Column: Another reminder of this nation’s suicide problem


It has apparently happened again: another celebrity lost to suicide. The lead singer of The Prodigy, Keith Flint, was found dead at the age of 49. On the band’s Instagram page, a statement read, “The news is true , I can’t believe I’m saying this but our brother Keith took his own life over the weekend.”

Unfortunately, it’s too late for Flint, but we can use his death to bring awareness to just how serious and deadly a problem this is. In fact, the statistics prove it. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died by suicide. There were an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.

The important thing to remember is anyone can become the victim of suicide. There are usually clear indications of things spiraling out of control or mental health issues like untreated depression, but many times it happens to people who seem to have it all on the outside, even fame and fortune. Of course, on the inside, it’s a very different story.

We all must be more vigilant

When someone decides to take his or her life, it’s usually the result of a great personal struggle. Granted, I did not treat Flint or know him personally, but we know deep down something pushed him over the edge and he was hurting.

Sometimes there are obvious warnings signs. Other times people downplay them. Any signs that someone could be suicidal should always be taken seriously. From a mental health perspective, look for a lack of interest in activities that are usually enjoyed. Watch for signs that someone is depressed, sad, doesn’t seem like themselves, appears hopeless, lacks energy, starts engaging in behavior that is not typical of them or begins to become fascinated by death. Any of these signs should be an immediate red flag that something might be wrong. It’s always better to investigate, ask them if they are okay, ask them if they need to talk, then to do nothing at all and assume it is just a temporary phase and will just pass.

We must continue to erase the stigma

Slowly but surely, we are erasing the stigma around mental illness. Unfortunately, though, it still persists. Many people are embarrassed and ashamed to seek treatment for a mental health condition like depression. It can’t be stressed enough: there is nothing to ever feel embarrassed about. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately one in five adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year. You are definitely not alone! Mental health professionals like psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and counselors are here to help you get better. There are even support groups around the country and online that are here to help.

Support

If you are suicidal, at the very least, talk to a friend, loved one or anyone else you feel comfortable with. If you believe someone may be suicidal, remind them that there is hope. There are successful treatments. Life is worth living. Continue to support and communicate with them. You can increase their feelings of connectedness and share your ongoing support. There is evidence that even a simple form of reaching out, like sending a card or email, can potentially reduce their risk for suicide. Remember, loneliness is a major cause of depression. Encourage immediate professional intervention through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, available 24 hours every day.

Far too many people take their own life each year. The worst part beyond the loss is that these deaths are preventable. We must all do our part to continue to put the spotlight on suicide prevention and get these awful statistics drastically reduced. It’s not just a conversation to have when a celebrity like Keith Flint takes his life. These are conversations we should be having all the time.

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Vinay Saranga M.D. is a psychiatrist and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry. www.sarangapsychiatry.com