A Slow-Killer

By Brianna Eliza Castillo

Suicide often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities for an individual dealing with depression and prevalent risk factors.
Suicide is the top 10th leading cause of death in the United States averaging between the ages of 15 through 24. Although in the college atmosphere, suicide is more prevalent being the 2nd top leading cause of death.

From a wider spectrum, roughly 42,773 individuals will commit suicide each year while there is 1 suicide for every estimated 25 suicide attempts. When broken down, there are 117 suicides per day and 1 death by suicide every 12.3 minutes in the United States alone. From a local perspective, there has been 110 suicide related deaths in Webb County in the last 7 years. 70% of those were committed by males and 30% by females. Only a small fraction, under half of those deaths, were committed by those under the age of 25 years of age. In the Webb County area, the youngest to commit suicide on record has been as young as 13 years of age and the oldest being 67 years of age.

There are several common gender differences for those who attempt suicide. Women are three times more likely to attempt than men who rank lower for attempted suicide and twice as likely to experience depression while men are four times more likely to die from an attempt. Men are more likely to use deadlier methods such as firearms and suffocation, while women are most likely to use poisonous substances such as pills.

There are levels of suicide risk that vary from low to moderate and from high to severe; suicidal thoughts being the common denominator. There are also red flags loved ones can look out for to prevent this tragedy.

Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself or maybe having a specific plan, preoccupation with death: reading, talking, drawing, and/or writing about death, previous suicide attempts or increase of self-destruction (or reckless) behavior including alcohol or drug use, talks about feeling unbearable pain, hopeless, and trapped, talks about being a burden to others, giving away personal prized possessions, becoming socially isolated, and even sudden calmness and/or happiness.

Common suicide risk factors include mental disorders, alcohol or other substance abuse, a history of trauma or abuse, previous suicide attempt(s) or family history of suicide. Other major factors that lead to suicide can be due to major physical illness or chronic pain, recent loss of a loved one, of a relationship (divorce in the family), home, job or financial loss, a trauma, etc. Life events as well have been proven to escalate suicide such as family conflict, financial stress, disappointments, relational stress, job-related stress, stress due to new situations or relocations, etc.; as well as the lack of social support and sense of isolation/loneliness.

Other key symptoms are feelings of sadness, anxiousness, emptiness, hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, or self-esteem; fatigue, lack of energy/concentration, unexplained aches and pains (somatic symptoms); loss of interests in activities that were once pleasurable, feelings of isolation and withdrawal from people and events; self-neglect, inability or unwillingness to attend to one’s personal needs, for example, neglected hygiene; loss of appetite or over-eating; insomnia or excessive sleeping; and talk of suicide or giving up.

When talking to a suicidal person: be yourself, let the person know you care, listen, encourage your friend to  talk and clarify, be nonjudgmental, patient, calm, offer hope-reassurance that help is available and their life is important to you, ask the question “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”. When talking to a suicidal person do not: argue, lecture of the value of life, promise confidentiality-refuse to be sworn to secrecy, push or recognize their readiness, offer ways to fix their problems or give advice, blame yourself (You can’t “fix” someone’s depression.).

When helping a suicidal person, remember to be honest, get professional help encourage positive lifestyle changes, encourage positive support connections, make a safety plan, remove potential means of suicide, and continue your support over the long haul.
An important number to keep in store is the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about killing yourself, please call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). A skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.  Your call is confidential and free. For other local crisis hotlines, dial Border Regions 24-Hour Hotline at 1-800-643-1102 or PILLARs 24-Hour Hotline at (956) 723-7457. You can also text the Crisis Text Line 24/7, always confidential and always free; text “START” to 741-741.

End the stigma. Start the conversation with your peers and loved ones today.


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