It was shocking to read that suicide deaths in the U.S. have now surpassed deaths by motor vehicle accidents.
In 2010, there were over 38,000 suicides compared with almost 34,000 motor vehicle deaths (or 14.1 suicides per 100,000 people aged 10 and older versus 10.7 deaths from motor vehicles).
Motor vehicle deaths have been, thank G-d, declining since 1999, while suicides are unfortunately up by almost a third (31%).
Suicide for working adults were double other demographics (and highest for those in their 50's), while for teens and the elderly, the rates stayed flat.
According to the Wall Street Journal (3 May 2012), for middle-age people 35-64, suicide is now the 4th highest cause of death after cancer, heart disease, and unintentional injury (e.g. drowning).
Suicide prevention efforts that have typically been directed to at-risk teenagers and the elderly are now being looked at for greater focus on middle-aged adults.
The article points to tough economic times (with the recession of 2007) as a potential factor in the increase.
I would assume also that the 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed to the increase as well due to posttraumatic stress disorder.
Yet, suicide is a very final act of escape for those acutely suffering from economic hardships, the horrors of war, and depression--and we can only imagine how much pain these people must be feeling to do the unthinkable.
I am familiar with teenagers and adults taking or attempting suicide--some have survived and others have died.
For those lucky enough to survive, they have the opportunity to rebuild their lives and try again, while those who didn't make it, their loved ones suffer with the emptiness that was once a loving and caring individual, part of their lives.
I was taught in Yeshiva that suicide is a very grave sin and people don't have the right to take the life that G-d granted them, but in my mind, those who suffer so as to attempt or commit suicide are probably not in a state of mind or in full control of themselves to be fully responsible.
It is worth thinking about that if 38,000 actually commit suicide a year, how many more attempt it, contemplate it often, or otherwise consider it occasionally.
People need help coping. I remember learning in English class in college that "all men live lives of quiet desperation," and I wonder how many are out there suffering inside--at times desperate, but usually putting a smile on their faces.
We need to look beyond the surface of what people are going through, have empathy, have mercy, and give plentifully of your time, and kindness to all--you may just be saving a desperate life from taking that one last and unforgiving step.
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)