On average, someone died by suicide every 12 minutes in 2016. The year before, people were more than twice as likely to die by suicide than be killed by someone else, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Adults ages 18 to 25 age were the group most likely to seriously consider suicide in 2016, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Just reading the word “suicide” can be painful for the ever-increasing number of people who know someone who has taken their own life.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, but many people are aware of suicide and its effects every day. Suicide is often difficult to discuss because of its synonymy with death, another uncomfortable subject.
One of my longtime family friends killed himself six years ago because his mental illness overwhelmed him. He was smart and funny, but sad. Growing up, we would go camping or skate around the park and talk about Crash Bandicoot (a video game we played together for years). We never spoke explicitly about suicide or depression, but we had conversations about his feeling that he didn’t belong.
His mental health eroded in his early twenties before he took his own life. As a result of evolution, people often fear death as a survival mechanism. But for some, sadness becomes so unbearable that living with it is more terrifying than the unknown of death.
A 2012 study of suicide notes found that people are more likely to commit suicide when they are able to explain in detail why they feel like a burden to others and society. If a loved one starts exhibiting warning signs of suicide like having drastic mood swings, withdrawing from routine activities, or talking about not being wanted, it’s crucial to get in contact with someone who can help.
When my grandma called to tell me about my friend’s suicide, I was in denial. I worried for weeks about whether he’d died a painful death or had last-minute regrets. After he died, I felt lonely and depressed from grief. Life seemed far more fragile and temporary, and I wondered if I was making the most of mine.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24, meaning every time someone takes their own life, six people experience a “major life disruption”, according to the American Association of Suicidology.
But there’s still hope. Nine out of 10 people who survive an attempted suicide will never try to kill themselves again, according to Harvard University’s School of Public Health. There are many ways to help prevent suicide: interventions by loved ones, making mental healthcare more affordable, restricting access to means of suicide such as prescribing fewer high-strength painkillers and working to decrease the stigma around mental health issues.
Take a moment to check in with friends you have not seen in a while. Ask people how they are doing and pause for a moment to allow them time to respond as much as they need to. Volunteer at one of the many mental health activism clubs on campus or in Orange County.
Suicide is a lonely way to die, so as a society, we have to fight it by coming together and supporting the belief that life is worth living.