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The Silent Killer Of Suicide

Updated on September 6, 2014
Work together to end suicide
Work together to end suicide | Source

Breaking The Silence

Suicide has the tendency to feel very silent. Too often that is because the warning signs are either not known or loved ones have the hope that they will overcome their “sadness.” However, this permanent action is much more complicated than a simple sadness that can be overcome or conquered. That does seem a bit terrifying but in the end this act is not the result of being just sad.

This is one of the leading causes of death in the US. In age groups from 15 to 24 there is an average of 11.3 suicides per day in the US. The numbers are also high for individuals over 65 years old or who has a new health related diagnosis.

This is a topic that many cringe when discussing or better yet in some way try to avoid. Though in the recent past, this behavior has made national attention. A highly stigmatized act that is linked with mental health disorders, some may scratch their head is confusion and often goes misunderstood.

Those left behind do so with a hole in their hearts and a flow of unanswered questions. “Did I miss something?” is frequently pondered and a huge source of residual guilt. Too often in the aftermath, most that knew the victim are dumbfounded and not sure how to proceed. This is a death that is like a ripple in the ocean, it affects anyone in its reach.

Connections to Mental Health

Though not a mental health disorder the thoughts and behaviors are in fact connected to mental health. For instance, depression, borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder are three mental health diagnoses that are commonly connected with this behavior. That does not mean if you have one of the above diagnoses you will commit that fatal act but what it does infer is that thoughts and gestures may be part of the symptomology for the diagnosed person.

It is pretty apparent why depression would be a diagnosis that is associated with this behavior. Below are some warning signs. If you or someone you know is experiencing multiple symptoms seeking treatment may be adequate.

Suicide Warning Signs

  • Past attempts
  • A plan and means to carry it out
  • Reckless behavior (out of the norm)
  • Increased drug or alcohol use
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Putting affairs in order –making amends, paying for funeral costs
  • Talking about dying
  • Recent medical diagnosis (i.e. cancer)
  • Feeling hopeless/depression
  • Recent loss of loved one to include pets/loss of employment
  • Giving away possessions
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • No sense of purpose or belonging
  • Withdrawal from normal activities and friends
  • Sudden mood change

What Is Treatment Like?

Fears commonly deter individuals from seeking treatment, though often professional help is essential. Though treatment cannot save a person’s life it can help to put hopeless concerns into perspective. Hopelessness is regularly a driving force in many suicides. Therapy with a well-trained person can help to rekindle lost hope. Depression is a very powerful disorder that can take a person’s ability to think clearly and visualize a better future. Finding a therapist that works for your situation is essential so that the therapeutic relationship can grow. When looking for a therapist consider:

  • Therapist gender
  • Are they specialized in your diagnoses or symptoms
  • Do they take insurance if your insurance pays for treatment
  • What is their therapeutic approach or theory – ask and they can define that for you
  • What is their beliefs about medication – are they similar to yours
  • Get a recommendation from someone you know


When Is Hospitalization Necessary

Immediate attention may be needed if you cannot ensure your safety or that you are afraid you may hurt yourself. Frequently a person that is on the brink of acting upon their thoughts are not forward in telling loved ones that they are planning on carrying out their plan. So asking questions can really help to understand the severity of a person’s fatal thoughts. Questions could look like this:

  • What are you plans later today or this weekend
  • Would you like to talk
  • Can you call me later
  • Are you alone

If you know this person has a history of depression or past attempts and also answers no to those questions then digging deeper is definitely needed. Find out detailed information about reasons to live or who would miss them if they were gone. Their answers can offer some insight into their experienced hopelessness. The most important part of being a friend or loved one is to show empathy and do something. Often a person that is hopeless just wants to know that someone feels they are worth it.

Dealing With The Aftermath

There are really no words to describe the silent pain of being left behind. Suicide is a loudly silent message. What can you say when a person’s turmoil was so overpowering that removing themselves from this world completely was the only option. The impact of being close to someone who completed the ultimate act is overwhelmingly heavy. Most people will say, “I wish I knew it was that bad.” But frequently the person who commits suicide suffers in silence. They either do not know how to get help or fear that the help they receive will lead to a new and unwanted label. This frequently feels like no one can help or no one understands. The fact is understanding their pain is not necessary but empathy is what they need.

