The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that the suicide rate among middle-aged Americans climbed 28 percent between 1999 and 2010 (TNT, 5-3).
Having lost my brother three years ago, it is important to remember that these numbers represent real people and real families. When I lost my brother I wasn’t thinking about statistics. Instead, I was overwhelmed by a thousand questions, many of which began with “Why?”
When I became a volunteer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I learned that 90 percent of people who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness, often undiagnosed depression, or alcohol and substance abuse. Now it is my mission to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness. Sadly, shame and embarrassment keep far too many people from seeking help. With early detection and treatment, suicide can be prevented.
I hope that readers will take a moment to visit www.afsp.org for information about suicide warning signs and risk factors and learn how to get more involved.
(Schwantner is a board member of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Washington chapter.)