Nearly 30,000 people in the
commit suicide each year. According to a
newsletter, it is the tenth leading cause of death in our nation and accounts
for at least one percent of all deaths.
Despair is among the most common motives
for suicide. Experts studying 80 suicide cases in the state of
illness, including cancer, heart disease and arthritis, contributed to half of
those suicides. Facing a chronic, painful, and potentially disabling illness,
CFIDS patients are clearly at risk for suicide. Neglected and often disbelieved
by the medical community, the public, family and friends, persons with CFIDS
(PWCs) can quickly become isolated.
Further, the severe pain experienced
some PWCs and the chronicity of the illness play a role in putting PWCs at risk
for suicide. The secondary depression that can accompany CFIDS adds to that
Most people have a stronger wish to live than to die
so suicide can be preventable. There are warning signs to watch for and steps
you can take to help someone who is thinking about suicide. Take notice if a
- Talks about or mentions
- Expresses feelings of hopelessness,
worthlessness, or helplessness
- Withdraws from friends and
- Expresses the pain (physical or
emotional) has exceeded his or her ability to cope
- Has a preoccupation with death or
preparation for death
- Loses interest in activities he or she
- Calls or visits people to say
- Gives away possessions
- Stockpiles drugs
- Has a sudden mood change from despair to
peace or “high spirits”
This is not a comprehensive list, nor
a checklist. A person who is suicidal does not need to exhibit all of these
things or even a majority of them. If you recognize one or a few behaviors, or
if someone specifically mentions suicide, take it seriously.
What you can do
- Listen. It is vitally
important that people in an emotional crisis have someone who will listen and
really hear what they are saying. Try to establish a connection with the
feelings beneath the words.
- Ask about suicide. Be
up-front. “Are you thinking of suicide?” There’s no harm bringing up the
subject. Often the individual will respond to the question and is glad to have
the opportunity to bring the issue out in the open.
- Take any mention of suicide
seriously. Do not undervalue or dismiss what the person is saying. Some
patients may express feelings in a low key manner, but behind this apparent
calm may be profound distress. It is better to be overly cautious than not
- Don’t judge. Just be there.
The problem may seem insignificant to you, but remember that the pain it is
causing the person is great enough to make them consider suicide. According to
David Conroy, PhD, author of Out of the Nightmare: Recovery From Depression
And Suicidal Pain, “It is not how bad the problem is, but how bad it is
hurting the person who has it.”
- Don’t handle it alone. Have
the number of your local Suicide Hotline readily available (you can find it in
the front of your telephone book). A local number is best but there is also a
national crisis number that can be used: 800-999-9999.
- Get professional help.
Suggest counseling or if you are with someone who is suicidal, take them
to a crisis center or emergency room.
- Remember this. You can
offer support, compassion and hope to a suicidal caller or friend, but the
ultimate action of that person cannot be controlled by you. It’s not your
fault if someone makes the decision to complete a