National Survivors of Suicide Day

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is holding conferences around the world today to raise awareness about suicide in honor of National Survivors of Suicide Day. Bitch talked to Joan Schweizer-Hoff, a grief counselor at Portland's Dougy Center, who will be speaking this afternoon at the Portland conference.

What is the Dougy Center and what do you do there?
The Dougy Center provides peer support groups for children, teens, young adults and families who have experienced the death of a family member or friend. I am The Associate Director and for the past 18 years have been responsible for the program aspect of the organization.

Why do girls attempt suicide at a higher rate than boys? Why do boys more often "succeed"?
The higher rate of attempts for women is attributed to the elevated rate of mood disorders in women including major depression, dysthymia, seasonal affect disorder and post partum depression. Men tend to use more fatal means such as firearms which is attributed to the higher rate. Suicide is more common in women who are single, recently separated, divorced or widowed. The participating life event tend to be interpersonal loss or crisis in significant social of family relationships. Women are more likely to have stronger social support systems and to feel that their relationships are deterrents to suicide. They also seek psychiatric and medical interventions, which may contribute to their lower rate of completed suicide.
Women attempt suicide three times more than men. Men complete suicide at a rate four times that of women. In 2006 26,308 men and 6992 women died by suicide in the US.

How have suicide rates changed within the past five or ten years?
Between 1950 and 1970 the rate of suicide for women doubled and tripled for men. The rate leveled off in the 1980 and 1990's. It has been decreasing since mid 1990.

How does media coverage of suicide affect the public image of suicide? What public perceptions about suicide would you like to see changed?
The public still sees suicide as a huge stigma, that the person who kills herself is selfish, does not think of those left behind. It is not talked about, people who know someone who dies by suicide are reluctant to talk about the suicide because of the stigma and reactions. I would like people to understand that a person who dies from suicide had a problem in their brain, an organ of the body. The person who dies from suicide is "not in their right mind" the chemicals that produce rational thinking are out of balance or depleted. The areas of the brain that deal with problem solving and impulse control are damaged. The person is in intense emotional pain, so intense, that to stop the pain they must die. A suicide is caused from a brain disease, just like a heart attack kills a person from heart disease.
AFSP has a media coverage policy which addresses how a suicide should be covered.

What organizations/media help to promote suicide awareness?
American Foundation For Suicide Prevention and the American Association of Suicidology.

What is the best way to respond to a suicide or suicide attempt by a loved one?
If they are thinking of suicide, listen to them, allow them to share their pain. Get them help, medical and/or counseling support. Suicide can be prevented in most cases if the right interventions are found.

Click here for a list of AFSP conference sites or to stream a conference and watch it on your computer

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Comments

9 comments have been made. Post a comment.

"below the jump"? seriously?

"below the jump"? seriously?

Yes, even though I recognize

Yes, even though I recognize that that is the same usage that Bitch uses on articles that aren't related to suicide, that did stick out at me as particularly tasteless. (Then again, the common alternative, "below the cut," obviously isn't any better. :/) Can't we just have "Read more by clicking the link!"?

Yes, even though I recognize

Yes, even though I recognize that this is a common phrase that is no doubt used in Bitch articles that aren't related to suicide, that did stick out at me as being particularly tasteless. Then again, "below the cut" obviously is no better...can't we just have "read more by clicking on the link?"

"Below the fold" is

"Below the fold" is something I've seen that would be appropriate, as it is a stretch to skew that out of context. "Below" or "Read more for" would also work.

Good grief

I read that and thought nothing of it, even given that the post is about suicide. It seems like a commonly used web term, so common she probably didn't realize why it might offend someone. That is, *did* it offend you or are you just pointing it out? Your comment doesn't have much more substance to it.

Piffle

"What is the best way to respond to a suicide or suicide attempt by a loved one?"

If we lived in evolved times, we might actually help them instead of forcing them to continue living when they don't want to.

We wouldn't slam them as being "weak, selfish losers" either.

And we might spend time delving into the fact that suicide is often a symptom of a sociocultural condition or a socioeconomic catalyst, not an isolated incident of "brain disease".

But we live in devolved times so it's all about getting with the program of Life at All Costs.

Welcome to the End of Empire in this Century of Contraction in our Culture of Make Believe.

Imagine if there were organizations and causes like Bitch which spoke about those who take their lives in respectful and realistic terms?

"But death has become wild and obscene in this country. Its power threatens our national religion of control. To die in America is to fail. It is an act of weakness. The dead could have beaten it had they been tough enough. And suicide, of course, is even worse, whatever the unendurable torments or neurological malfunctions that might drive one to it. Believe me, he tried some truly medieval procedures to penetrate his horror."

