Shhh! Let’s not talk about that

The word suicide is often spoken in hushed tones with lowered heads and sidelong glances. Photo Credit Radio Monash

By Tina Cole-Mullins

The word suicide is often spoken in hushed tones with lowered heads and sidelong glances. Yet many families in our community are all too familiar with this taboo topic’s heartache and loss. In fact, suicide ranks as one of the leading causes of death in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, almost 45,000 Americans—approximately the population of East Lansing—die by their own hand each year. One out of every 25 attempts succeeds according to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention and Awareness.

Why? The haunting question may feel impossible to answer, but the potential for insight exists if one is open to asking the right questions. Sometimes neither family nor loved ones is able to see the deep anguish hidden behind a suicidal person’s smile. Maybe they don’t know how to approach a loved one whom they suspect may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. Perhaps the suicidal person hears and sees the love and help offered, but in the downward spiral, simply feels others would be better off with them gone.

Local resident Marsha Williams shared tragic recollections of loved ones lost to this darkness in the following excerpt to her song lyrics:

I can’t un-see what my eyes have seen.

I can’t undo the damage that’s been done to me.

I relive it every night in my dreams –

Oh Lord! Put down the gun

Oh Lord! What have you done?

Heredity, chemical and hormonal imbalances, mental illness, trauma—any number of factors may give rise to suicidal tendencies. Of the 25 who attempt suicide, what about the 24 who, on average, survive? These struggling souls face the stigma, real or imagined, and the self doubt that comes of learning to pick up the pieces of their lives and to go on. Most critically, they must work through the issue(s) that prompted them to attempt self harm in the first place.

Stability and success may be achieved if properly addressed through groups like the Depression Center at the University of Michigan. This organization offers ongoing support for both patients and families touched by suicide.

Sadly, statistics indicate that depression and suicide are occurring at alarmingly younger rates. At a time when children should be enjoying the innocence of childhood, they often face issues that older generations can hardly imagine. As an example, social media is enabling bullying to reach new and unforeseen heights. Through it, cruel perpetrators can spread hurtful messages to virtually limitless audiences under the shelter of anonymity and with impunity.

This reporter recently spoke with a local mother who fears for her son’s emotional state due to ostracism by his classmates. This mother, an educator, cited a lack of trained counselors, both locally and across the nation.

The grave concern for our children’s safety and wellness came into the spotlight once again on Valentines Day with the Florida shooting, and with the threat of violence experienced in our own school system.

Clearly, recognizing the early warning signs of mental health issues, depression, and suicidal ideations is critical to suicide and homicide prevention. Awareness, open communication and forthright action can help our youth and loved ones, our community and ourselves.

No right or wrong answer exists. No overnight solution or no quick fix awaits around the corner. But shining the light on dark thoughts, engaging and empowering can be important first steps. Ignoring the problems will make them fester and brew rather, not go away.

If you or a loved one is in crisis, contact:



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