Letters From My Soul: A Memoir on Suicidal Depression

“Into glass bottles I stuff these letters from my soul, casting them out into this ocean we call life, in the belief that these pieces of my soul will wash ashore other islands of loneliness, reminding them that they are not alone in their suffering.” – K.M.

Suicide Awareness and Prevention Advocacy

The facts about suicide:

  • According to the World Health Organization, one million people around the world commit suicide every year and an estimated 20 million attempt without success each year.
  • Globally, Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15 – 44 year olds and the twelfth leading cause of death in all age groups.
  • Though women attempt suicide much more frequently than men in the United States, men are four times more likely to complete their attempts.  Thus it is the 8th leading cause of death in men and 19th leading cause in women.
  • The United States saw more than 40,000 suicides in 2014 alone, on average Russia sees some 60,000 each year and China has some 250,000 suicides each year and is the only country where women’s suicides equal that of men.  And with each passing year, these numbers rise.
  • Russia and several other Baltic nations see the highest rate of males who commit suicide, whereas China sees more female suicides than any other country in the world.
  • Many people believe that suicide is more common during Winter months, but according to the National Center for Health Statistics, more people commit suicide in late Spring and in the Fall, whereas the Winter and Summer see the lowest rates.
  • Eastern Europe and East Asia show the highest rates of suicide, while Latin America has the lowest.
  • Factors that contribute to the risk of suicide vary:  Age, race, gender, sexual orientation, location, social aspects such as family and relationships, employment, finances, addiction abuse and health all see trends in the risk of suicide.
  • Though it is not understood and some debate remains, the rate of suicide across the board of at-risk groups is lower during times of war, despite the rates of suicide for members of the Armed Services and their families increasing.

CONTRIBUTING FACTORS IN SUICIDE

by “Singe” revised August 1, 2014

*Not belonging: peer pressure as a social outcast, rejection, serving no purpose in life.

*Perception of being a burden: feeling of helplessness; the inability to care for one’s self creating problems for loved ones and those respected.

Unacceptable failure: perfectionism and pride, disappointing self and others of importance, lack of performance creating danger for those counting on you.

Anger: out of control rage leading to fatal action against others and/or self.

Stress: overwhelming stress causing mental exhaustion and perception of no hope for relief.

Self-loathing: self-hate often associated with the battered spouse syndrome. Mental abuse over a period of time convinces the victim they are worthless and don’t deserve to live, resulting in overwhelming despair.

Irreplaceable loss of that which is most dear: the most important aspect of one’s life i.e. reputation, marriage, job/finances, a loved one, religious faith, cognitive functions, health, etc. This differs among individuals; what may not be important to one person may mean everything to another.

Poor health: facing a prolonged, painful illness and death without any hope of recovery. Often closely associated with “being a burden.” Poor health and loss of finances are leading factors in elderly suicides.

Physical injury: traumatic injury to the brain and nervous system that disrupts normal thought processes or develops neurodegenerative brain disease. Examples are TBI resulting from serious accidents, contact sports, or military combat.

Untreated mental illness: any clinical mental disorder as defined in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) that becomes life threatening due to lack of proper mental health care.

Childhood abuse: sexual, physical or mental abuse as a child may lead to mental and emotional disorders later in life. Although rare, children under the age of ten are not immune to suicide.

Substance abuse: drugs and alcohol that impairs logic and cognitive functions. Often the result of self-medication to overcome other contributing factors listed. This includes improper use and monitoring of prescription drugs.

Guilt: intentional or careless actions that caused someone else major problems or death. A drunk driver may kill himself after realizing he killed others. This can be associated with honor; a man without honor feels little or no guilt. A man or woman motivated by a high sense of honor may choose death before dishonor. Although unjustified, some military personnel may experience ‘survivor’s guilt’ after losing a battle buddy in combat and feel it should have been them instead, especially if they believe they could have prevented the death.

Self-sacrifice: during war, military forces often see themselves as less important than the cause they are fighting for and will volunteer for ‘suicide missions’ with certain death. The most fearful weapon WWII Japanese forces had on Okinawa was Kamikaze pilots.

Fear: afraid of something about to happen that’s worse than death such as capture and torture by an enemy. An early example would be the 72-73 AD siege of the Jewish fortress Masada by Roman soldiers. During WWII thousands of civilians on Saipan and Okinawa killed themselves rather than allow capture because the Japanese in control convinced them invading American troops would rape and torture their families to death. Although ruled by the New York Medical Examiner’s Office as homicides, many people jumped to their death rather than suffer a painful death from fire September 11, 2001. Fear is closely associated with coerced suicide.

Coerced Suicide: coerced suicide can be defined as a suicide that resulted from the actions of others when the victim was under physical and/or mental control of someone who destroyed their will to live or indoctrinated them into believing that death is more desirable than life.  Two good examples of coerced suicide are bullying and cult members being indoctrinated to kill themselves to receive afterlife rewards.

Although any of these factors can result in suicide they become more deadly when in combination. In making a risk assessment one must also consider history of prior attempts and access to lethal means. Given the right set of circumstances no one is immune to suicide!

*Recommended reading:

Why People Die by Suicide

Myths about Suicide

Postvention is prevention; one suicide can lead to another. Recommended reading for those who have been personally impacted by suicide:

Finding Peace Without All The Pieces: After a Loved One’s Suicide

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