EDITORIAL: More attention needed to stop growing frequency of suicides

It’s a problem of epidemic proportions, but one that few people want to talk about. People rarely want to talk about it when it happens in their family, and even news outlets hesitate to mention it.

But the problem of suicide is growing. And with recent high-profile suicides of people such as celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, designer Kate Spade and snowboarder Ellie Soutter, stories of on-campus or online bullying leading children to take their own lives and the high incidence of suicides among military veterans, people are starting to talk about it.

Suicide has long been a major problem. They outnumber homicides in this country, with one self-inflicted death every 12 minutes, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Confirmed suicides are the third-leading cause of death for children ages 10-14, second among people ages 15-34 and fourth among people ages 35-44, the CDC reports. And it could be higher — there’s no telling how many drug overdoses, one-car accidents or other deaths listed as accidents actually were intentional.

The need to address the problem is obvious. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has designated September as National Suicide Awareness Month — it’s also commonly called Suicide Prevention Month — to raise awareness of the resources available to address the problem.

There is no single cause for suicide, although depression is most commonly linked to it. Unfortunately, the level of depression that could lead to suicide varies from one person to another, and it often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Many people don’t show outward signs of severe depression or suicidal thoughts.

Mental health officials say that a sudden change in behavior or mood should alert friends and family that a person might need help. Changes can include depression, anxiety, loss of interest or irritability; increased drug or alcohol use or withdrawal from activities they normally enjoy. More alarming signs are talk of suicide, hopelessness or being a burden to others, giving away possessions or calling people to say goodbye.

Psychiatrists say that treatment for depression, including the use of therapy and medication, can be successful up to 90 percent of the time.

But that treatment has to be given. People who might be considering suicide, or people who are concerned about a loved one, should not be afraid to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255.

Resources are available for both those who need help and those who wish to get help for someone they care about. But more resources are needed. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sponsors events to raise awareness and resources to fight suicide.

One is the Out of the Darkness Rio Grande Valley Walk, scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 27 at Edinburg Municipal Park. To register, or for information, contact Melissa Hinojosa-Zamora at (956) 369-7306 or afsprgv@gmail.com.

Survivor Day, a day of support for people affected by suicide, will be held at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 17 at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Ballroom, 1201 W. University Drive in Edinburg. Breakfast and lunch will be served, and registration is free. For information contact Tessa Gutierrez, (956) 655-4963; to register visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/99JL2FB.

Talking about suicide could help reduce the tragic numbers. It’s time to get the conversation started.

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