I was first introduced to suicide in eighth grade.
In English class, our teacher had us watch Dead Poets Society, a film about a teacher, John Keating, played by Robin Williams, who inspires a group of teenage boys at a private school to not only appreciate poetry but more importantly to live with purpose and to seize the day.
I remember how entirely unexpected the scene was when one of the lead students, Neil Perry, decided to take his life with a single shot. It was shocking, encompassing and unimaginable.
His lack of acceptance from his father, feeling of being alone and living with an uninspired future were heavy and unbearable. It was sad.
A few months after graduating high school, my classmates and I were tragically reacquainted with suicide.
Our beloved class clown had killed himself just months after most of us had moved away to begin an exciting new journey in life. I can still see his perfect smile now. Tony had overcome a kidney transplant in middle school and recovered just fine in the years following. We all labeled him a fighter, unbreakable.
He was hilarious, sharp and simply a joy to know. He seemed to be a seasoned comedian even in our young and inexperienced age, and thankfully wasn’t one of those sarcastic jerks that had people laughing at the expense of someone else’s confidence. His only purpose for telling a joke was to make people feel good, and that he did.
But somewhere along the way, and probably for longer than anyone had suspected, he became depressed and isolated. I assume he felt uneasy, unhappy and unworthy, although there’s no knowing. It was sad — not only what had happened but mainly that he felt that terrible.
As you surely are aware, one of our country’s most beloved class clowns, Robin Williams, took his own life. I can’t even begin to echo everyone’s love, admiration and thankfulness for Williams. They are praises of merit, and I, too, like many feel like I lost someone who had a positive influence on my upbringing.
If anything has come into light since its breaking on Monday is that depression is a serious sickness, suicide can’t be a taboo subject and that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
Suicides don’t make headlines, unless they’re done in public, but that doesn’t mean they’re not happening. According to the 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Data and Statistics, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America, which is fairly prominent given the number of causes of death.
There are trends worth noting:
Men, for instance, are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. In 2011, 78.5 percent of victims were male and 21.5 perfect were female.
Adults ages 45 to 64 years old had the highest suicide rate with 18.6 per 100,000 people and the second highest rate of 16.9 occurred in those 85 years and older. In fact, the 15 to 24-year-old range had consistently the lowest rate of any other age group.
The states with the highest suicide rates coincidentally have the least dense populations: Wyoming (23.2), Alaska (23.1) and Montana (22.9). Nevada (20.3), New Mexico (20.1) and Idaho (18.5) close out the list of states with suicide rates above 18. These states, with small populations and large square mileage, can cause increased feelings of loneliness and isolation.
If anyone you know, or especially yourself, has become more isolated from work, friends or family, please offer and seek help, support or comfort. You might save a life.