Today is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. It was established by Congress in 1999 after Senator Harry Reid, himself a survivor of his father’s suicide, introduced a resolution to raise awareness.
Twenty years later and I would say we still have a lot of work to do. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 800,000 people die by suicide every year worldwide. That is a suicide every 40 seconds. In the time it took you to read this post, someone died by suicide. By 2020 it is thought that it will be one person every 20 seconds because suicide rates are on the rise.
You hear so much about the need gun control here in the U.S., and wherever you stand on that issue you have to admit you hear a lot less about suicide prevention. Yet nearly ⅔ of all gun deaths are deaths by suicide.
The U.S. also loves to talk about how thankful we are for our veterans, but on average 22 veterans a day die by suicide. How much is that talked about?
The problem of course is that suicide is still viewed as a weakness. The stigma surrounding it still suggests that it is something that shouldn’t be talked about. But why should a loss by suicide be less tragic than a loss due to any other illness. After all, suicide is often the final symptom of a terrible disease that turns your own mind against you. It is not something to be ashamed about. Rather, talking about it will save lives.
Which is why I decided to focus this post on it, and why I hope you decide to talk about it more when you and your friends are discussing other public health crises. Because that is exactly what this is. A public health crisis. And the survivors of suicide loss absolutely deserve this day of awareness and remembrance.
In fact they deserve a whole lot more.