Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mental Health Series - International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

According to findings on Wikipedia, International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is celebrated every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving in the United States. It was designated by the United States Congress as a day when the friends and family of those who have died by suicide can join together for healing and support. 
In 1999, Senator Harry Reid , a survivor of his father's suicide, introduced a resolution to the United States Senate which led to the creation of National Survivors of Suicide Day. As citizens of other countries began observing the day in their local communities, it was renamed International Survivors of Suicide Day.
Every year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sponsors International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, a program that unites survivors of suicide loss across the world. At events in hundreds of cities spanning six continents, survivors of suicide loss gather together to remember their loved ones and offer each other support. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention produces a program shown at these events that features personal stories and advice from other survivors and psychiatric professionals. These events help survivors cope with the tragedy of losing someone to suicide.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. According to USA Today there is a suicide every 13 minutes in The United States of America. Stated in an article by USA Today, there are far less homicides than suicides. In fact, homicide rates have fallen by half since 1991.
According the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, it says this about International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day:
"International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day can change your life. It’s the one day a year when people affected by suicide loss gather around the world at events in their local communities to find comfort and gain understanding as they share stories of healing and hope.
Survivor Day 2015 takes place on Saturday, November 21. All gatherings will include a screening of the new Survivor Day documentary produced by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, titled Family Journeys: Healing and Hope after a Suicide
Additional programming is specific to each event. The programming may include presentations by loss survivors and mental health professionals, as well as small group discussions that bring together people who have experienced similar losses.
For many loss survivors, attending a Survivor Day event is the first time they realize they are not alone. Just hearing the stories—from people at all stages of healing—can be helpful. The gathering also provides participants with a chance to share their own stories with those who understand firsthand the challenges of living in the aftermath of a suicide loss."
If you'd like to find a Survivor event near you click here 
Currently, in 2010, in the United States alone, someone dies by suicide once every 13.7 minutes. Suicide is the fifth leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 15 and 24. Did you know that depression is more common than AIDS, cancer, and diabetes combined? Every year, in the U.S. nearly 400,000 people attempt suicide. However, although it’s a serious and common problems, -- suicide and depression – many people don’t know about these great risks – including who’s at risk, why, and when they’re most vulnerable.

What this means is, that during a crisis, people aren’t able to find the information they need. But, by using the information below about suicide and depression you may save the life of someone you know.


  • For many years, the suicide rate has been about four times higher among men than among women. In 2010, men had a suicide rate of 10.9, and women had a rate of 5.2. Of those who died by suicide in 2010, 78.9% were male and 21.1% were female.

  • The highest suicide rate was among people 45-64 (18.6) years old. The second highest was 85 years old. (17.6)

  • Young adult ages 15-24 had a suicide rate of 10.5.

  • At particularly high risk are white men over the age of 85 who have a suicide rate of 49.8 deaths per 100,000 in the general population.

  • Did you know that three times more women than men attempt suicide?

  • Four times more men than women actually kill themselves.

  • More than half the suicides in the U.S. are completed with guns. This violent and usually irreversible route is the choice of men.

  • The most common method of women is poisoning; typical an overdose of medication the result of which is lethal.

  • Suicide cuts across ethnic, economic, social and age boundaries.

  • Surviving family members are not only one to suffer the loss of a loved one to suicide, but are also themselves at a higher risk of suicide and emotional problems.

  • “Anyone can call the hotline 800-273-TALK and press "1" for advice, even if they are worried about someone else," adds Dr. Valenstein.


  • Suicide is preventable. Most suicidal people desperately want to live; they are just unable to see alternatives to their problems.

  • Two of every three people who commit suicide are depressed at the time they take their life. However, alcoholism plays a role in one in three completed suicides.

  • The risk of suicide in people with major depression is about 20 times that of the general population.

  • People who have had multiple episodes of depression are at greater risk for suicide than those who had had one episode.

  • People who have had a dependence on alcohol or drugs in addition to being depressed are at greater risk for suicide.

  • People who are depressed and exhibit the following symptoms are at particular risk for suicide:
 Signs and symptoms of depression include:
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
  • Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex.  You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
  • Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change more than 5% of body weight in a month.
  • Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
  • Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  • Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
  • Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
  • Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
  • Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
  • Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.

Major depression is the psychiatric diagnosis most commonly associated with suicide.

    Suicide rates were the highest in the West (13.6) followed by the South (12.6) the Midwest (12.0) and the Northeast (9.3)

    Did you know that writing style is linked to suicide risk?
    Creativity, depression and suicide have been linked for a long time. So it comes to no particular surprise that some of history’s most creative persons suffered from a mental illness. Depression affected some of the greatest minds such as Charles Dickens, John Keats, and Tennessee Williams. Several famous writers committed suicide, including Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, and David Foster Wallace. 

    Guest what? There’s something even more special about them. This group also has something else in common. They all wrote in the first person, which has been suggested to be a sign of a suicide risk.

    The Impact of Suicide on Those Left Behind

    Suicide is a fact. The numbers are above from reputable sources. But, what happens to those left behind? Of course, they grieve. Their grief for the loss of a loved one is evident, but what else happens to those family and friends who are left behind to pick up the pieces after a loved one's suicide?

    There is a stigma surrounding suicide. For the person who committed the act and the family and friends afterwards. There is a shame associated with suicide that makes even family and friends want to cover up their loved one's real reason for dying and use excuses or labels to reason their way through their loss. They use words such as "accident" or "illness" to cover up the suicide. The investigation or coroner's inquest that can occur afterwards embarrasses them. Why?

    A very good question and one that those left behind should ask a professional counselor or therapist. Possibly, they feel guilt or shame, maybe even feelings of rejection. All of these feelings can be worked through with professional counseling.

    Many of those left behind may even suffer from depression. Studies from John Hopkins University found not only that those left behind have an increased chance for depression, they also have an increased risk of committing suicide themselves.

    For these reasons alone, it's even more important for those family and friends who are feeling and grieving the loss of a loved one after suicide seek professional help as soon as possible.

    Anger, self-blame, grief, confusion are all feelings associated with the effects on family and friends after a loved one commits suicide. Unlike an illness or other type of death, suicide is sudden and unexpected, leaving those behind to have much stronger and even longer lasting feelings of grief.

    Because of the stigma surrounding suicide, it may be difficult for family and friends to talk about their feelings. This is normal. But, it must be impressed upon them how important it is to process those feelings with a therapist.

    For family and friends, processing those feelings can be done in a journal as well. Writing through your emotions and feelings can be cathartic and healing in their own way. Writing does heal. It's been proven time and again through scientific study that the process of writing your strongest emotions and feelings in journal format helps you heal fro your personal traumatic challenges.

    Don't be ashamed to talk or write about your feelings. Seek professional help. Grieve in a healthy way. Process your feelings and don't blame yourself for your loved one's death. Take care of yourself. It's your health that matters the most.

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