by Carol Loehr
Our son Keith was 29 years old when he decided to end his life. Keith’s death was a suicide. Suicide is a frightening word and it is not only ignorance but fear and stigma that keep people from understanding why someone would take their life. In a way it is easier to think that a person made a “choice”, freeing us from knowing the truth.
The word, “choice”, continues to perpetuate the stigma of suicide. The definition of “choice” is “the freedom in choosing, both in the way one chooses and in the number of possibilities from which to choose.” In a presuicidal state an individual is overwhelmed in a given situation. They suffer extreme mental anguish and a painful sense of hopelessness. Their sense of judgment is distorted, and they do not have the ability to make “choices” or options. They literally want to kill the pain and not themselves.
Suicidal people may be unable to restrain themselves from acting on feelings or impulses. This strong impulse to end the pain is because of the depletion of the chemical called serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical within the brain that helps restrain impulsive behavior.
“There is no suffering greater than that which drives people to suicide, suicide defines the moment in which mental pain exceeds the human capacity to bear it. It represents the abandonment of hope.” John T. Maltsberger, M.D., past president of the American Association of Suicidology, practicing psychiatrist, and teacher at Harvard Medical School.
Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the USA and the second leading cause of death for those ages 25-34. About 30,000 of the 650,000 Americans who attempt suicide each year die. Suicide is almost always the result of an illness of the brain, depression.
Our son Keith, died by suicide, and we can only imagine the horrible mental torture he endured. Depression is one of the most terrible and pervasive illnesses of our day. In 1999 the Surgeon General of the United States listed suicide as a national public crisis. Having accurate information about depression is critical. We live in a world where people hang on to old stereotypes, and in order to stop future loss of lives by suicide, we must educate and not let these stereotypes to persist.
Copyright Carol Loehr
About the Author: Carol is the webmistress of The Gift of Keith and the Facebook Page, My Uncle Keith Died. My Uncle Keith Died, a children’s book, is recommended by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Written in clear simple language easily understood by children, this book offers hope and practical ways to explain suicide to children. It explains the difference between sadness and depression, and describes how chemical imbalances in the brain cause illnesses that can result in suicide.
Carol’s other article of interest: Suicide: Some Understanding is Certain to Initiate and Develop Empathy (Adult Child Suicide)
“Obelisk”, The Catholic Charities, Chicago, Illinois, November 2001
“News and Views” NAMI, Cleveland, Ohio, November-December 2001,p.14
“News Briefs” Vol. 20, No. 1 , NAMI Ohio, Columbus, Ohio, Winter 2002, p.22