September is National Suicide Prevention Month but staying aware of the need to prevent suicide is a 365-days-a-year job.
Every 40 seconds, someone somewhere in the world dies by suicide. Death by suicide occurring every 40 seconds amounts to almost one million deaths a year across the world. That figure is expected to rise to 1.5 million by 2020 (World Health Organization (WHO) statistics).
Suicide is preventable. There are always signs, desperate cries for help, and we need to be able to recognize them when they appear.
Life is not an easy road at the best of times for any of us. And, it is particularly difficult after sustaining a serious personal injury. Not just for the injured, but also for their families and friends. This is especially true when having to deal with the betrayal of the support systems and assistance from our insurers that we believed we had in place to protect us from loss and aid our recovery from tragedy.
It is not circumstances that drive a person to suicide as much as we may look to those to try and understand why. We do this to help us put what has happened into a context. We also do it so we can feel safe with what we think we know about suicide or about him or her whom we have lost.
A suicidal death results when a person has reached a point where his or her coping strategies and available resources are no longer sufficient to withstand the pain of continuing on with life. And a person can be driven to that breaking point, a suicidal state of mind, by any number of circumstances beyond their control. It’s just that simple.
To be sure, suicide is not a popular subject with most people. An overwhelming social stigma is associated with this manner of death. In fact, the universal shame surrounding suicide is so great, families and friends left behind are often reluctant to talk about it. And that is where the real shame lies. Not only do suicide prevention efforts save the lives of others, talking about it is therapeutic for those left behind needing support and understanding as they move through the mourning and healing process and seek closure for their loss.
Confronting Barriers To Injury Recovery
Everyone has stressors in their life and most deal with them in a healthy and natural way. After injury, having to go through the insurance claim process significantly adds to the stress imposed on the seriously injured. The extent of damage and harm that can be caused by this unrelenting stress should not be underestimated. It can, however, be reduced by having an experienced personal injury lawyer deal with insurers on your behalf so you can concentrate more fully on your recovery.
Unfortunately, there is still a dark cloud that prevents many from asking for help or showing (perceived) weakness having been conditioned throughout life to “suck it up and keep going”. It’s not uncommon for people to assume they can deal with this and their insurers themselves. Particularly if the details of the accident and the diagnosis of their injuries seem straightforward. Sadly, this is not the reality of how the personal injury claim process works.
Men especially (even relatively successful ones), often have a problem with openly discussing their issues and challenges, not to mention the depression and other mental illnesses that often follow serious injury, to say nothing of the suicidal feelings that can result.
Whether or not injury was a contributing factor, most people who die by suicide suffer from an underlying depression with many feeling an intense and unrelenting shame that, left untreated, becomes impossible to carry.
Answering the Question Why
After a death by suicide, it is common for people to want to distance themselves from the tragedy by suggesting we’ll never really know why it happened. But ultimately, we do know why.
When the pain of continuing life exceeds the ability of one’s coping and adaptive strategies to mitigate it, suicide often results. The capacity to withstand pain and associated aggregate suffering differs by individual and varies over the course of one’s lifetime influenced by ever-changing circumstances. The main thing most people who kill themselves have in common is a belief that suicide is the ONLY solution to their unbearable situation.
Many of us have etched in our memories the images of people jumping out of the World Trade Center on 9/11. These people did not want to die. They were leaping to get away from the flames at their back. In a similar manner, people who contemplate suicide are trying to escape some type of peril in their lives. It is difficult for many of us to truly appreciate the flames that consume the minds of people who contemplate suicide.
The unbearable psychological and/or physical pain often blocks the ability to see other potential solutions to problems. A pervasive sense of hopelessness stifles the ability to seek help, yet most people are ambivalent about taking their lives — they don’t want death, they just desperately want the pain to stop. In the moment, to that person, suicide seems a logical, practical, even an empowering decision in response to the truth about “now” as it is being experienced. It is only our collective acceptable societal norms that do not see it so.
We want to believe what we see on the outside of a person’s life accurately reflects what’s going on inside. It rarely does. This is true about ourselves. And it is true about every person we know or will ever meet.
We want to believe we’d choose differently given the same set of circumstances. Such dangerous thinking leads to a false sense of immunity to suicide risk. Because possibly, we wouldn’t.
We want to believe there were other options. There weren’t. There were only our perceived more acceptable options for dealing with said circumstances we assume are responsible for creating the pain that could no longer be withstood.
By the time the decision to end one’s life is reached, the person believes all other options, however extreme, have been fully and responsibly exhausted. Their reality is the pain of living has escalated beyond the limits of the person’s tolerance and capacity to co-exist with and/or carry it.
Suicide happens much more often than most people are aware of. For every two homicides there are three suicides, and yet with the media coverage for homicide, you’d expect the reverse to be true. In many areas there are more deaths from suicide than there are to motor vehicle crashes.
Frankly, we don’t need to know why a person committed suicide. It would be far more productive to ask why tremendous amounts of money are put toward road care, safe driver enforcement, and vehicle safety, and yet very few resources are dedicated to suicide awareness, prevention and intervention or explaining what the reductions in insurance benefits really mean for those who may one day need to rely on them.
Helping Someone Through A Suicidal Crisis
If you sense the struggle to deal with dangerous feelings in a loved one, whether they be related to injury, depression, anxiety or frustration with the insurance and/or legal process for injury claims, don’t be afraid to reach out.
Pay attention and look for warning signs there is a potential risk for suicide and let them know you care. Over-reacting is always safer than under-reacting in these instances.
- Risk is often present when a person:
- Appears sad, depressed, anxious or agitated.
- Expresses hopelessness or says they lack reasons to live.
- Is unable to sleep, or sleeps all the time.
- Withdraws from friends, family and society.
- Feels trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Has frequent and dramatic mood changes.
- Feels excessively guilty or ashamed, or feels s/he is a failure and that family and friends would be better off without him or her.
- Abuses drugs or alcohol.
- A person considering suicide may:
- Put his or her affairs in order, tie up loose ends and/or make out a will.
- Seek access to firearms, pills or other means of harming oneself.
- Give away prized possessions.
- Call or visit family and friends as if to say goodbye.
If risk is even remotely present, remain with the suicidal person and listen to them with an open heart and without judgement until they are in the safety of a therapist’s office, an emergency room or (if needed) a psych ward.
Suicide may seem like something we can do nothing about; however, this is rarely the case. Not talking about it is dangerous. Not listening even more so. Listening really can and does save lives.
FOLKESLAW -Ron Folkes, based in Brampton, ON -Call 905-457-2118 for a no charge, no obligation 30-minute consultation