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October 2007


By Al Vigil

An often described emotion of some suicidesurvivors is, "my life is just like a roller coaster. Up one minuteand down the next."

It's been 23 years since our middle daughterMia stopped her life by suicide and I still find myself telling peoplethat sometimes, even now, it's a life of roller coaster thrills —and Iuse the word 'thrills' in a very facetious manner. We ride a life ofmostly level coaster tracks these days —with very few ups and downs,turns and twists, and yet we know that we will never forget our Mia.

Because deep inside ourselves, in our hearts andin our souls, in our wakening and in our sleep, in our faith and in ourdoubts, we always know that we are forever changed.

A new friend recently shared that their pain,mental and physical, can take them from 'paradise to holocaust' withina day...within a moment. The facilitator of this particular painmanagement group immediately responded with, "—but pain is not lifethreatening."

"What?" I asked . "Of course pain is lifethreatening. That is exactly why we lose loved ones to suicide."Suicide letters are full of pain. People that have tried to commitsuicide and have somehow been stopped, tell us, "things in life justhurt too much. Everything was coming down. Nothing seemed to help. Iwanted to stop my pain.

"Suicide isn't as much a movement toward death, as it is a movement away from unending, unbearable pain."

I never took the time to learn the 'Serenity Prayer' until after I became a suicide survivor.

God grant me the Serenity,

To accept the things I cannot change.

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

I urge you to read it ...carefully ...slowly ...sound out each word ...hear its plea for peace from pain.

In 'The Little Prince' the prince is one day heardto say, "What is essential is invisible to the eye. One can only seewith the heart."

The most help and support that we can give andoffer another suicide survivor is to tell them, I feel your pain —because we deeply know that they are forever changed.

(NOTE: Edited by S & H Editors from national articles appearing July thru Sept. 2007)

The latest figureson teenage suicide in the United States presents a very worrying andalarming statistical picture —especially among young women.

A report by theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention shows the suicide rates for10 to 24 year-olds rose 8 % between 2003 and 2004 —the most recent yearfor which data exists. It's the largest suicide rise researchers haveseen in 15 years and it marks the end of a decline in suicide ratesbetween 1990 and 2002 when the suicide rate had fallen to 28.5 %.

The steepestincreases occurred among 10 to 14 year-old girls, whose suicide raterose more than 76 % followed by 15 to 19 year-old girls and 15 to 19year-old boys, whose rates rose 32 percent and 9 percent, respectively.(Absolute numbers were from 312 to 459 for the girls and from 1,222 to1,345 for the boys.) As the report notes, because the data is based ondeath certificates, the actual number of deaths by suicide may exceedthe 4,599 reported by coroners and other health officials in 2003 and2004.

This new data clearly shows that in 2004 suicide was the 3rd leading cause of death for American youth.

The method ofdeath also underwent a change —death by hanging and suffocation becamethe most common for suicide method, compared to the use of gun in the1990's. Dr. Keri Lubell, a behavioral scientist in the CDC's Centerand lead author of the new study, suggests easy accessibility of theseimplements of suicide.

The experts alsosay that a decline in the use of anti-depressants might be one possiblereason for the rise in teen suicide rates. There is already agreementamong experts that government warnings about the risk of suicide, asprinted on the side of antidepressant medications, have prompted manydoctors to cut back on prescribing them to young people. Prior to 2004,the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had led the debate on the needfor such a warning.

From An Interview With Dr. Lubell
Are we facing a suicide epidemic?
We don't speak interms of epidemics, but the trends that we see in this study aredefinitely of great concern to us. We looked at suicide rates for 10 to24 year-olds over the period 1990-2004 and found that suicide rates hadbeen declining up to 2003, but between 2003 and 2004 suicide rates roseby 8 percent, the greatest rise in the 15-year period. It's not reallyclear whether this is the beginning of a trend or merely a single yearwhere something happened, so I wouldn't yet characterize it as acrisis. But it definitely calls for continuing to monitor these trendsover time and trying to understand what's happening that might beunderlying any changes in suicidal behavior.

