By Margie Wuebker
MINSTER -- Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, according to representatives of Family Resource Centers in St. Marys and Wapakoneta.
More than 30 people -- ranging from teenagers to senior citizens -- attended the Wednesday night program on suicide prevention at Minster Middle School.
Suicide has taken a toll in Mercer and Auglaize counties since December, claiming the lives of at least six people ranging in age from 17 to 80. The majority were age 22 and under.
Amy Bruns, prevention/early education coordinator, described the topic of suicide as the last taboo.
"We can talk about AIDS, safe sex and other topics that were once unapproachable," she said. "Unfortunately, we are still afraid of the 'S' word." Understanding suicide helps communities become proactive instead of reactive in the wake of a suicide. Bruns believes reducing the stigma surrounding suicide provides caring people with the best chance for saving lives while ignoring the tragedy serves no purpose.
"If we bury our heads in the sand, it is going to happen again," Bruns said as people in attendance nodded in silent agreement.
The statistics she shared are staggering -- suicide is the third largest killer of young people ages 10 to 24. An estimated 25 percent of adolescents and 15 percent of adults have seriously considered suicide at some point in their lives.
Bruns defined a suicide attempt as a desperate cry for help to end excruciating, unending, overwhelming pain sometimes called psyache.
Referring to the Surgeon General's Report on suicide, she reported 81 people committ suicide each day with 31,655 people dying in the United States alone in 2002. The data refers to completed suicides certified by a medical examiner or coroner. It is believed the real suicide rate is actually two to three times higher due to undetermined incidents, such as someone driving off the road for no apparent reason.
Firearms and suffocation/hanging top the list of methods used. Other methods in order of frequency include poisoning, falls, cuts/pierces, drowning and fire/flame.
Men complete suicide four times as often as women. Bruns indicated that is likely the result of choosing the most lethal methods. Women attempt suicide four times as often as men, but they usually employ less lethal methods like poisoning/overdose.
Bruns said suicide risk for women rises until midlife and then declines while the risk for men continues to rise throughout life.
Having a depressive illness is the greatest risk factor for completing suicide. An estimated 4,000 young people are lost each year due to suicide and 90 percent of them have experienced depression, which she said is a preventable disease.
Depression, according to Bruns, is more than a sad mood. Other manifestations include loss of interest in pleasurable things and a lack of motivation, weight gain/loss, sleep problems, sense of tiredness and/or exhaustion, irritability, confusion or loss of concentration, negative thinking, withdrawal from family and friends and suicidal thoughts. In young people, the signs sometimes can be attributed to acting out or a bid for attention, she said.
Myths abound when it comes to suicide, including one fallacy that states a person who threatens suicide won't follow through. An estimated 80 percent of people who successfully complete suicide talk about it before they follow through. Another indicates suicide is a city problem that does not occur in the country or in small towns. Rural areas actually have a higher suicide rate than cities.
Bruns, as well as public relations director Phil Atkins, admit that suicides don't happen without warning. Verbal and behavioral clues are present but sometimes family and friends may not notice.
"Depression is an illness like heart disease and suicidal thoughts are a crisis like a heart attack," Atkins said. "You would not leave a heart attack victim lying on the sidewalk. You would make some attempt to administer CPR."
He added it is essential that community members and other caring individuals learn the basics of QPR, an analogue first identified by Dr. Paul Quinnett. It stands for:
¥ Question -- asking the "S" question or inquiring whether a depressed person finds things hopeless or has considered suicide.
¥ Persuade -- getting the person to talk and to seek help.
¥ Refer -- getting the person to professional help (community agencies, school personnel, family doctor, emergency room or crisis hot line).
A suicide death is the most difficult for family and friends to resolve, according to Atkins. Friends of a young person, in particular, experience great pain, more difficulty finding meaning in and accepting the death, less support and understanding and more need for mental health care.
"Get help when a flare goes up," clinical supervisor Melissa Meyer said, noting suicide is often a preventable death in most cases.