Farmers are committing suicide as you read this article. In countries like India, the rate of farmer suicides has become a national crisis. The World Health Organization (WHO) is particularly concerned with farmer suicides because of the impact it is having on families. WHO estimates that one person commits suicide every 13.3 minutes.
The death of comedian Robin Williams last month sparked a worldwide discussion about suicide, its underlying causes and how it might be prevented. And, with World Suicide Prevention Day taking place Sept. 10, the subject is certain to generate more debate as people seek to understand this important health issue. Having spent 10 years researching the subject while working as a professor of psychiatry, I believe there are things we can do as a community to tackle this problem. With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to reflect on what researchers have learned over the years about strategies for preventing suicide.
On March 11, 2001, a woman named April died by suicide. Her friend Jenn was the one who found her. It was an extremely traumatic event in Jenn's life. It transformed her entire world. Let's encourage others to have careful and candid conversations about suicide. For Jenn's family, suicide exists at the dinner table and at every family gathering, because there's always an empty chair. But most families are not having these conversations.
Depression forms its own secret society. We're afraid of the consequences of our bosses, co-workers, family and friends finding out about our depression on Facebook. What is the worse consequence? People finding out you are depressed or you committing suicide? All it takes is one soul among friends to speak out.
The moment a celebrity or somebody takes his or her life we, as a society, are all over it. It makes me think if we talked about suicide this much when it wasn't in the news due to something like Williams' death we would be better off. In addition to talking about Williams let's also talk about the thousands of other "normal" people who also died of suicide today.
Suicide isn't "giving up" or "giving in." Suicide is a terrible decision made by someone whose pain is so great that they can no longer hold it, and feel they have no other option in life but to end it. It's a decision you can't take back, and a decision that will affect your friend and family forever. It is not taken lightly. For someone looking in, it does seem like a waste -- especially in the case of Robin Williams, who was a brilliantly funny man and a talented actor. But imagine, if you will, feeling so desperate, so desolate, so incredibly sad and hurt that you honestly cannot see a way out. Williams did things in his life that touched people to their core. It is a sad, sad loss, but it is not a waste.
Farming is a fairly isolated occupation with a small, close-knit community of co-workers and family. In the small farming community, the saying that everyone knows everything about each other is true. Going to a mental health professional or admitting you are depressed quickly becomes the news. This reduced sense of confidentiality ensures farmers don't talk about their depression.
It's been months since I've felt like writing. On the heels of what can best be described as a shocking life-altering experience on November 3 last year, I simply lost my writing mojo. I needed to stop, get off the proverbial merry-go-round and re-think many things. Wondering exactly what happened to me on November 3?
Former interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Bob Rae is calling for a national strategy on suicide. While Rae is undoubtedly moved by sadness, he has failed to do his homework. What we do not need is another committee wasting scarce resources to study what is already known. We do need better access for people so that they can get the treatment that they need.
The Aboriginal community is reeling from the recent suicide of an 11-year-old boy in Nunavut. And before the shock has even had a chance to wear off, the finger pointing began. Did the boy commit suicide because he was living in an isolated northern community? Did he suffer from abuse? Were mental health services not readily available? Was there not enough funding for suicide prevention programs?
With the recent, tragic, and unnecessary death of bullying victim Amanda Todd, I believe that it is time to talk about suicide openly. Having the nation begin to talk about bullying and suicide prevention should have happened a long time ago. I am sad that it has taken an end to a life to begin talking about suicide so openly but it is something we must talk about to prevent it.
Although collecting health statistics across the world can seem almost impossible because of political unrest, economic problems, wars, and simple bureacracy, the World Health Organization has been collecting mortality statistics since the 1950s for most countries. Are suicide rates declining worldwide?
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. There was a time not too long ago where I wasn't planning on being around for the occasion. I am a suicide survivor. On December 9, 2010, I went to a public washroom, downed a container of pills and counted down what I thought were my final hours. Tomorrow was never supposed to come. Surviving an attempt has its own difficulties. My decision to reveal this was rooted in my frustration at society's stigma towards those with mental illness and the lack of understanding about suicide.