Don’t Try Suicide

“Don’t try suicide
Nobody’s worth it
Don’t try suicide
Nobody cares
Don’t try suicide
Just gonna hate it
Don’t try suicide
Nobody gives a damn” – Queen

Queen came out with a song in 1980 called Don’t Try Suicide.  It had a catchy tune but with a disturbing message, taking a less than serious attitude toward a very serious topic.

I got to thinking about that song as I had a friend take his own life last week.  That brings the total up to three people I know who’ve taken this desperate, ultimate step in the past year.  It brings up a few issues for me – mental illness and how prevalent it is and how people either don’t seek or get the help they need and how desperate someone must get to think that the people close to them would be better off without them.

I was in a meeting last week where someone brought up Kiersten’s Ride.  I don’t know Lisa Clavier, the founder, but what a brave woman she must be.  Her daughter, Kiersten, was 17 when she committed suicide and Lisa started Kiersten’s Ride, a 12 mile long horse ride which serves to raise funds and awareness for suicide prevention.  She took an awful tragedy and instead of hiding away, as many would, she brought it to the public light in a way that honors her daughter.

I found an article about it here:  The article says that suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. and that there has been a 28 percent national increase in suicides committed by adults between the ages of 35 and 64 over the past decade.

Of course suicide was in the news recently when actor/comedian Robin Williams took his own life.

So what am I saying?  First, we need a change of thinking in this country.  Folks with mental illness are no different than those with a broken leg.  They do not choose to be depressed or anxious.  Their brain is not functioning normally, similar to someone with a heart condition whose heart is malfunctioning.  There should be no judgment.

There also should be more adequate funding for mental health.  People who want help and need help often times do not have help available to them.  This is not a local issue but a national concern.  Some people with mental health issues are not only a danger to themselves but can be a danger to others, as evidenced by the Aurora and Newtown shootings.

Recently on 60 Minutes, Virginia legislator Creigh Deeds talked about his son, Gus, age 24, who attacked him with a knife then killed himself.  Gus suffered from bipolar disorder and was believed to be dangerous, but local health care professionals were unable to find a facility to take him and he was released into his father’s care.  Less than 24 hours later, the attack and suicide took place.

Rep. Deeds said, “If you’ve got a heart attack, if you’ve got cancer, you’re going to get treatment — there are protocols developed,” he continued. “But the mentally ill struggle in silence often, and I’m afraid because it’s a soft science in lots of respects, people who are trained to provide the service to the mentally ill aren’t always given the respect they need, and the resources. And, frankly, I’m not sure that the best students are always going out to care for the mentally ill — I think they’re going where the money is. It’s cardiology, surgery, you know … it’s difficult.”

So I believe that the macro solution to the problem may be increased funding, awareness and understanding.  But the micro solution is for us to be sensitive to those around us and if someone appears to be struggling with depression, reach out to them.  Encourage them to get help if they are in need.  It is nothing to be embarrassed about.  My son hurt his shoulder last week in a football game and strangers think nothing of asking him how he is doing.

When it comes to mental health, many times we can’t reach out even to those close to us to ask how they are truly doing – inside.  We don’t want to pry.  We don’t want to embarrass them or ourselves.  We keep things at a superficial level.

Fortunately for those struggling with severe depression, there is help out there.  There are effective medications that work for many, many people.  Psychotherapy can also be very helpful.

According to a suicide prevention website, warning signs of suicide include:

  • Talking about killing or harming one’s self
  • Expressing strong feelings of hopelessness or being trapped
  • An unusual preoccupation with death or dying
  • Acting recklessly, as if they have a death wish (e.g. speeding through red lights
  • Calling or visiting people to say goodbye
  • Getting affairs in order (giving away prized possessions, tying up loose ends)
  • Saying things like “Everyone would be better off without me” or “I want out”
  • A sudden switch from being extremely depressed to acting calm and happy

If someone close to you is showing these signs, strongly encourage them to get help.  Come along side them and help them to find help, take them to their appointments, just check in and ask them how they are doing.

You may save a life.

Unlike what Queen says, let’s show each other that someone does care.

About Allen Telgenhof

Allen Telgenhof is the Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney; beginning his 14th year of coaching high school baseball, now as varsity coach at Boyne Falls Public Schools. Graduated from Clio High School, Michigan State University and Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Father of four great children, ages 27, 25, 20 and 19.
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