What's important for parents to take away from these findings?
We want parentsand teachers and others who work with youth to be aware of the warningsigns of suicide—things like if a child or adolescent talks aboutkilling themselves, talks about how things would be better if theyweren't here, if they have sudden changes in sleeping or eating habits,or a sense of hopelessness about the future. These are things thatshould alert parents, teachers and others that they should talk tokids. They can ask directly if a youth is feeling suicidal, and thenassess the situation and decide if the child needs to speak with amedical professional.

What's the next step for researchers hoping to explain the jump in suicide rates?
The first thing iscontinued monitoring of this trend. The second thing to concentrate onis learning more about the circumstances of suicidal behavior,particularly suicide death. For example, the CDC has a nationalviolent-death reporting system—right now it covers only 17 states—butas that system expands we'll be able to know more about what's going onat the time of suicide. The other thing is that we really need moreinformation about what really works to prevent suicide, especiallyamong youth. It's of critical importance. Other recent studies havefound that youth suicide rates spiked in the same year that child andadolescent antidepressant use fell, leading some psychiatrists toconclude that the two trends are connected.

What's your reaction?
Well, our studydoesn't really speak to the antidepressant issue. But to the extentthat antidepressants might or might not be playing a role, it's reallyimportant to keep in mind that suicide is a complex multidimensionalissue, and when a suicide death occurs there's never any one singlecause. Antidepressants or SSRIs might play a role in suicides, butthere are other things that we need to be aware of as well: familyconflict, social isolation, and other things that factor into youthsengaging in suicidal behavior. It's interesting that the year of thisspike in suicide rates is the same year that the Iraq war started.

Could family members going off to war or returning changed from war impact youth suicide rates?
We haven't lookedat what impact family members going off to war might have on youthsuicide rates, so we wouldn't want to speculate beyond saying that it'ssomething to be studied. While I can't speak specifically to the issueof family members going off to war, anything that affects families andfamily relationships is definitely potentially upsetting to childrenand potentially causing them difficulties.There were also significantshifts in the most common methods of suicide, with firearms moving tonumber two and hanging and suffocation emerging as the most commonmethod among girls.

The magnitude ofthe increase is definitely a dramatic one. For 10- to14-year-old girls,the hanging/suffocation rate more than doubled—it rose by 119 percent[from 32 to 70 deaths]. And it rose by 44 percent among 15to19-year-old girls. That's a large shift for just one year, and it'salso a concerning one. The issue with hanging and suffocation is thatthe means for hanging and suffocation are not easy to restrict accessto. Other methods—firearms, poison, jumping from great heights—thoseare things that researchers and prevention folks have developed ways torestrict, but the means for hanging and suffocation are readilyavailable.

So, once again, itreally says to us that we need to be looking at the broad reasons forsuicide and focusing our prevention efforts there.

One Suicide Every Thirty (30) Seconds : Reports WHO
Sept. 10, 2007

GENEVA — Almost 3,000 peoplecommit suicide every day in the world, one victim every 30 seconds onaverage, the World Health Organization said Monday.
For every person thatsucceeds in taking their own life there are at least 20 more who try,the WHO said in a report timed to coincide with World SuicidePrevention Day.
"Today, too many people ofall ages needlessly take their own lives," the UN agency said. "Forfamily and friends affected by suicide or attempted suicide, theemotional impact may last for many years."
The WHO said the globalsuicide rate was up 60 percent over the last 50 years with an even moremarked increase in the developed world.
Suicide is now among thetop three causes of death among people between 15 and 34 years old, butmost suicide victims are found among the elderly, those aged 60 andabove, it said.
The WHO said it wasworking "to ensure that suicide is no longer seen as a taboo or anacceptable result of personal or social crises, but as a healthcondition influenced by psycho-social, cultural and environmental riskfactors."

