Suicide. The willful taking of one’s own life.
This happens with stunning frequency in affluent communities like ours (update: in fact, it happened again on the day this post published, when a Gold Coast man jumped to his death in a confirmed suicide). But, sadly, this is not well known because it’s almost never publicly discussed – particularly suicides by adults.
We need to talk about adult suicide as a community more for many reasons. Most important, public discussion raises awareness – the first step toward fixing a problem. But also, we need to make it easier to publicly celebrate the lives of people who commit suicide too. The press doesn’t cover them unless they are celebrities, no matter how much good they accomplished before succumbing to an unbearable pain.
Those who commit suicide aren’t bad people to be shielded from public view and condemned for the pain they cause others. They’re pained people who couldn’t find a better way to cope. Often they’ve contributed substantially to society too.
Many experts agree with me. Please see the four Ted Talks entitled “Lets End The Silence Around Suicide.”
Fortunately, there is a growing body of work and opportunities to help around teen suicides. This has been particularly prompted in recent years by teen suicide clusters in affluent communities. Lake Forest/Lake Bluff launched a brilliant program called “Text A Tip” which makes it easy and safe for someone feeling suicidal or concerned that another might be to send a text and receive immediate help from a licensed professional. Palo Alto has recently endured yet another teen suicide cluster, prompting the US Center For Disease Control to send a team to help.
So, I particularly write to encourage our community and our culture to break the adult suicide discussion taboo.
We need to more openly discuss the lives of the deceased. We need to celebrate the many gifts they likely contributed to the world, as well as the issues which led to their final fatal decision.
We need to do the same for the survivors of attempted suicide, too. Photographer, writer, survivor, suicide awareness activist Dese’Rae L. Stage hosts a compelling collection of photographs and names of suicide survivors on LiveThroughThis.org.
The American Association of Suicidology (No, I did not make up this name) offers a plethora of “talk about it and break the taboo” resources, including another excellent Ted Talk by comedian Frank King, a writer for Jay Leno.
I know of at least three adults who recently committed suicide. That’s horrifying. So my contribution to this “Talk About It – Adult Suicide” article is also a public celebration of the one I knew best. This person lived with a large heart, wicked wit and a special gift with children. Sounds like Robin Williams, right?
As we know, Williams suffered a depression in recent years so deep that he took his own life. My friend and Robin must have shared similar genes. (S)He was that funny and lived with a similar empathy for children too. (S)He not only raised four great kids, (s)he continually created ways to support other youth too, including unexpectedly calling parents to share a thoughtful story about their child.
This person also created two of our funniest ever Make It Better videos: spoofs on yoga class and the town of Kenilworth:
(S)he stunned family and friends by finishing a routine phone call with a long-time friend, then driving to the Kenilworth Train Station, parking, calmly walking onto the tracks, and laying down in front of a fast-approaching train.
The family asked that this person not be named though. They’re suffering extraordinarily. Unfortunately, this is the norm too. It takes great strength to publicly discuss a suicide in your family, as Marion Kahle did in this Make It Better article one year after her son killed himself and another.
This means that if we work to find ways to help/stop those considering suicide, the impact will be even broader than the numbers below, because we save families from enduring pain too.
Each year in America:
- 8,000,000 think about committing suicide
- 1,000,000 attempt it
- 39,000 achieve it
Please, help reduce these numbers.
Don’t whisper about suicide or condemn those who attempt or commit it. Instead recognize and try to heal the pain that pushes people to this point. Celebrate the their strengths and contributions too. Encourage people and organizations to work together to find solutions for the adult suicide issue similar to the community response in Lake Forest/Lake Bluff that led to Text A Tip.
Talk more about it please.