Suicide

In lieu of the recent Robin Williams suicide I wanted to create a post today devoted to that topic.

Robin Williams
Robin Williams

The numbers are staggering, according to the CDC in 2010 over 38,000 people committed suicide.[1] Almost 500,000 people with self-inflicted injuries were seen in the Emergency Department. The medical cost of the self-inflicted injuries and suicides was an estimated $41.2 billion dollars.[2] This means something we already know: suicide is a major health issue. For the ec

A great illustration depicting suicide
A great illustration depicting suicide

onomists, preventing, or creating a solution to this problem could result in significant money saved. For everyone: the problem is so prevalent that we all know someone, who at the very least attempted suicide. Are there some warning signs that an event like this is going to occur? The resounding answer to this question is ‘yes’. Nearly 90% of those who take their own life have an underlying psychiatric condition—this could range from depression to schizophrenia. What’s more jaw dropping is that about 75% of those who commit suicide exhibit signs (signs such as substance abuse, withdrawal from family, or acting recklessly).[3] This begs the question: if there are both warning conditions and warning signs, why does it still occur with such frequency? I believe that the answer to this question has many branches of answers: I think that proper education of the general public could decrease this number. This education not only includes teaching people about the warning signs of suicide but also resources at their disposal if they suspect anything.[4] Now you may wonder what this topic has to do with me and my recovery.

 

——— How Does This Relate? ——–

Like I mentioned in a previous post, one worry for my recovery was my emotional state. Many people if put into my situation (handicapped overnight by a brain tumor) would fall into a depressed state, and may contemplate suicide. I am lucky in that my psyche is filled with hope following this ordeal: hope for a full recovery, and hope that my story is told and heard.[5] I consider myself simply lucky to have this outlook—I would not find fault with someone falling into depression under some circumstances. Like I said in an earlier post: there are varying schools of thought when it comes to depression—one extreme (these are clinicians: physicians, psychologists, mid-level providers, nurses, etc.) feels that depression exposes a weakness of the mind; that ‘mentally tough’ people could and would not become depressed. On the other end of the spectrum some view it as a physiologic phenomenon, caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the body.[6] I find myself in the middle of these two extremes: I believe that our whole body is always in a state of delicate balance, with the ratio of neurotransmitters very finely tuned, and the number of receptors on our cells always very important. I believe depression occurs when someone under duress is nudged in the direction of a depressed state, having the balance of the neurotransmitters thrown in the direction of depression. There are unfortunate people who suffer from depression as no result of any situation. In my case, the optimism and hope I have felt since the surgery has probably counterbalanced the adverse effects this ordeal has caused.

Could the almost 40,000 people’s lives be saved with further education and increased awareness? It might be a little farfetched to expect this, but even if one life is saved by any actions I feel it’s worth the effort. It’s sad that it takes the suicide of a public figure to bring this issue to light, but I am glad it has been brought to the public eye, by whatever means necessary.

A fantastic book on suicide.
A fantastic book on suicide.

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/Suicide_FactSheet_2012-a.pdf

[2] Besides the medical care cost, this figure includes the cost of work loss.

[3] http://www.suicide.org/suicide-warning-signs.html

[4] There are several numbers one can contact if they feel someone is in trouble: the easy number to remember is ‘911’. The police are trained to handle these situations. Another number to remember is 1-800-SUICIDE. This number can also provide help to anyone in need.

[5] I mentioned in the last post that I have taken up reading since my surgery. One of the first books I read is a book by Jerome Groupman titled, “The Anatomy of Hope”.

[6] This is the reason I try to avoid medications: I find that medications are an attempt to correct this imbalance; I worry that medications may result in detriment to this balance.

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