"The Beautiful"

- Author Anonymous -

(Submitted By - Jackie Cambra - San Diego)

As we grow up, we learn that even the one person that wasn't supposed to ever let you down probably will.

You will have your heart broken probably more than once and it's harder every time.

You'll break hearts too, so remember how it felt when yours was broken.

You'll fight with your best friend.

You'll blame a new love for things an old one did.

You'll cry because time is passing too fast, and you'll eventually lose someone you love.

So take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you've never been hurt because

every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you'll never get back.

Don't be afraid that your life will end, be afraid that it will never begin.

Live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly.

Leave The Rest To God.


Klamath Falls, Ore. - AP- 03/26/07

As John Cascamo described depression and suicidal thoughts in the elderly, a woman identified only as Doris listened carefully.

"I know exactly how that feels," she said.

She took part in arecent forum, "Older Adult Suicide: It's Everybody's Business"presented by Cascamo, an instructor of psychology and criminal justiceat Klamath Community College. He also is active in suicide prevention.

Statisticsindicate about 100 older adults die by suicide in Oregon each year, arate triple that of younger people. Cascamo blames isolation anddespair.

"We're teachingpeople to actively recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis, totalk to that person about it, and if necessary take them to the doctoror emergency room, "Cascamo said.

He is an advocateof "Q P R" —Question, Persuade, Refer —a mental health intervention forsuicidal people created by Dr. Paul Quinnett of Washington StateUniversity.

People trained in"Q P R" can include parents, friends, neighbors, teachers, ministers,doctors, nurses, co-workers, police officers, advisers, caseworkers andmore. They are taught to look for warning signs.

"We have onesimple goal. When your instincts, your heart, tell you 'I think myfriend is suicidal', to bring us to the point of asking 'Are yousuicidal?' It's immediate first aid that everybody can do," Cascamosaid.

"Tell them you don't want them to die. Plant the seeds of hope," he said.

Cascamo says hethinks the state's high rate is due in part to Oregonians placing ahigh value on self-reliance, and a lack of access to services in somerural areas.

By Connie Clark (09/14/ 07 )
Episcopal Priest and Chaplain in Evanston, Wyo.

What is going on with our children and teenagers? Why is it that their suicide rates are sharply up?

According to the Centers forDisease Control, suicide rates among girls ages 15 to 19 went up 32percent in 2004, the most recent year for which figures are available.Among boys in that age group, the rate went up 9 percent. Mostalarming, the suicide rate went up 76 percent among girls in the10-to-14 age group.
The experts are scratchingtheir heads over this frightening news, especially since youth suicidehad been on the decline for the past 15 years. They speculate thatsuicides may be on the rise in part because the possibility of sideeffects has caused physicians to stop prescribing antidepressants toteenagers. They point to the prevalence of something called 'thehanging game' in which kids choke themselves to produce momentaryeuphoria; sometimes they go too far and hang themselves unintentionally.

But epidemiologists say thatthese factors, taken alone or together, cannot fully explain thedramatic suicide increase among young people. Mental-health expertswarn us all to look for signs that children and teens might be thinkingabout suicide. Some signs are right out there: depressed mood,preoccupation with poems or song lyrics about death, doing poorly inschool. Some signs are much more subtle. Maybe the reason we adultsmiss the signs of suicidality among kids is that we simply aren'texpecting it.

For example, until I sawthese recent statistics, I hadn't really thought much about children -those preteen girls mentioned in the study - committing suicide. It'salmost a taboo to think of such young people even knowing they couldkill themselves, much less wanting to. But the taboo needs to bebroken. Children in today's world know way too much about violence ingeneral and suicide in particular.

If we want to understand whykids are killing themselves at an alarming rate, we grownups need tolook at ourselves and the environment we've created for children.

