World Suicide Prevention Day – 09/10/11

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, an annual day of awareness co-sponsored by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Each day, around 3000 people commit suicide. The goal of World Suicide Prevention Day is to bring “public attention on the unacceptable burden and costs of suicidal behaviours with diverse activities to promote understanding about suicide and highlight effective prevention activities.”

I never thought that I would be impacted by suicide, but that changed last November when I was informed that my cousin, who would have been 38 years old this past July, was struck and killed by a truck on a pleasantly crisp fall afternoon. At first we thought he was trying to cross a busy intersection and it was an unfortunate accident, but there was no doubt of his intention to kill himself when we found out that the event took place on a major local highway, where pedestrians have no business crossing.

Local newspapers featured articles about the incident on their websites, and one small article was published in one of the newspapers later that week. Eyewitnesses said they saw him run up an embankment, cross over the guard rail, and run into busy oncoming traffic around lunchtime that day. It hurt to read comments from individuals on the newspaper websites; they expressed how despicable suicide is and criticized him of his actions when they frankly had no place to act like such “trolls,” criticizing a person they never met and could never understand if they did. My cousin suffered from mental illness since he was 15 or 16 years old and never had the best home life or supportive parents to help him. I still don’t respect his decision to take his life the way he did, but I understand why he did it.

It can be difficult to spot suicidal behavior and one might not know if a person is thinking about suicide until it is too late. Make yourself aware of your local suicide prevention and grief hotline numbers, as well as any local programs and organizations that might be able to assist you and your loved ones in times of need. Suicide and mental health issues should not be stigmatized, but instead discussed openly with hope to decrease the number of individuals who contemplate and commit suicide.