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People don't like to talk about it. People don't like to think about it. In fact, the word is taboo in many homes. But, it's something I had to face when I was only 10 years old. One of my very best friends at the time tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose of pills. Thankfully, she wasn't successful.
I can still remember walking into the hospital to visit her soon after it happened. My mind was racing as my twin sister, mom and I made our way to her hospital room.
How could this have happened, I asked myself. Had I done something wrong? Was I not being a good enough friend? What could I have done differently?
When we arrived to her room and I saw that she was, in fact, alive and well, I remember breaking down in tears because I was so thankful that she was okay. Yet, I was so overwhelmed by the fact that my best friend had attempted to end her own life. I blamed myself, especially considering the fact that she had tried calling me before she did it and, for one reason or another, I wasn't able to answer her call. I carried such a feeling of guilt with me for quite some time after that experience. Deep down, I knew it wasn't my fault, but I still questioned how maybe I could have done something that would have prevented it from ever happening in the first place.
Many students and staff at Marion County High School, among others, might be asking themselves that very question after losing one of their own to suicide last week. Cody Greenwell, a sophomore, died after an apparent suicide Friday afternoon. There are many unanswered questions regarding his death, but one thing is for certain, his life ended too quickly. From what I've heard from local educators, he was a good kid who had a lot of potential. My heart goes out to his family and friends. I can only imagine how difficult this experience has been for them.
Greenwell's death has definitely been a reminder for the entire community that suicide is very real. It's a reality we must pay attention to, and not ignore.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, more than 32,000 people in the United States die by suicide every year. Currently, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that a person dies by suicide about every 16 minutes in the United States and an attempt is estimated to be made once every minute.
Other facts about suicide include:
. There are four male suicides for every female suicide, but twice as many females as males attempt suicide.
. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old.
. Among young people aged 10-14 years, the rate has doubled in the last two decades.
. Risk factors for suicide among the young include suicidal thoughts, psychiatric disorders (such as depression, impulsive aggressive behavior, bipolar disorder, certain anxiety disorders), drug and/or alcohol abuse and previous suicide attempts, with the risk increased if there is situational stress and access to firearms.
. Although most gun owners reportedly keep a firearm in their home for "protection" or "self defense," 83 percent of gun-related deaths in these homes are the result of a suicide, often by someone other than the gun owner.
. Firearms are used in more suicides than homicides.
. Death by firearms is the fastest growing method of suicide.
. Firearms account for 52 percent of all suicides.
(Gathered from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's web site: http://www.afsp.org)
If you, or someone you know, are having suicidal thoughts there is help out there. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service available to anyone in suicidal crisis. If you need help, dial 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255). You will be routed to the closest possible crisis center in the area. The call is free and confidential.
No matter what, suicide is something we should do our best to try to prevent, especially among our youth. It's something that we need to talk about and learn more about. It shouldn't be taboo. I can't be ignored. It is a reality.
And that reality, unfortunately, has become even clearer to Marion County this past week.