We have created a world in which life matters a whole lot less than it did 50 years ago. We haveallowed creators of mass entertainment to feed us a steady diet ofviolence and meaninglessness. We have, as a society, degraded theimportance of marriage and downplayed the significance of divorce, alife event that is often devastating to children. We have put forwardsome really sick ideals about the standards kids need to meet andallowed commercial interests to bombard children with sexual imageryany time they turn on the computer, radio or television. Thewell-documented fracturing of family time is giving lots of kids thefeeling that they're not really all that important to their parents -and if your parents don't really care, then who does?

It's difficult to lift theveil of denial and look squarely at the reality of child and teensuicide. We'd like to think no young person we know would ever considerit - but we should think again. It's up to us adults to help youngpeople before they reach the point of desperation that leads them tohang themselves or take too many pills or use Dad's gun to end it all.It's up to us to build a world in which they can find hope and meaning,but since that's a long-term project, right now we must learn suicide'swarning signs and have the courage to help the children who are slidingtoward self-destruction.

God made life simple . . .it is man who complicates it.


Every 30 seconds,someone commits suicide. And every three seconds, someone attempts totake his or her life. This means that in the short amount of time youspend reading this commentary, four people will commit suicide and morethan 50 will have tried.

Given the fact thatnearly a million people per year end their lives by suicide, inaddition to the number of individuals (20 times more than actualsuicides) whose attempts are un-successful, it is not surprising thatthe World Health Organization now ranks suicide among the three leadingcauses of death for people ages 15 to 44.

More people die eachyear by suicide than by violent crime or war. By 2020, it is estimatedthat global suicide deaths could rise to 1.5 million each year.Furthermore, higher rates of suicide tend to occur in wealthiercountries, like the United States, with their abundance of luxurygoods, shopping malls, cars, homes, etc. The corresponding decline inmental health in Western society (in 2006, the National Institute forMental Health found that 26% of all Americans are mentally ill)reinforces the concern that the source of our troubles may be found inthe lack of meaning and spiritual fulfillment that is part of ourincreasingly secular and materialistic society.

Our attempts to find fulfillment and happiness in material possessions further feed our sense of hopelessness. In her book "The Price of Privilege"(2006), clinical psychologist Madeline Levine points out that Americansare not happier today than they were a generation ago when the wealthof America was about half of what it is today. In fact, she suggeststhat Americans may actually be more miserable now, as evidenced by anincreasing suicide rate and higher divorce rate.

Young people arealso affected. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control andPrevention indicate a surprising jump in youth suicides, especiallyamong older teens. Levine explains, the depression rate for teenagegirls from affluent backgrounds is as high as three times the nationalrate for all teenage girls. Pointing to the fact that well-to-do,middle-class parents are often overwhelmed with professional and civicresponsibilities, Levine notes that teenagers are left feelingisolated, lonely and searching for meaning in other areas of theirlives. They seek to fill this vacuum with material possessions and anunhealthy drive to achieve more. According to Levine, whenever materialobjects or external benchmarks are valued over personal relationshipswith friends and family, the spiritual development of the teenagertakes a beating.

The problem, ofcourse, is that our lives lack meaning —what the renowned Swisspsychiatrist Carl Jung once described as a "hurting soul and sickness."And our efforts to find meaning through materialism, drugs, sex,professional achievement, etc., have amounted to nothing more than adesperate grasping for the elusive wind.

The soul is hurtingfrom a lack of spirituality, and the cure will not be found in a pill.Craig Hassed, a senior lecturer and coordinator of complimentarymedicine at Monash University in Australia, states, "We are more oftenconcerned with risk factors for depression, youth suicide, substancemisuse and violence than the less-publicized protective factors, whichinclude 'connectedness' and 'spirituality.'"

Having been sold abill of goods by the entertainment industry about what success andhappiness are all about—perfect bodies, flashy cars, spacious homes,attractive partners—we are unprepared to deal with the soul-suckingemptiness that goes along with it. The cure for this soul sicknesscannot be found in another person. It certainly will not be found in apill. Or in a bottle. Or at the shopping mall.

