Suicide On the Rise; How to Respond to the New “Big C”

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

Lonely sad girl on the dark beach

Three young people attempted suicide in the last seven days. One died.

These are not numbers on a page, percentages, or anomalies; each is close to people I know. Three in one week, in my small corner of the world.

Suicide is the second cause of death for ages 10-24 in the U.S.A.  Two years ago, it was the third.  In Ohio, suicide is the first cause of death for children from 10 to 14 years old. In America, suicide statistically takes a life every 13 minutes.

Are you shaking your head wondering if you read that right? You did. Suicide rates are climbing, and education is foundational to prevention.

In the 1970s, people said “The Big C” in reference to cancer. No one wanted to talk about it. It was a dreary topic, spoken of in hushed tones.  Cancer was fodder for accusations of too little faith or too much misbehavior. There was gossip with little understanding. People who suffered from cancer did not venture into public often.

Education has changed all that. We all go for exams, and research dollars have produced better treatments and earlier diagnosis. The public conversation about cancer continues to save lives.

Ah, if only suicide and mental illness had the same kind of back story. Imagine if we would talk about mental disorders with as much realism, non-judgmental acceptance, and compassion as we do cancer.

What if? People of all ages would not be ashamed to have regular mental health check-ups. We would know and talk about common symptoms. When we recognized an oncoming episode of depression for instance, instead of saying, “snap out of it,” we would support each other in helpful ways.

What if? Our socially accepted practice would be to take mental health seriously. Insurance companies would fully cover psychological needs instead of limiting treatment to a dismally low number of office visits or days spent in the hospital.

What if? Treatment and housing would be available for homeless people with mental illness. This is not because of charity, but because we would finally connect the relationship between cognitive and physical challenges that mental illnesses cause, and one’s functionality.  We would stop blaming “choice” and start giving helpless people real options.

Use your imagination. Ah, what if?



NOTE: I am not a doctor or a mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.

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