about it. Bring it out into the open. If you have experienced suicide in your family, when the subject comes up, add your insight to the conversation. Don’t be ashamed that it happened. Suicide is the fatal outcome of a horrible disease and that carries no shame.
Second, find out what your community is doing about mental illness. What type of legislation is out there to aid mental illness research? What are schools doing to education youngsters about mental illness? How are churches and community organizations supporting families of suicide victims? What suicide prevention resources are in your community?
If we all begin with these two steps, maybe soon we can look to how we can work together to halt this horrible wave of suicides.