Clearly, peoplerecognize the need for something deeper and more meaningful in theirlives. This hunger is reflected in the increasing popularity ofreligions and the success of films and television with shows thataddress larger questions about the meaning of life and in thepreponderance of how-to-find-happiness self-help books that constantlyflood the market.

We have forgottenwhat the ancients knew all too well—that everything has a spiritualaspect. This includes our society. Thus, the true cure will only befound in quenching our human thirst for meaning and spiritualtranscendence.

We are finite beingsin search of the Infinite. And until we, as a society, find it, thematerialistic mania of modern life could continue to drag us furtherinto despair.

Finland No Longer the Suicide Capital of the World
Sept. 14, 2007
HELSINKI — Finlandhas finally shed a bleak record as one of the world's suicide capitalsafter the number of people taking their own lives in this Nordic statehas dropped by 40 percent in the past 15 years. Nowadays around 18 outof 100,000 people commit suicide each year in Finland, about the samelevel as in France and Austria. In 1990, the number was 30 per 100,000.
The decline isattributed largely to better treatment for depression, but even expertscannot really explain why the drop has been so dramatic, admitspsychiatrist Jouko Loennqvist, the head of the mental health departmentof Finland's National Public Health Institute.
"Depression is moreoften properly recognised, prevented and treated. We have had specialprojects and campaigns about depression, which is now better recognisedand treated. Psychological support and social support are nowadays inbetter condition," he said.
Finland's direreputation as a nation of suicidals dates back to the 25-year periodfrom 1965 to 1990 when Finland experienced an economic and urban boom.During that period, the suicide rate tripled. By 1991, Finland was theworld leader in teen suicides, and among the top three in overallsuicides alongside New Zealand and Iceland.
Faced with the grimfigures, Finnish authorities dramatically increased funding to improvemental health and since 1991 the amount of available psychiatric helphas doubled.
"We also have a lotof new antidepressant drugs (which are) easy to use, whereas until thelate 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, practicians usually gavepatients anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs) and sedatives," Loennqvistsaid.
Awareness campaigns inschools and among military conscripts also seem to have paid off, asthe suicide rate among adolescents and young adults has dropped by 30percent since 1991.
But the suicide rateis still high among young men -- it is the main cause of death amongmales aged 20 to 34. Among all ages and genders, the suicide rate ishighest in isolated and economically disadvantaged regions in the eastand north of the country. By contrast, it is lower in theSwedish-speaking regions on the west coast.
The typical profileof a Finnish suicide victim is a man in his 40s, divorced andunemployed, alcoholic and in poor health.In addition to traditionalrisk factors such as depression, alienation, personal problems andunemployment, Finnish researchers single out alcoholism as the biggestsingle risk factor.
"The social factorexists but it's not crucial,", said Mauri Marttunen, a professor ofyouth psychiatry at Helsinki University, noting that Finland's strongeconomy has made it one of the richest countries per inhabitant andthat it has a narrow gap between rich and poor.
However, "half of allsuicides are linked to alcohol, and one-third of all suicides have been(committed by) alcohol-dependent persons," Loennqvist said.
Finns drink theequivalent of 10 liters (2.64 gallons) of pure alcohol per year perperson, according to figures from the World Health Organization from2004. That's less than the French, who drink 14 liters, but more thanSwedes or Norwegians who drink seven and six liters respectively.Experts meanwhile dismiss the widespread belief that Finland's darkwinters, where the sun doesn't rise at all in the north for severalmonths, play a role in the suicide rate.
"There is a link(between darkness and suicide) but it's not an important explanation,"Loennqvist said, noting that suicides tend to peak each year at the endof spring when the sun shines late into the day. And experts point outthat Norway, located at the same latitude, for a long time had asuicide rate that was half that of Finland.


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