Suicide is a difficult topic, so be warned this post my contain triggers.
Today was the announcement that the two deaths on November 13 here on PEI were the result of a murder-suicide.
A 47-year-old father of two murdered the estranged wife of an RCMP constable with a knife and then turned that weapon on himself, an investigation by the RCMP major crime units in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick has concluded.
This tragedy has left 5 children without one of their parents.
Suicide is difficult for most people to understand, but the most important fact is that suicide is nearly always the result of disease. I have no idea whether or not Mr. MacLean was suffering from a mental illness, but there is approximately a 90% chance that he was. The number is probably higher than this as we can include addiction and rule out ideology or religion as causes.
Writing in Psychology Today, Alex Lickerman describes the 6 most common reasons people take their own lives.
- They’re depressed. This is without question the most common reason people commit suicide. Severe depression is always accompanied by a pervasive sense of suffering as well as the belief that escape from it is hopeless.
- They’re psychotic. Malevolent inner voices often command self-destruction for unintelligible reasons.
- They’re impulsive. Often related to drugs and alcohol, some people become maudlin and impulsively attempt to end their own lives.
- They’re crying out for help, and don’t know how else to get it.
- They have a philosophical desire to die. The decision to commit suicide for some is based on a reasoned decision often motivated by the presence of a painful terminal illness from which little to no hope of reprieve exists.
- They’ve made a mistake. This is a recent, tragic phenomenon in which typically young people flirt with oxygen deprivation for the high it brings and simply go too far
To the last, we could add many other risky behaviours that deliberately cause self-harm.
Deaths by suicide are usually under-reported as well, since without evidence some deaths that coroners must rule as accidental are actually suicides.
To give an indication of the scope of this problem locally, deaths due to known suicides are the leading cause of non-natural deaths on PEI.
“These suicide statistics are greater than the number of people killed in motor vehicle-related collisions,” said Trainor, who pointed out that while collisions have decreased in the past number of years, suicide rates have remained fairly consistent in the province.
There were 16 suicides on P.E.I. in 2009, followed by 18 in 2010.
Based on autopsy figures, there have been 10 so far in 2011, with 3 1/2 months left in the year.
Since that article was published, this is the second suicide I know of. I lost a friend in September. That makes 12, and of course, there may be others I am unaware of.
There are no easy answers to preventing suicide. As the old saying goes, the first step in solving a problem is recognizing that you have a problem. Bringing mental health issues out into the open and removing some of the stigma that is attached is one step.
It is important to remember that family members have a role to play, particularly in providing strong support.
Generally, the absence of mental illness and substance abuse, as well as the presence of a strong social support system, decrease the likelihood that a person will kill him- or herself.
We cannot remove the existence of substance abuse or mental illness, but we can provide support and encourage those who suffer from these diseases to get help. Treatment decreases the likelihood of suicide.
In all of this, it is important to remember the loved ones who are left behind. You encouraged treatment. You supported them. You watched them. You did your best, and still they died. How can you deal with that?
- Suicide is extremely traumatic for the friends and family members that remain (the survivors), even though people that attempt suicide often think that no-one cares about them. In addition to the feelings of grief normally associated with a person’s death, there may be guilt, anger, resentment, remorse, confusion and great distress over unresolved issues. The stigma surrounding suicide can make it extremely difficult for survivors to deal with their grief and can cause them also to feel terribly isolated.
- Survivors often find that people relate differently to them after the suicide, and may be very reluctant to talk about what has happened for fear of condemnation. They often feel like a failure because someone they cared so much about has chosen to suicide, and may also be fearful of forming any new relationships because of the intense pain they have experienced through the relationship with the person who has completed suicide.
- People who have experienced the suicide of someone they cared deeply about can benefit from “survivor groups”, where they can relate to people who have been through a similar experience, and know they will be accepted without being judged or condemned.
- Most counseling services should be able to refer people to groups in their local area. Survivor groups, counseling and other appropriate help can be of tremendous assistance in easing the intense burden of unresolved feelings that suicide survivors often carry.
Whatever the motivation, suicide is always a tragedy and it is important to remember that there are always loved ones who are also victims.