The recent suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade in the same week have made suicide itself a hot topic again. I have to say “again” because this has happened many, many times in the past. Chris Cornell of Sound Garden and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park both in 2017, and the celebrity suicide that honestly had the most impact on me personally, Robin Williams in 2014, just to name a few from the last five years. All of these men and women had fame and fortune, access to everything this world has to offer, and yet they suffered with depression so bad that they couldn’t see any way out until they ultimately took their own lives.
Cornell and Bennington both wrote and sang music that my generation grew up on, music that we listened to and related to during the emotional roller coaster that is being a teenager. In my childhood Robin Williams brought to life a hilarious alien, a lovable genie, a nutty fruit bat that escaped from an experimental lab and flew to a magical forest, a grown up workaholic Peter Pan that had to rediscover his happy thought, a boy that got trapped inside a board game, and a crazy dad that dressed up as an old woman just to spend time with his kids. As a teenager I discovered Robin Williams could be the teacher that pushed you to think for yourself, to look for deeper meaning, to find passion in life. He became a doctor that cared more about the quality of life for his patients than the number of years they lived, and he used simple silliness to bring them moments of joy. As an adult I saw Robin Williams become a college psychology professor that mentored a young man about the joys, even in the pain, of caring about another person more than you care about yourself. Through their arts they addressed all of the worst and best parts of life. The things that make life worth living. And yet they couldn’t hang on to that in their personal lives.
These are the kind of suicides that get the most attention, but as a demographic they are far from the most common. Many studies will report that “physicians” have the highest “rate” of suicide because they are nearly 2 times more likely to commit suicide as someone that is not a physician. According to a Gizmodo article (https://gizmodo.com/doctors-have-an-alarmingly-high-suicide-rate-and-no-on-1825884825) published just last month (May 2018) this is “… anywhere from 28 to 40 doctors per every 100,000 a year … in the US (in raw numbers, that might amount to anywhere from 300 to 400 suicides a year)” or just over one per day as an average. As a raw number, this pales in comparison to the average of 22 per day, or over 8,000 per year that is found among veterans. Now realistically that is a little skewed because there is some overlap between the two groups, and “physician” isn’t clearly defined so I have no idea if that would include health care providers like physical therapists, chiropractors, or even homeopathic practitioners, but it is fair to say that there are far more veterans that are not physicians than are.
As someone who is not a veteran I will not insult those who served by claiming I have any idea or understanding of what they went through or are going through now, I don’t have the background or arrogance to make such a claim. All I want to do is offer some encouragement to seek help. There is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-825 you can call, and dozens of organizations that you can contact ( American Foundation for Suicide Prevention https://afsp.org/take-action/ Mission 22 http://www.mission22.com/intel-for-veterans). Talk to family, friends, anyone you know that shares your experience, a pastor or counselor, or a psychologist. If for some reason you just don’t feel like you can talk to anyone about what you are going through, I would first recommend seeking a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, because I do know He offers hope, peace, and purpose beyond what any one or anything in this world can. But I will not be so naive or disingenuous as to say that Christians never experience any of the factors of suicide, I just know they have a firm foundation. Secondly, if you don’t feel you can talk to someone about your situation, go somewhere and talk to someone about them. Visit patients in hospitals, the elderly in nursing homes or assisted living apartments, go to the VFW and talk to the guy sitting alone. You may be the only person that shows any interest in them at all, and I guarantee you’ll get more out of it than you’re expecting. Everyone has their own troubles so don’t think that because you aren’t “right” that you can’t help someone else. You can, and by helping them you might just help yourself. If you feel like you’ve got nothing to lose, then please, take the chance of talking to someone. Anyone. About anything. Reach out to us here at DOAE, we’re not “professionals” but we do care, we know you have value, and we’d love to know what you think about our articles, the show, what’s going on in the country, anything you will talk about, we’ll listen.
Photo Credit Landon Steele