Suicide: Who Is Affected?

Suicide is a scourge that has slowly crept across the landscape of human demographics – age, gender, economic status – resulting in it becoming a leading cause of death.  Its blast radius is far-reaching with long-lasting damage to those who have been wounded by it.

The numbers are staggering. It’s the second leading cause of death across an entire generation, claiming the lives of victims from as young as 10 years old all the way to those well into their mid-thirties. The second leading group of suicide victims is middle-aged white males, who are almost 3.5 times more at risk of ending their own lived. Suicide is among the top ten causes of death across all age groups, stealing nearly 50,000 people from us in 2018 alone. The suicide rate in the United States increased by almost 33 percent from 1999 through 2017, from 10.5 to 14 suicides per 100,000 people, with numerous statistics show that the numbers rose sharply sometime between 2006 and 2007. [1][2][3]

While the list of risk factors is long and the task of pinning down a cause has challenged the best and brightest of our mental, behavioral, and spiritual health communities, the purpose of effort remains the same – saving lives from self-destruction. The numbers don’t lie; while the statistics for 2019 are still being compiled, and the scope and compound effect of the global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has yet to be fathomed, the bottom line is that the projected numbers don’t look good.

Outside the immediate casualty of those stolen by this nebulous scourge is the circle of family, friends, and community left behind. Death is a hard thing for us to reconcile with; it is an unwelcome invader on both the human experience and the world around us. Death brings with it a sense of morbid finality and becomes a hard break in the physical fellowship we enjoy with a loved one who has slipped across the vapor-thin veil, which separates time from eternity.

The grief and loss following the death of a loved one becomes covered in a mountain of nuanced layers when the passing of that special someone is from suicide. Suicide complicates grief on an order of magnitude that can only be truly understood by those who have had pieces of their heart stolen by this unremorseful enemy. Suicide is sudden, often violent, and many times it’s a friend or loved one who not only discovers the horrific aftermath but is left with so many unanswered questions.

As we push forward in our collective quest to not only prevent this self-destruction, we are forced to reconcile with the fact that there is much about this suicide problem set that requires honest reflection and the embracing of answers which lie within our grasp – if we are willing to put aside our preconceived notions, bias, and perhaps even some closely held myths.

The long list of factors leading to the pattern of self-destruction in our modern culture is right in front of us. They reside on the key terrains of academia, media, and entertainment – core pillars that form the foundation of what we believe and how we behave. An intellectually and spiritually honest review of these pillars will show that much of what we’ve stitched into the fabric of our culture has primed the environment in such a way that it has lent speed, agility, and momentum to a complex and nefarious adversary focused on a desired end state of kill, steal, and destroy.

Suicide is a problem in our society – but not an unanswerable one. The list of cascade factors that have fed this plague must be tackled comprehensively, strategically, and most of all, humbly. I say humbly because if the lines of effort across mental health, physical health, and spiritual health are approached through an open-minded willingness to learn, synergistic, and coalesce, then the path to prevention becomes clear. 

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