Tearing down the Taboos
By Alejandra Morales, PsyD, Director of Behavioral Health
Miguel was working full-time and studying in college.
He was 25 years old.
The single parent of a 7-year-old, he was trying to rekindle his relationship with the child’s mother and hoped to rebuild their family.
Sometimes at work, he would joke that after he had passed away, he wanted to be remembered as a hardworking individual.
But no one really paid too much attention when he talked about loneliness or death. In their eyes, he had a full life, and a lot going for him. They didn’t think he was serious.
A few months later, his child’s mother found him hanging by a necktie in his living room.
The authorities concluded that it was a suicide.
We ask ourselves, “Why?”
There are no simple answers.
Suicide is a complex affliction, and it is not limited to a country or culture; it is a worldwide public health problem.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that in 2012, there were 804,000 reported suicides worldwide.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds worldwide.
- In the United States, there were 38,364 suicides in 2010. That is an average of 105 suicides each day.
- Among all Hispanics, suicide was the 12th leading cause of death at all age levels, and the third leading cause of death for Hispanic males ages 15 to 34.
One major issue is how much of a stigma is still associated with mental illness.
Think to yourself, when is the last time you felt free to discuss you may have felt lonely with a family member? When did you last hear from a friend that she was hurt and frustrated, or from a relative that he wanted to try counseling to combat his depression?
The longer we continue to bury or ignore these conversations, the stronger the stigma can lead to greater suffering, and even the tragedy of suicide.
Gaining an understanding of the risk factors helps us deal and speak about these important subjects.
Below, are some key suicide risk factors.
Consider whether you, or someone you know and care about, might have demonstrated any one (or more) of the following.
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- Family history of suicide
- Family history of depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder
- Alcohol dependence or substance abuse
- Physical illness
- Family history of child physical or sexual abuse
- Impulsive or aggressive behaviors
- Withdrawing or isolating from other people
- Losses related to work, financial, or relationships
- Having easy access to firearms, weapons, pesticides or certain medications
As part of the same community, we all have a responsibility to each other.
The best way to reduce the risk of suicide is to know the warning signs in the event you recognize them in those close to you. Some include:
- Talking about suicide or death frequently
- Speaking about feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Worsening depression
- A sudden change from being very sad to being calm or happy
- Giving away personal possessions
Feeling lost or overwhelmed is not a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of. It is a natural emotional response that every one of us feels at some point.
But there is never a reason to suffer in silence.
Our strength comes from unity and clarity.
Working together with our families, our schools, our community-based organizations, and our medical and social service providers, we can create a network of support that ensures that all of our friends and families receive the care they need.
We deserve nothing less.
If anybody expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions, call a hotline immediately.
Assistance is offered in multiple languages.
1-800-273-8255 or 911