Roy Exum: Let’s Prevent Suicide

Friday, June 8, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Just hours after the news that Kate Spade had taken her life on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the heartbreaking statistics that show the suicide rate in the United States is now up to over 45,000 a year and that no fewer than 25 states now have record highs. The national average is 13.7 deaths per 100,000, which makes the most selfish thing a person can do the 10th leading cause of death in our country.

“The most selfish thing” is a harsh statement but Kate Spade, who was one of the greatest creators of beauty and elegance in the entire world, had the same flaw that I do – I struggle with depression and, as I have written before, people who don’t have it cannot comprehend how vicious a malady that mental illness can be.

At age 69, I am paying the steep price of countless days when I would run several miles with my pals. I now have “Uncle Arthur” in both knees and, in just the last three years, I’ve developed a raging case that leaves no doubt whatsoever I need to join the legions who give thanks to God we have artificial knees, hips, and marvelous medical means to overcome stuff that happens when your hair turns white.

But I also have a condition known as osteomyelitis, a bone disease that harbors different types of infections. The trouble is I have more kinds of infections than you can gather in the slums of Calcutta. These are easily controlled until “a foreign object” wakes them up and, trust me, I have rejected four artificial elbows in a spectacularly gruesome way. I spent 10 years juggling infection after infection and I’ve said a bunch of times that if I knew I would have to go through that again, I would seriously consider a glass of something lethal.

Dr. Kevin Gilliland, a psychiatrist, told reporters at People magazine how suicide works. Nobody knows how many of us are depressed because many don’t seek help, but the best “guess-timate” is around 16 million in our country.  “Someone can have significant life changes, the end of a marriage, losing your job, and that, added to depression, creates feelings of despair.

“It is really difficult for most people to watch someone struggling with feelings of depression or hopelessness about life,” the doctor explained. “If you fear that a loved one is struggling with life and they just ‘aren’t themselves’, talk to them. Try to listen more than you talk and just be curious about the change you have seen in them.”

Dr. Gilliland bashed the notion that if you ask somebody about suicide, it puts the idea in their heads. “No, talking saves lives. Ask if they have had the thought and let them know that it’s not unusual for people that ‘feel like they do or are going through what they are’ to have those thoughts,” he reasons.

“Most people mention something to friends, physicians, or their religious circle. They may talk about it in passing, give things to other people, or talk about feeling hopeless about their current situation. People closest to the person, family or life-long friends, often know that the person had been struggling.”

Kate Spade was 55 and the statisticians tell us that suicide among women between the ages of 45 and 64 have increased by more than 65 percent in the last 15 years. Today that’s about 19 percent per 100,000 Americans.

It has been learned Kate Spade had been estranged from her husband of 24 years for 10 months but that in the last few weeks, he had filed for divorce, creating that hopeless despair Dr. Gilliland explained.

The National Institute for Mental Health believes these behaviors may be signs that someone is thinking about suicide.

* -- Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves

* -- Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live

* -- Planning or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or newly acquiring potentially lethal items (e.g., firearms, ropes)

* -- Talking about great guilt or shame

* -- Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions

* -- Feeling unbearable pain, both physical or emotional

* -- Talking about being a burden to others

* -- Using alcohol or drugs more often

* -- Acting anxious or agitated

* -- Withdrawing from family and friends

* -- Changing eating and/or sleeping habits

* -- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

* -- Taking risks that could lead to death, such as reckless driving

* -- Talking or thinking about death often

* -- Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy

* -- Giving away important possessions

* -- Saying goodbye to friends and family

* -- Putting affairs in order, making a will

* * *

IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE IN CRISIS -- If You Know Someone in Crisis: Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1–800–273–TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to everyone. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1–800–799–4889. All calls are confidential. Contact social media outlets directly if you are concerned about a friend’s social media updates or dial 911 in an emergency. Learn more on the NSPL’s website. The Crisis Text Line is another resource available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Text “HOME” to 741741.

* * *

FROM KATE SPADE’S HUSBAND, ANDY – “Kate was the most beautiful woman in the world. She was the kindest person I’ve ever known and my best friend for 35 years. My daughter and I are devastated by her loss, and can’t even begin to fathom life without her. We are deeply heartbroken and miss her already.

“Kate suffered from depression and anxiety for many years. She was actively seeking help and working closely with her doctors to treat her disease, one that takes far too many lives. We were in touch with her the night before and she sounded happy. There was no indication and no warning that she would do this. It was a complete shock. And it clearly wasn’t her. There were personal demons she was battling.”

royexum@aol.com


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