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Suicide: A National Public Health Issue

Suicide is preventable. Do you know the signs?

The Coroner’s Bureau of Alameda County deals with an average of 120 suicides each year.

That's one suicide every three days.

Many of these deaths don't get reported in the media for privacy and other reasons.

However, some of the suicides happen in public and they do gather a spotlight. Lately, there has been a series of them. 

Most recently, a man stepped in front of the .

Two weeks before that, a in Dublin during the morning commute.

In Pleasanton, a in May at the Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park.

In February, a man committed suicide by leaping from the I-580 freeway overpass in Livermore.

The family of that suicide victim recently started an online petition to get the Airway Boulevard overpass renamed the "Louis A Moreno Memorial Bridge" in an effort to raise awareness and promote suicide prevention.

Just over a year ago, Pleasanton felt the loss of 13-year-old Joey Ferrara.

In 2009, Palo Alto’s teen suicides made the ABC Nightly News after several Gunn High students committed suicide by standing in front of a train. That prompted the Palo Alto community to set up a committee comprised of pediatricians, schools, police and community agencies called HEARD.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website, “36,000 people in the United States die by suicide every year. It is this country's 10th leading cause of death.”

The site states that “suicide is preventable.”

The American Society for Suicide Prevention says "there are an estimated 8-25 attempted suicides for every suicide death."

According to the Centers for Disease Control website, "more males than females commit suicide." The site also shows the gradual increase in the incidences of suicides in the United States between 2000 and 2009.

The United States is ranked number 41st for suicides out of 107 countries in the world, according to Wikipedia.

As a police officer, I was given specialized training to deal with suicidal individuals through the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team program offered by San Diego County. The P.E.R.T teams were made up of police officers and nurses specially trained to deal with mental health emergencies while on patrol.

I have spent time with individuals who felt suicide was the only option left to them. Many were well past feeling despondent. They felt they were at the lowest point in their lives with little or no hope. Often, their anguish was absolutely palpable.

I have walked through many crime scenes of those who have taken the path of suicide. The looks of disbelief and shock on loved ones who were left to navigate the waters of being left behind is not something one can easily forget.

Suicide is one of those subjects that has traditionally been a societal taboo but as mental health treatment has evolved, so has the understanding of suicide. Suicide is a public health issue.

The recent “Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk" in San Francisco raised $2.6 million for suicide prevention, according to their website. The “Out of the Darkness” walk is an “18-mile walk from dusk to dawn, helping to bring issues of depression, mental illness and suicide out of the darkness and into the light.”

Some of the warning signs of suicide are "serious depression, increased use of drugs or alcohol, unnecessary risk-taking, making threats of suicide and making a plan," according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Web MD says the signs of clinical or "major" depression includes, "constant sense of hopelessness and despair, sleep troubles (such as insomnia or hypersomnia), diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day, weight loss or weight gain along with recurring thoughts of death."

If you know someone who is showing the warning signs of suicide, the reportingonsuicide.org site recommends not leaving the person alone. It says you should “remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt” and call U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

There are many options for those seeking help.

  • Private health care providers can give referrals to the appropriate practitioners.
  • The Dublin Library has information about suicide resources.
  • Anyone in crisis can go to any hospital emergency room for help.
  • Hotlines are available such as 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK.
  • Suicide prevention websites are available 24-hours-a-day.
  • Call 911 if you are experiencing a mental health emergency
Lee Jouthas June 15, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Thank you for this, Autumn. I want to add that the Library has a series of online guides related to health issues. You can find it at guides.aclibrary.org/health. Look for the tab labeled "mental health". I worked on the content of this guide and I really hope that people who are struggling will find it helpful. There is lots of good information and sources to turn to for help so the message is don't give up -- another chapter wants to be written in your life.
Autumn Johnson (Editor) June 15, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Thanks, Lee. I added the link into the article. Feel free to share this on the library FB page as well.
jf September 24, 2012 at 05:53 AM
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