Suicide and Our National Day of Mourning

September 11, 2014

What can we-the public and professionals-try to do to prevent suicide, ranging from our individual relationships to international relationships?

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE NEWS

Anniversaries and other special annual days are not only important for individuals, but they are also important for communities and countries. They help us to process losses or celebrate times of joy.

9/10/14 is annual World Suicide Prevention Day. In the USA, we’ve unfortunately had a lot of suicides in the news lately, including Robin Williams, the husband of Joan Rivers, and one of the sons of Bernard Madoff.

9/11/14 is the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the USA. If anything, 9/11 has become our national day of mourning.

The dates 9/10/14 and 9/11/14 are interrelated not only by one day following another, but by different manifestations of suicide, or at least different uses and meanings of the term “suicide” as it is currently used. What can we-the public and professionals-try to do to prevent suicide, ranging from our individual relationships to international relationships?

First, we can talk, talk, and talk about suicide.

And we can learn as much as possible about suicide.

We can be vigilant for people at suicide risk, especially when they seem to be doing better for no sound reason.

We can also:

• Avoid factors that may be likely to increase suicide risk, including giving antidepressants to someone who may be bipolar. 

• Work to reduce the stigma of mental illness and to increase mental health care resources. 

• Stop the so-called suicide bombers around the world.

• Be part of the conversation about so-called physician-assisted suicide.

• Reconsider when the term “suicide” is appropriate, as perhaps suicide bombers (or flyers, as in 9/11/01) should be called homicide bombers, or as perhaps physician-assisted suicide should be called physician-assisted dying.

Most suicides, as the term was traditionally used, have an unbearably painful, untreated, or inadequately treated depression at the source. Occasionally, clinical depression can be a terminal illness in the sense that suicide is a likely outcome: we can do much better at preventing that.