Feeling like something was overlooked usually produces a sense of guilt in the survivors. That is likely true, but not on purpose. Even if a person suffers in silence, behavior speaks very loudly. Paying attention for sudden changes in behavior can be a very powerful tool. Listening to the things that they are saying. Now there is a difference from hearing and listening. Listening is an active behavior. One that requires processing information and interacting in conversation. Being present with someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts shows that someone cares.

Can This Be Prevented?

That is truly a difficult question with an even more difficult answer. Difficult to swallow that is. It becomes a yes and a no. Yes one can try to be present and show another person their concern and empathy by getting them help and being available. But, in the end if their mind is set on the ultimate forever nothing can prevent that small population from that behavior. Those that cannot be touched are very few. That is it becomes a silent killer. Those that are very serious about ending their lives commonly won’t open up to others. But for the most part, people want reassurance that life will improve and that there is purpose to their lives. So for a good portion of completed deaths maybe the mark was missed and they were not reassured about an improved future. How to successfully prevent this act from occurring may never be known since the effective ones are not able to tell their story. Though there is a great deal of information from those that have tried and lived to tell their experience. One great source of information is the Trevor Project. Trevor is a young man who attempted after feeling ostracized for being gay. He did not complete his attempt and has used that experience to teach others how to live. That in itself is a powerful message, many people just do not know how to live.

Celebrities Talking About Trevor Hotline


But You Can Speak Out

Reducing stigma is an unquestionable way to reduce the occurrence of this powerful behavior. Realizing that hopelessness can occur to anyone throughout the course of life, even to those who appear truly happy. Uncontrollable circumstances occur and depression may come out of nowhere. Knowing how to react can be the difference and can save a life. In the end take the silence away from this detrimental act and speak out to help those see that hope can be restored.


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    • mdscoggins profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Scoggins 

      4 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thank you for sharing lambservent. Suicide is one of the most difficult deaths to deal with in terms of aftermath. It strikes a nerve in everyone. It is terrifying to work with clients who you worry about so I completely understand what you went through with your co-worker. That person sounded like a good candidate where medication was appropriate. I am sure your son had a hard time that would be very difficult. Have a great day and continue to spread hope :)

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      This one hits close to home. I wrote about how to deal with suicidal people here on hubpages I think and another venue where I write strictly on mental health. Just a few months ago a former co-worker took her life. The warning signs were screaming. She was giving things away, had previous attempts and was in a deep depression. She quit her job out of the blue then tried to get it back. She suffered her whole life from abuse and she was so beaten down she saw no hope. One problem is that she kept going off her antidepressant. Not that taking one is a guarantee that one won't become suicidal, but in the past when she was on it, it worked very well for her. But the stigma and desire to deal with the problem by willpower alone was her hangup. She had little support from her family. It was such a tragedy. My son's close friend took his life two and a half years ago. My son found him and it wasn't pretty. I've known others as well. And I've been there myself. So it behooves people to have some idea of what to do when they have a suicidal friend or family member, but in the end, they may do it anyway. I do all I can to give hope to people struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.

    • mdscoggins profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Scoggins 

      4 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thank you cecileportilla for the vote. This definitely is a touchy subject that needs serious attention.

    • cecileportilla profile image

      Cecile Portilla 

      4 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Great hub mdscoggins. Thank you for highlighting this important subject. So many people with hopelessness and depression who are unaware that there is help available. Voted up!

    • mdscoggins profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Scoggins 

      4 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thank you FlourishAnyway for sharing. Awareness of this topic is the best defense.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      Having known several people who made this sad choice, I urge anyone contemplating suicide to reach out for help. Thanks for writing about it.

    • mdscoggins profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Scoggins 

      4 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thank you billybuc for sharing your personal story. Most of us have been affected by suicide in one way or another.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I've known five people who committed suicide. It is a very sad event for all concerned, and I'm no closer to understanding it today than I was when first touched by it.


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