"Merely to speak of death in plain terms is considered by many to be disrespectful and offensive. This is a peculiarly American sickness which is, among other things, wrecking our health care system - over 70% of America's total medical expenditures are devoted to extending the last few miserable weeks of life. Our pathology about death abstracts us from it and renders us far too capable of inflicting it on others without remorse. And, worst, it allows us to dwell in a kind of numbness to life that we would not permit ourselves if we did not make ourselves numb to death. To be in denial about death is to be in denial about life."
- John Perry Barlow, writing about the suicide of his close friend, Spalding Gray

And so the prejudice against those who die by choice continues, especially by those who profess to be on the side of those who have no voice.

"A suicide is caused from a brain disease, just like a heart attack kills a person from heart disease."

Such pseudoscientific clap trap is as absurd, simply-wrong and offensive as it is dismissive, abusive and counterproductive.

Some people kill themselves because this life--in this profoundly perverse, atomized, soulless, anomalous, unsustainable, rapacious and destructive modern, industrial Western society--is simply not worth living.

And many people are "depressed" because of the same grueling, soul-crushing dynamic.

In fact, if you're "well-adjusted" to this culture I'm quite sure there is something seriously wrong with you.

The Indian farmers who take their lives en masse (and thousands of other suiciding farmers) do not have a "brain disease". They have a well founded dis-ease of the soul caused by our too-oft-vaunted, not-negotiable way of life.

But we hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil -- even among Left-in-name-only circles which consistently profess to know better.

As the saying goes, "As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand".

Would that there were a National Day of Honor and Contemplation for Those Who Choose Death.

Now that would be revolutionary.

So it will never happen.

Do people ever choose,

Do people ever choose, rationally and in response to their environment, to kill themselves? I'm sure they do.

But this is an interview with a group talking about suicides by people who are NOT thinking rationally. That's the twisted, evil thing about depression (and many other mental illnesses): the disease itself makes you think there is no other way out. You might, if given a space in which to recover (ie supportive environment/family/friends) and, if necessary, medication, decide that suicide would have been a really, really bad choice. If you're doing an undergraduate degree with your tuition paid and a decent average, realizing you don't have the number of sources one prof asked for on one paper should not have you crying for your roommate to come take the pain pills away before you down the whole bottle and crawl into bed so the world will not be there anymore.

That is what they're referring to in this interview. People deciding they want to die because they cannot live on terms acceptable to them =/= people trying to kill themselves because a disease infecting their brains is limiting their thinking. You want to open a dialogue about the one? Try not totally dismissing the other.

Amen.

I'm completely with you. Earlier this year I had the most serious mental crisis of my life, in which I experienced severe anxiety attacks that flooded my brain with horrible thoughts, was hospitalized, and eventually had to take a break from my university (which is almost over now, but not without a lot of hard and painful work along the way) and go long-distance with my boyfriend, who has fortunately supported me all the way. At one point I did find myself contemplating suicide with all those cataclysms in my life. As I've pulled myself out of that with the help and support of loving others, seeing someone say that the kinds of suicidal thoughts that are brought on by panicked and irrational thinking—what I'm assuming the "brain disease" term refers to—is like a slap in the face to me.

Don't get me wrong, I do understand where that person is coming from—while the thought of suicide continues to baffle me, one mustn't reframe the events of one's life based on the suicide, indulging in "Oh, but she/he had so much potential!" platitudes and scouring the person's past to look for clues in a massive, useless game of "what if." And I do definitely believe that prolonging one's life beyond its useful limits is for the most part foolish, as I believe in euthanasia in a good many circumstances and for lack of a more delicate phrase, "pulling the plug" on people in vegetative states. (Of course, in both those cases it would be unwise to do so without consulting relatives and seeing whether the person had a living will.) But really, can this person be any more cynical? Yes, Western culture is fucked up in innumerable ways. But wouldn't you rather devote the rest of your life trying your utmost to UN-fuck it as much as humanly possible, rather than taking what is not only the easy but the tragic way out, which really helps nobody in the end? Yes, I'm an idealist, but I really have no place in my life for nihilism.

(Oy, there's a missing

(Oy, there's a missing "simply do not exist" after the "seeing someone say that the kinds of suicidal thoughts that are brought on by panicked and irrational thinking—what I'm assuming the "brain disease" term refers to" part, sorry about that. I wish posts could be edited!)