Dan was in a second marriage and a father of two children. He worked a good job, was physically active and enjoyed spending time with friends. Gail, mother of two children, was a busy professional in the middle of bitter divorce proceedings over the custody of her children. They both were fighting battles - some apparent and some not so much. There were minor cries for help, but not enough to cause anyone in their lives to imagine they would commit suicide. Their internal struggles overcame them and in seemingly an instant, they both chose to end their lives. They lost hope and their children, family and friends will endure the pain of their losses for years to come.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Innovative Primary Care’s Dr. Sandra Levitt believes it's just as important to focus on mental health as it is physical health because the brain is also part of the human ecosystem. And the numbers bear that out. The World Health Organization estimates that over 800,000 people die of suicide each year or one person every 40 seconds. Sadly, Arizona is one of the leading states, especially when it comes to veterans.
There is no single cause or reason people commit suicide, yet the majority of people (estimated at 90%) were suffering with an underlying mental illness and/or substance abuse problem at the time of their death. Dan had suffered many concussions as a high school and college football player. Gail was never formally diagnosed, but in hindsight her family believes she may have been bipolar. Both, however, were facing very difficult life challenges at the time of their deaths.
One thing we know is that being aware of warning signs or behaviors can save lives. Warning signs include:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
If you or anyone you know has displayed these behaviors, please seek help! There are numerous local and national resources that offer low or no cost services of a licensed counselor and support groups. Start with the following:
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline (24/7) 1-800-273-8255
- Reach Out. Check In. Save a Life
- Empact-Suicide Prevention Center
- World Suicide Prevention Day
- National Association of Mental Illness Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
One Valley mom started the Andy Hull Sunshine Foundation after losing her young son. You can learn more about and support her efforts by connecting on Facebook.