The August 11 death of comedian Robin Williams elicited a world-wide response of shock and disbelief that someone who brought so much laughter to the world for so many years could have been so tormented that he would choose to end his life rather than endure another day.
The media swarmed. Many mourned. Some judged. The untimely death of a celebrity, especially someone so well known for his power to find light in the darkness, drew attention to the issue of suicide, mental health and substance use disorders.
September 8-14 is National Suicide Prevention Week. September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. It is estimated that over 800,000 people die of suicide worldwide each year. 39,518 people died of suicide in the United States in 2011, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in our nation.
Kansas statistics mirror national numbers. Five hundred and five (505) Kansans died of suicide in 2012. This is 121 more people than died of suicide in Kansas in 2011, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in our state.
It is estimated that at least six additional people are personally affected each time someone dies of suicide, averaging over 200,000 people annually. The term “survivor of suicide” is used to describe a person who has lost someone close to them to suicide. The grief that follows the suicide of someone close to a survivor of suicide can be intense, complex and long term. Help is available to survivors of suicide. The American Association of Suicidology offers a variety of resources and programs at www.suicidology.org or 1-202-237-2280.
Mental illness is generally associated with higher rates of suicide. It is estimated that more than 90% of all people who die of suicide have a significant mental illness at the time of their death. These illnesses are often undiagnosed, untreated or both. When both substance use and mental disorders are present, the risk for suicide is even greater.
Suicide is a public health concern. Suicide prevention should be a priority. The place to start is with reducing the stigma associated with receiving treatment for mental health and substance use disorders. Mental illnesses and substance use disorders are treatable and suicide is preventable.
So that not one more person dies of suicide because they were unable to find light in the darkness, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Pawnee Mental Health Services at 1-785-587-4300 (Manhattan) or 1-800-609-2002. Hope is waiting. Help is here.
Pawnee Mental Health Services