As I researched suicide I found that the numbers are staggering. Suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in the US, with 31,204 deaths recorded in 1995. It was at number eight on the list in 1998, and as the numbers are steadily increasing it threatens to move up the list. This approximates to around one death every seventeen minutes. There are more suicides than homicides each year in the United States. In 1993, the suicide rate was 11.3/100,000. Two-thirds of all suicides under the age of 25 were committed with firearms (accounting for most of the increase in suicides from 1980 to 1992). The second most common method was hanging, third was poisoning. 61% of all suicides involve firearms.
From 1952 to 1992 suicides among teens nearly tripled. Today, it is the third leading cause of death for teenagers aged 15-19 (after motor vehicle accidents and unintentional injury). Suicide is increasing, particularly for teens and for those over 65.
In young people, the suicide rate is relatively low (13.5/100,000 in 1993), but it is still a leading cause of death. In older people, the suicide rate is very high, but it is not a leading cause of death (in white males over 85, the suicide rate in 1993 was 73.6/100,000).
In all age groups, men commit suicide successfully more than women (around four times as much). However, females are more likely to attempt suicide than males do.In 1998, white males accounted for 73% of all suicides. Together, white males and white females accounted for over 90% of all suicides.In teenagers, the average ratio is 5.5:1. The ratio increases with age within this group. (http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/pub-res/10lc92c.htm / http://www.befrienders.org/info/statistics.htm)
The previously listed facts are staggering and a surprise to most. Another surprising or should I say confusing area is depression and its relation to suicide.Most suicides occur by people who are suffering from depression. Certain life difficulties such as the loss of a loved one, divorce, stress at work, or a series of disappointments can contribute to depression. And sometimes, depression may just run in the family. More than 19 million Americans, approximately one in 10 adults, suffer from depression each year.
Everyone feels sad at some point, but what doctors call clinical depression is very different from just being “down in the dumps.” The main difference is that the sad or empty mood doesn’t go away after a couple of weeks, and everyday activities like sleeping, socializing or working can be affected. Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and guilt are also very common. When these feelings continue without getting better thoughts of death and suicide are soon to follow. This can be deceiving though because many suicides that take place are by depressed individuals that had started expressing that they were getting better before they took there own lives. (http://www.paxil.com/depress/?rotation=928-3837-1030-16)
Other reasons for suicide include major life changes, anger, humiliation, or frustration. These instances are usually spontaneous and arent thought over at all. The persons committing these suicides are just overwhelmed by what is happening to them and cant take it.
Substance abuse can also lead to suicide. An individuals perception of what is happening becomes altered which leads to radical thoughts and actions. I have experienced great depression due to drug use, but in my opinion the drugs just caused depression that was hidden within the person to become revealed. In some ways this is good, because the depression is recognized and can be treated. In other ways, the depression can be intensified and cause actions of suicide that wouldnt have otherwise taken place. (http://www.modmh.state.mo.us/cps/facts/cpssuic.html#Why)
The changes brought by old age can be frightening and may lead an older person to think of suicide an alternative. Loss of family, and health problems including intense pain are some of the changes that they can go through. My great aunt is a perfect example of this.
At the age of 85 my great aunt killed herself.She had lost her husband and her children had moved away, and she was put in a rest home and had chronic pain. Due to her pain she had been taking strong painkillers that caused her to sleep a great deal. She had told my mother that she was going to kill herself but she didnt believe her.
My aunt repeatedly expressed that she didnt want to take the painkillers because she wanted to spend her remaining time conscious. Instead of taking her pills when they were given to her she would pretend to take the pills and then stash them away. She saved up enough for a lethal dose and on her eighty-fifth birthday she ate them all, went to sleep, and never woke up.
In my opinion what she did was a very brave and correct thing to do. She had lived her life and had practically nothing left to look forward to. She was in constant pain (when she was conscious) and new what she was doing and why. She wasnt depressed or having any mental problems, she was just done living, and her family accepted it.
An important statistic of suicide prevention is that for every suicide there are five attempted and failed suicides. Attempted suicide needs to be taken more seriously. People who had previously attempted suicide carry out more than half of successful suicides. The problem is that often patients of attempted suicide only get emergency treatment. Many have been in hospitals several times, but never receive psychiatric treatment. In order for many patients to get on the road to recovery they need to be evaluated and helped.
Another aspect that should be taken more seriously is that people who threaten suicide are often more disturbed than people who attempt suicide. They are searching for attention and are reaching out for someone to help them. When people respond harshly to the threats the result is often suicide.
A problem for doctors in helping suicidal patients is that often the doctor doesnt seem to feel the same deep concern as he does for other patients with medical problems that are life-threatening. (Shneidman and Farberow, pgs 187- 196)
Understanding and accepting suicide as a personal right should be appreciated. When we do consider suicide as a personal right the question of morality comes up. Does the individual have the right take his own life, or does he have obligations to society, or to God, or even to himself, that make it morally wrong for him to take his own life? In my opinion Montaigne stated it best when he wrote Though suicide is foolish (because it takes from us our all), it is still a right to the individual to commit suicide if he or she so desires or, at least, it is not immoral. He further argued with the analogy that, A man who takes his own money is not a thief and, consequently, a man who takes his own life is not a murderer.(Douglas, pgs 3-5)
Depending on which way you look at it, suicide can be either a problem or a solution. Many people are more saddened and/or angered by a loved ones suicide (than other death) because the pain they feel is stronger knowing that that person would rather be dead than live in the world as they see it. Though any death is a tragedy and loss to society, most suicides were not carried out to hurt anyone but only to help themselves. This can be considered as selfish, but should only be seen as their personal right, whether or not we feel they could have been helped.
Voluntary death continues to disturb us. Hamlets question is ceaselessly reborn from its ashes. The humane sciences and medical both search for an explanation for its behavior that bewilders us but also intrigues us. Suicide inspires horror, but it remains the supreme solution to lifes problems. It is within the reach of us all, and no law, no power in the world, has proven strong enough to prohibit it.
– Georges Minois