By Olivia Hook, Advocate BroMenn Medical Center
In the wake of beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams’ tragic death, many people have questions about suicide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, not far behind Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. With this in mind, there are several myths about suicide that can be put to rest.
Myth #1: Suicide rates peak around the holidays.
Although the holidays often bring about additional life stressors, the idea that suicides increase around the holidays is untrue. According to the Journal of Social Science and Medicine, the number of suicide attempts rises during the month of May in the U.S. The reason behind this increase in May is unknown, but researchers speculate that when the weather gets warmer, we get busier, and those of us already struggling with mental health issues often cannot handle the additional stressors of an even busier schedule.
Dr. Carmen Chase, psychiatrist with Advocate Medical Group in Normal, offers some insight. “Spring often triggers decreased sleep and an increase in manic symptoms,” she says. “The manic symptoms are associated with increased impulsivity, and those who come out of the mania into a severe depression may still have the energy to plan and complete suicide.”
Myth #2: Teens are at greatest risk to commit suicide.
Due to the media attention that teen suicide receives, many think that teens are the most at-risk population.
“Teens are not experienced enough to handle some of the stressors in life,” Dr. Chase says. “What may be a temporary problem seems to be permanent to them.”
However, it’s been found that those over the age of 85 are more likely to commit suicide, according to the New York Times. The elderly population often suffers from other illnesses and chronic pain, coupled with the fear of being a burden to family members.
Myth #3: Women are more likely than men to commit suicide.
The CDC reports that women are indeed more likely than men to attempt suicide, but men are four times more likely than women to succeed in their suicide attempt.
Myth #4: Depression is always the cause of suicide.
Depression is overwhelmingly the cause of suicide, but not the only factor. Alcoholism plays a role in about 33 percent of suicide attempts, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Myth #5: Suicide is inevitable.
More than 90 percent of those who attempt suicide have diagnosable mental health issues. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, 90 percent of those who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die from suicide.
It’s also important to consider those left behind when an individual commits suicide. “Survivors of suicide, or the people left after the suicide of someone they knew, often feel very alone,” says Dr. Judy Woodburn, a psychologist with Advocate Medical Group in Normal. “These survivors need a lot of support and compassion. They may benefit from getting some therapy/counseling or joining a support group to cope with the impact of their grief and loss.”
“When a person is suicidal, their mind is unable to comprehend or appreciate the effect their actions will have on those around them,” Dr. Chase adds. “It dramatically affects family, friends and, in the case of Mr. Williams, those who just admired them. There is no problem that will not get better if the person is just willing to wait and seek help. Often, just waiting overnight will allow the person to see things differently.”
If you or someone you know is battling depression or contemplating suicide, seek assistance from the trained professionals at a suicide prevention hotline. Locally, McLean and several other Illinois counties are served by PATH, which can be reached by dialing 2-1-1. Nationally, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) can connect you to a crisis center in your area.
Advocate Medical Group – Behavioral Health, with offices in Normal and Bloomington has a team of experienced psychiatrists, psychologists, and other counselors who can help lead their clients through the dark night of depression and a variety of other behavioral health and relationship issues. For more information or an appointment, please call 1-800-323-8622 or visit amgdoctors.com.
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