Last summer I met a lovely woman at a girl’s night out. She was about ten years older than me and as I listened to her and watched her, I thought how I would like to be like her. She was trim and fit. She had an elegance and grace about her. She was my idea of a true lady.
Sadly, last week I heard she was missing. Soon after I learned that she had taken her own life. I barely knew her but both felt bad for her and her family and was angered by this. She appeared to have it all. I wondered if something had happened, if something had changed. The more I thought about this the more I considered that she may have been suffering but that it did not show. And I wondered how many people walk around with their invisible pain, purposefully hiding it from others. I have many unanswered questions. Did she feel ashamed? How long did she carry this burden? How many people knew her and were unaware of what she was going through. How do loved ones deal with such a death? Losing someone is difficult but to lose someone at their own hand is unthinkable. I sympathize with their anguish. I only met the woman but am sending a card.
I have often heard that suicide rates are the highest during the holiday season. My research revealed that his is not the case. In fact December has the lowest suicide rate. But I also learned that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. Some geographical figures were also surprising to me. There are more deaths from suicide in the West and South.
A friend of mine died by suicide more than twenty years ago. Her death still haunts me. I had no idea she was unhappy. Other friends were also stunned. She left behind two small children and a husband. Everyone who loved her has asked themselves the same questions. How could this happen? Why did this happen? And we all wonder what we could have done to prevent this.
It is vital to understand that no one is responsible for another person taking their own life. Suicide is not a normal, healthy reaction to stress. The vast majority of people who die by suicide are mentally ill.
We are not responsible but neither are we helpless. The link below has a wealth of information on the risk factors, warning signs, protective factors and what to do if you suspect someone is suicidal. I contemplated including some of the information in this blog but fear I would leave out something important, so I encourage you to explore the site. Some of the information was new to me, some was a reminder of something I already knew but could easily overlook. Awareness and information is a powerful tool that can make a difference.
I could not find reasons for suicide rates being the lowest in December. Perhaps it is due to the spirit of the holidays. If that is the case, let’s all keep the spirit year round.
All the Best,