International Survivors Day helps fight suicide stigma
Suicide is not just about someone going through a bad time and deciding to take his own life. It is caused by many factors, according to an expert speaking at the local commemoration of International Survivors of Suicide Day, which is held annually worldwide on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
Psychologist Dr. Peter Langman, president of the local chapter of the AFSP, told the suicide survivors that bi-polar disease and clinical depression contribute to suicide. He explained that people who commit suicide die of an illness, the same as if they had cancer. According to an AFSP pamphlet, "Suicide is a public health problem that claims 32,000 lives annually in the United States."
"Suicide is a word no one wants to talk about, and mental health problems are viewed as a sign of weakness," Langman said, adding that part of the AFSP's mandate is to educate the public and eliminate the stigma attached to suicide.
During the program, a video was shown featuring survivors who related their experiences with the deaths of a son, brother, mother and wife. Among the issues discussed was the problem that often there are no warning signs, so suicide comes as a shock to family members. Many survivors said they struggle with the "what if?" question. "Was there something that could have been done to prevent the suicide?"
Although research shows that people make the decision to commit suicide within 10 minutes of the act, when asked on the video if there was anything the survivors felt they might have done differently, most answered "definitely." One mother said she should have seen the signs, but she didn't know what the signs were.
Local AFSP board member Bruce Curry told survivors, "We can't save the ones we've lost, but we can help others." To that end, the foundation is circulating the video shown at Survivors of Suicide Day to students in middle schools and high schools, as well as talking to medical schools and health personnel.
October's Out of Darkness Walk in the Lehigh Valley raised $30,000 to help the educational program.