When anyone, especially a teenager, dies by suicide, it is difficult to comprehend. We see the person, seemingly vibrant, alive, and we wonder how he or she came to see life as so hopeless. We struggle to understand the sense of helplessness.
Yet teenagers and adults take their own lives. Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It is the second-leading cause among young people ages 12 to 24.
In 2017, 1.4 million people attempted suicide. The highest death rate is among middle-aged white men, 129 of whom die by suicide every day.
We were reminded of the terrible sorrow and suffering suicide brings when two teenagers, one 18 and the other 15, took their own lives recently at the Rockville Centre Long Island Rail Road station.
It was trying to report on these stories. We did not mention suicide in the headline. We ran the story well inside the paper, without noting that they had died by suicide. We reported the basic facts surrounding the teens’ deaths. We did not want to sensationalize the story. Doing so can lead to “suicide contagion,” a phenomenon in which someone on the edge reads about someone else who has died, and takes his or her own life in the same manner, according to www.reportingonsuicide.org.
Ninety percent of all suicides involve either an unreported mental health issue, substance abuse or both, according to the World Health Organization. But it is preventable, no matter the circumstances of a person’s life. There are thousands of mental health experts standing by every day, waiting to connect those on the edge with the resources they need to restore hope in their lives. Suicide hotlines, which operate around the clock, offer immediate assistance.
Many people will say that they could not have predicted that someone they knew would commit suicide. They couldn’t see the signs. But those signs are often clear. According to reportingonsuicide.org, a potentially suicidal person might:
• Talk about wanting to die.
• Look for a way to kill him or herself.
• Talk about feeling hopeless, with no purpose in life.
• Talk about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain, mental or physical.
• Talk about being a burden to others.
• Increase the use of alcohol or drugs.
• Act anxious, agitated or reckless.
• Sleep too little or too much.
• Withdraw from other people.
• Show rage or talk about seeking revenge against others.
• Display extreme mood swings.
If someone you know appears suicidal, you should:
• Never leave him or her alone.
• Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that might be used in a suicide attempt.
• Call a suicide prevention hotline.
• Take the person to an emergency room, or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
There is no single factor that leads to suicide, according to experts. One job loss or romantic breakup is highly unlikely to end in suicide. The factors are myriad and complex. Each case is different.
Nationally, the suicide rate is 12 in 100,000 people. New York is significantly below that, at 8 in 100,000 people, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. In fact, the Empire State has the lowest rate of suicide in the nation.
The states with the highest rates of suicide are all largely rural places where people can easily become isolated — a key risk factor. Montana has the highest suicide rate in the country, at 29 deaths per 100,000, followed by Alaska, at 27, and Wyoming, at 26.
If you’re feeling suicidal or you know someone who is, please reach out for assistance. There are many people willing to help. Understand that your life has meaning. You matter to this world. Each of us matters.
How to get help
• Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (800) 273-8255, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
• Call the Bellmore-based Long Island Crisis Center Hotline, (516) 679-1111, also 24/7.
Other help lines:
• The Runaway Hotline, (516) 679-1111.
• The Long Island Rail Road Suicide Prevention Hotline, (877) 582-5586.
• The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Helpline, (516) 227-8255.