In 2018, 1.5 million Americans attempted suicide

U.S. suicide rates have risen in recent years, while rates in other nations continue to fall. Our suicide rate increased 33 percent from 1999 through 2017, and this rate has increased more sharply since 2006. Suicide ranks are now the fourth leading cause of death for people ages 35 to 54, and the second for 10- to 34-year-olds. It remains the 10th leading cause of American deaths overall. Suicides have increased most sharply in rural communities (like mine), where loss of farming and manufacturing jobs has led to economic declines over the past quarter century.

What can we learn about why our suicide rate continues to climb? According to the American Psychological Association (APA) The reasons for why suicide rates rise or fall is challenging, in part because the causes of suicide are complex:

“Suicide risk factors include health factors such as depression, substance use problems, serious mental illness and serious physical health conditions including pain, environmental factors such as access to lethal means and stressful life events including divorce, unemployment, relationship problems or financial crisis and historical factors including previous suicide attempts, a family history of suicide and a history of childhood abuse or trauma.”

“At the individual level, there is never a single cause of suicide. There are always multiple risk factors,” says Christine Moutier, MD, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “That confluence of multiple risk factors makes it a trickier business to explain a population-level rise.”

What can you do about this?

Those who have attempted suicide say,

“All I wanted was for one person to see my pain and say something kind.”

Any intervention can prevent suicide. I remember back in 2004, when I was divorcing (loss of 75% of my income!), I lost my job and then career, and I could find not one more job in any area at age 49. I set up an appointment with our Unitarian minister just to talk and I told her, “I just need one thing to go right!” Because it felt like everything was going to shit.

I learned two important lessons from this breakdown to breakthrough moment in my life. Action is the greatest antidote to despair and suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary predicament. The action I took, although it seemed a bit crazy at the time, was to start my own offline dating service. This led to meeting lots of others who were feeling lost and confused in the middle of their lives. Eventually it led to meeting Mike, my midlife best friend and lover. He then helped me begin a new career as a writer, which led to my blog “Midlife Crisis Queen” and my books.

If you are feeling lost and depressed start anywhere. Make your mess your message and spread the word, all is not lost just because you feel unhappy right now!

And remember, You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!

Three Ways of Confronting Suicide

Since 2010, photographer Dese’Rae Stage has taken snapshots of Americans to highlight an issue that most choose to ignore.

Dese'Rae Stage“You hear that word suicide and you think, ‘I don’t want to go there’ but this project is not about death. This project is about life. My work is about life.” Ms. Stage has chosen to tell the stories of suicide survivors through her photos and words. All the people in Ms. Stage’s exhibit — almost 200 of them — survived at least one suicide attempt. They agreed to let Stage use their names, tell their stories, and take a portrait for a project called Live Through This.

“When I woke up after I was in a coma for three days, I realized that ‘OK, God, the universe, did not see fit for me to, leave here like I wanted to,'” said Nancy Nettles, 50, who tried to overdose with pills.

Ms. Stage feels her project gives people permission to talk about a topic which I have found to be mostly taboo in our world today. As controversy swirls around videos like “13 Reasons Why” available on Netflix, and opioid deaths continue to rise, do we choose to confront this issue publicly, or pretend that if we ignore it, it will certainly go away?

opioid deaths in 2015

“Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015.”   One of my cousins died of a heroin overdose a few years ago, and last week I heard of two other suicides from individuals I had just met. How long can we ignore this national crisis?

Do we simply not care about Americans who choose to kill themselves? I believe the first step is for all of us who have ever considered suicide to fess up. If everyone of us who have ever felt that miserable and desperate for our lives to get better, would say so, suicide could become a topic to be discussed and awareness would improve dramatically.

I considered suicide a few times, and I am so glad I didn’t do it. I had no idea what I would have missed in this wild experience called life. Suicide is such a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It may seem like the easy way out, but you will miss so much if you are tempted by this ‘easy’ solution.

Laura and Rasta Feb 2013 focusedLooking back over 62 years of life, I would have missed finally finding love at age 49 with the best person I have ever met, and the amazing experience of relating totally to one other human being with no disappointments. I would have missed finally finding ‘home’ in a new part of Colorado with breath-taking views, surrounded by the beauty and silence of nature. I would have missed finally attaining my dream of writing professionally and publishing my own books. I would have missed enjoying my parents in their elder years. In short, I would have missed out on most of my amazing life.

What a waste that would have been. Life is a continuous unfolding… Anything can happen!