As we start 2013 we need to take time to reflect on the past year and how suicide has affected us locally and nationally.
I personally have lost family members to suicide and wish I knew then what I know now about this subject. Suicide is a subject that many people feel carries with it a taboo, a word that should never be used or even talked about.
Suicide is a growing issue with all age groups and it does not matter the race you are, how much money you make, what you do for a living. Almost everyone who is lost (committed is not the word to use) or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning.
Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like "you'll be sorry when I'm dead," "I can't see any way out," - no matter how casually or jokingly said may indicate serious suicidal feelings. Also a person lost to suicide is not as some would say psychotic or insane or even crazy.
This is far from the facts. People who have reached a point in their lives where they feel that taking their lives is the only way to find comfort or heal the pain that they're feeling.
At times this is an ongoing fight each day to find a reason to live or a reason to move unto the next day. Then there is the last minute suicides when alcohol or drugs gives a person strength to move forward with their suicide.
There are many factors that would prompt a person to suicidal thoughts. Depression, family struggles, post traumatic stress disorder, bullying, mental illness, drugs, alcohol, etc. Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about suicide or how they can move forward, wavering between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most people want the pain to stop. They want the impulse to end it all to go away.
You may say I never knew, they never said anything, but they have said or given hints. These hints could be statements like "I wish I could just die, you'll be sorry when I'm gone; I can't see any way out."
Signs could also be seclusion, lost interest in hobbies or activities, giving away personal items. These are only examples; there are more.
One important thing to remember is that no matter how casually or jokingly said, this may indicate serious suicidal thoughts and intervention is needed. What can husbands, wives, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, friends do?
Take their comments seriously and give time to them to listen. Sometimes taking five minutes out of your day to listen to what they have to say could save a life. Take time to show them that yes someone cares, that someone is willing to help.
The facts are that we are losing a person to suicide at a rate of one every 13.9 minutes. With the elderly it's one every 90 minutes. Youth - one every two hours. It is also the 10th ranked cause of death in the U.S. and third ranked cause of death among youths in the U.S.
In recent years the military has had an increase in suicides among the active duty and veterans. From Jan. 1, 2012 until Dec. 3, 2012 we have lost to suicide 6,067 veterans and 462 active duty/reserve personnel.
Suicide leaves behind many survivors; we not only need to think of the person lost but we need to be there for the survivors of suicide and help them through the stages of grief and provide a support base.
We also need to look to 2013 and find the many ways to bring down the numbers for all suicides. Everyone needs to look down into their hearts and find the time and the way to support those in need.
Ways to help include joining a local organization, helping at senior centers, mentoring in your local school and finding out all the information you can on ways to help those in need.
For those lost to suicide we send out our prayers to them and to the family and friends left behind.
I encourage everyone to take time to listen, because this is free. If you are able to save a life, then you have given a gift that has more value than anything else on this earth.
Editor's note: Steve Nelson is with Crossing Rivers Support Group, which serving southern Upper Peninsula and northeastern Wisconsin counties.