A young man in my town completed suicide a couple of days ago, sending the adults and teens who knew him into a tailspin. He was 17. Suicide rates in Alberta, Canada, climbed 30 percent since the downturn of the oil industry earlier this year, according to 660 News. Ohio State University in the United States is working on alleviating some of the stigma surrounding the discussion of suicide with the Buckeye Campaign Against Suicide, according to the Lantern. What seems to be quite common is that suicide is becoming an increasing concern and society is continuing to wonder what can be done.
The Ontario Association for Suicide Prevention reports that in Canada, suicide is the second leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10 to 24. The Lantern’s statistics appear to mirror that figure; for those aged 15 to 34, suicide is the second leading cause of death. In spite of these chilling figures, suicide rates have actually increased instead of declined.
The Columbus Dispatch spoke with Cory Dobbelaere, who has attempted suicide many times.
“It’s complex, and I get that,” he said. “With any unknown, we’re naturally as human beings scared of it. If we have the out to just not discuss it, people take it.”
Sharon Parker, mother of Saskatchewan teen André Parker who was 19 when he took his own life, recalled how her son would openly discuss completing suicide, according to CBC News.
“He’d say it sometimes casually, driving: ‘Oh you know what Mom, when I’m gone, it’s going to be so much easier for you and Dad, you won’t have all these bills.’ And I’d say, ‘don’t talk like that, André,'” she said.
The family said that talking about suicide has been a part of their grieving process. André had struggled with his own mental illness for a number of years before a car accident seemed to send him reeling. He ultimately stabbed himself in front of his father, Leo. His dad said that he continues to think about that moment when he was holding his dying son in his arms.
Dr. John Campo of Ohio’s Wexner Medical Center said that while privacy rules prevent many physicians from talking about a family member’s illness, that does not preclude them from listening to the family’s concerns.
“If [clinicians] tell you, ‘I can’t talk to you,’ that’s false,” Campo said. “They may not be able to tell you specific information, but they damn well aren’t prevented from listening to you.”
Mara Grunau from the Center for Suicide Prevention in Alberta said that a multipronged approach is needed when dealing with those who might be struggling with thoughts of suicide. She added that open and easy access to mental health care is also needed, and that continues to be a struggle for many who struggle with the stigma of discussing suicide or mental health problems.
Kayla Higginbotham of the Buckeye Campaign Against Suicide said she discovered that once she started talking about the subject of suicide, it was no longer quite as scary as it once seemed.
“The more I started talking about it, the more I realized that the more you talk about it the easier it becomes to talk about it,” she said. “Now I talk about it so much that it’s such a normal thing for me to talk about… I kind of try to engage a lot of my friends in conversations about it just to kind of show them that suicide is not that scary of a topic to talk about.”
Certainly, suicide can be a frightening topic, given that there are many who continue to view the subject as being a societal taboo. Clinical psychologist Jack Jordan, who works out of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, said that this view of discussing suicide being a taboo is the biggest barrier towards prevention.
“The biggest barrier or the biggest cultural barrier we have to preventing suicide is not being able to talk about it,” he said, according to WBUR CommonHealth. He recommends discussing suicide in age-appropriate increments so that children and other family members don’t self-blame for what happened.
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