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Be informed, be a friend

By Staff | Nov 29, 2013

It’s been nearly a year since a good friend of mine took his own life. He struggled with depression for years and hanged himself on Dec. 20, 2012.

Christmas wasn’t exactly Christmas last year. My birthday (Dec. 27) wasn’t exactly my birthday. We buried him that day and many friends and family have leaned on each other in the 11 months since. Life forces us along because time and responsibilities don’t cease, but people grieve in many different ways and some can struggle with the loss for years.

Sadly, far too many of you reading this also have dealt with the pain associated with losing a loved one in such a manner. Helping friends in need is not an exact science, but strong community can help save lives.

An editor at another North Dakota weekly newspaper reminded me of a nagging urge to write on this topic. International Survivors of Suicide Day was observed a week ago and “helped to gather and comfort thousands of survivors of suicide loss around the world,” according to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website.

Like with so many other dates that signify the observance or promote the awareness of events or causes, it’s important to remember that date alone shouldn’t be the only time to seriously reflect. Suicide and depression affects every city, town and village in the world and education is pivotal to slowing the 10th-leading cause of death among Americans.

One person died by suicide every 13.7 minutes in 2010, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The epidemic affects people of all races, ethnicities, gender, geographic regions and ages. The number of instances rises with age with the highest suicide rate (18.6 percent) occurring in those between the ages of 45 and 64, according to the CDC. The second highest rate (17.6) occurred in people 85 and older.

For years, suicides have happened at a rate four times higher among men than women.

Surprised by the numbers? You should be in knowing that one death is too many, but you shouldn’t be surprised by some of the demographics because suicide simply does not discriminate.

It happens most among whites (14.1 percent) and second most among American Indians and Alaska Natives (11.).

National, state and local governments offer support with programs, websites and crisis hotlines. NDhealth.gov/suidcideprevention is one good resource and anyone seeking help can call 1-800-273-8255.

Concerned about a friend’s depression or your own? Don’t think you have to address the issue alone. Seek the advice of a professional to get a better understanding of what you can do. If you notice a change in a friend, don’t simply brush it off as a “guy being a guy” or a similar line of thought. Being there for your friends and neighbors can be done in numerous ways. Support can be found through friends, family, church, support groups and more.

And don’t assume, like I did, about when suicide happens. A common misconception is that the rate is higher around the holidays. In fact, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found that December sees the lowest number of suicides.

But this time of year is hard for anyone celebrating without a loved one. We must remember to support these folks even if it’s just saying hello or offering a hug.

Be informed, be thoughtful and be a friend. Someone out there just may need you to pass along that same kindness shown to you in a troubling time.

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