Connecticut lost 371 people to suicide in 2011 – a 20 year high. Researchers identify many underlying reasons that lead some to want to end their lives: Intense emotional distress, depression, hopelessness, anger, impulsiveness, psychosis. The list goes on. Remorse, and even feeling the need to be perfect, are identified. The issues are complex and multifaceted.
Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among American adults 18-65 and the second leading cause of death among teenagers. It is also the second leading cause of death in the US military - 38 members of the Army killed themselves in July 2012 – that is a record. Our senior population is not immune to this crisis either. Last year, fifty-five of the people who committed suicide in Connecticut were 65 or older.
How can we, as a community, help prevent someone’s desire to end their own life? To start, we must change the way we think of mental illness. A major factor contributing to the number of people who try to take their own life is stigma. Merriam-Webster defines stigma as “a mark of shame or discredit.” This negative feeling imposed by others that people with a psychiatric illness experience is real. Often driven by fear, people may shun or isolate those who they think are having emotional difficulties. This is the exact opposite of what is needed.
Suicide prevention efforts entail increasing social support networks and securing early psychiatric treatment. According to a preliminary report that looked at the views of those who attempted suicide, stigma had a negative influence. When society stigmatizes those who have a mental illness, then people struggling are less likely to seek professional help or support from their family and friends.
The next couple of weeks present opportunities for all of us to get involved.
Join a walkathon to prevent suicide on October 27 and November 3. Make an on-line donation, sponsor a walker, or walk yourself and make a difference. Let’s start with the basics – putting one’s self out there, walking with others for the same cause makes a statement. It says, “I care!” Your caring may be for a friend or a family member, or a stranger. It is pretty good for your own psyche too! A little fresh air and exercise does everyone some good.
These walks, sponsored by Out of the Darkness Community Walks, will raise money for the benefit of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). AFSP funds educational programs supporting prevention, warning-sign awareness, and education about psychiatric illnesses that can lead to suicide. They also fund research to help understand suicide and how to prevent it.
- Southern Connecticut Walk, Sherwood Island State Park in Westport on October 27
- Madison CT Walk, Hammonasset State Park in Madison, Connecticut on November 3
Also taking place this weekend is a special fundraiser by two local affiliates of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Connecticut: NAMI Stamford/Greenwich and NAMI Fairfield chapters: The Pulitzer prize winning musical Next to Normal will be performed on Saturday afternoon at 4:00 at the Music Theatre of Connecticut. Tickets must be purchased on-line at www.namict.org, and there will be a post-show reception with the cast. A flyer with additional information is attached to this article.
On Wednesday, November 7, NAMI Fairfield will hold its Annual Meeting featuring speaker David Kelly, LCSW. David will be giving a talk on self-injurious behavior entitled, "The World is a Sharp Object." He will outline the causes of self-injury and discuss how technology, such as the Internet, has influenced self-injurious behavior. He’ll also discuss self-injury in practical terms, with a focus on helping concerned parents and family members better spot these problem behaviors early and intervene appropriately. The meeting will be held in the Eliot Room Library, First Church Congregational, 148 Beach Road, Fairfield from 7:30-9:00. More information can be found here.
 Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, downloaded 10/14/12, http://www.ct.gov/ocme/cwp/view.asp?a=2165&q=295126.
 Boergers, J., Spirito, A., and Donaldson, D. 1998. Reasons for Adolescent Suicide Attempts: Associations With Psychological Functioning. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 37;12: 1287–1293
 US Department of Defense, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, http://www.defense.gov/Releases/Release.aspx?ReleaseID=15517, August 16, 2012.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012 Understanding Suicide Fact Sheet. http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/Suicide_FactSheet_2012-a.pdf.
 Eagles, J. M., Carson, D. P., Begg, A., et al, 2003. Suicide prevention: a study of patients' views. British Journal of Psychiatry, 182, 261–265.