Suicide is the number one killer of Americans in their prime. Too many of our young and our veterans fall victim to this preventable cause of death. Its toll can be reduced. We can all help.
Suicide robs the world of far too many people. It's the biggest killer of people in their prime and at least tenth overall for the general population. Bigger than auto accidents and opioid overdoses, the worldwide suicide epidemic rivals global warfare in mortality and morbidity.
The origins of suicide are complicated and not well understood. No simple cause and effect can be expected. The work of psychologist Thomas Joiner suggests a combination of three factors underlie most suicides. He finds loneliness to be a critical contributor. Other researchers have labeled isolation and loneliness as deadly factors. Combine aloneness with a feeling of uselessness and you reduce the victim's will to live. Change is stress. Unpleasant events in life—like divorce or job loss—thrust many people into such situations. Their social and professional networks evaporate. Returning veterans run into similar problems adjusting to civilian life. Most people weather the depression and survive. A few lose their fear of death and are tempted to end their hopelessness.
Those contemplating injuring or killing themselves will find ample opportunity to do so. Toxic household and industrial chemicals are readily available. Cliffs, bridges, and tall buildings are everywhere. Hanging yourself is a cliché. Guns are everywhere. Three out of every four gun deaths are self-inflicted. Take guns away, and they turn to the next deadliest weapon in their arsenal—their car. How many single car-accident fatalities are suicides? How many ninety-mile-per-hour wrong way drivers are suicidal?
We can all help reduce the level of self-inflicted injury and death. People intent on injuring themselves need professional help. You and I can administer the first aid that will get them there alive. Watch for changes in friends' behavior. Withdrawal can be self-imposed isolation. Depression, rage, and ranting may signal a crisis. Be especially careful of talk about suicide. It's a cry for help—not a joke. When in doubt:
We'll be glad you did.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Woodrow Wilson is a PhD chemist, a retired rocket scientist, and a relapsed workaholic. He consulted to several Defense Department medical research agencies. Wilson is the author of "The Utah Flu" and other novels.