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Suicide is on My Mind

Sep 10, 2014
By: Kimberly Konkel, Associate Director for Health, HHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Image of on arm lifting up another armI'm a survivor of suicide. For me, that means that I’ve attempted to end my life by suicide and survived the death of my aunt who ended her life with a gun.

Suicide is a serious public health problem, and can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities. While its causes are complex and determined by multiple factors, the goal of suicide prevention is simple: Reduce risk factors and increase protective factors. Effective prevention promotes awareness of ways to prevent suicide and encourage a commitment to compassionate community.

This World Suicide Prevention Day, an experience Sister G, a Mormon missionary, shared with me comes to mind. Sister G. was a widow whose husband, a neurosurgeon, died of brain cancer 5 years prior to her being my missionary partner.

He was her world. His death crumbled so much of the life they had built together, that she felt she had to re-learn how to live. About a year after his death, she was not doing well. She hadn't felt happiness in a long time and couldn't imagine how it might return. So she got a gun and stepped into the shower.

Just as she got in the shower, the phone rang. She said she felt paralyzed by the ring. Still, she decided she should answer because ... why not?

It was her daughter who boldly said: Mother! You put that gun down right now!! You know as well as I do that if you pull that trigger the only thing that will happen is your body will fall to the ground, but everything will feel the same, and you won't be able to fix any of it!

Our dear Sister G. collapsed on the floor and her daughter drove over finding her still on the floor crying, the gun nearby.

The guns were removed from the house, and the desire to die didn't return.

As a suicide survivor, this story has saved me through many dark moments. It has also given me the boldness to call friends when I believe they are in need and ask them what's happening.

We all know someone who is struggling with post-traumatic stress, depression, or anxiety. Let us take this opportunity to evaluate how we respond to each other. Do we really look into the eyes of those around us and recognize them as people—fellow human beings—with feelings, hopes, trauma, sadness, and love?

We can prevent suicides and attempts, but it is going to require the heart of every person willing to work at it. If it is true that the more important the answer, the more the answer comes from your heart, then, the answer to the question of suicide demands our hearts—the heart of each one of us to turn compassionately to ourselves and to one another so that we can all reach our ultimate potential.

If someone you know is showing one or more of the following behaviors, he or she may be thinking about suicide. Don’t ignore these warning signs. Get help immediately.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (8255). Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you think someone is in immediate danger, do not leave him or her alone—stay there and call 911.

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Tagged Suicide Prevention | Observances