In light of some of the high profile completed suicides that happened last week, Dr. Frederick Staten, Quality Officer, and Dr. Jeffrey Eisen, Chief Medical Officer write about their personal experiences, statistics around suicide and community resources for anyone who may be experiencing a crisis or in need of support. It is also National Men’s Health Week, which encourages breaking the stigma around mental health support.
I strive to come to work in relative level of personal anonymity. I generally do not share deeply personal parts of who I am or struggles that I have or are facing. Given the recent rise in rates of suicide coupled with very recent and high profile completed suicides recently, I wanted to do a joint posting with Dr. Eisen to share my experience, share some statistics related to suicide, as well as share resources for those who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts, or if you are like me, still recovering from someone who you have lost.
Last year I was notified I lost a friend to suicide. Being a counselor for 15+ years, I was familiar with talking to people about their guilt, grief and loss. That said, no matter how much experience or education I had when I found out about my friend, it did not equip me for my own guilt, grief or feeling of loss. I went through all of the “I wish I would have” and “I really should have”. I would think through every eventuality of what I could have done to avoid this end for my friend, and the guilt, grief and loss felt more imposing. It was only after talking with people whom I care about and whom care about me, that I was able to process my thoughts and feelings of guilt, grief and loss.
I still think about my friend. Often think about him. Still feel a modicum of guilt, grief and loss, but I feel it less intensely. I look for ways to cherish and honor the memory of the person I lost. Last week when I heard about the two high profile suicides, instead of thinking about my friend and gravitating towards feelings of loss, I thought about how I could utilize my thoughts and feelings to help others. Those possibly thinking about suicide, as well as those impacted by someone they have lost.
Last week, two suicides of high profile individuals, designer Kate Spade and Chef Anthony Bourdain, propelled the topic of suicide into the headlines. These events occurred in the same week that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) published its most recent statistics on suicide, which reflected up to a 30 percent increase in completed suicides in half of all states since 1999. The CDC also reports that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, and the second leading cause of death among individuals under the age of 34. It’s the seventh leading cause of death for males — the second most common cause of death for every age group for men 10 through 39. This is a public health epidemic.
For every suicide by a well-known individual, there are many more that occur by individuals from all walks of life, across the country, affecting families, friends, colleagues and communities. I have been deeply affected by individuals that I have known who have ended their lives. I think of them often, and every time that I hear of another event.
I believe that the statistics on suicide would be different if the topic of mental health was a part of regular conversation — if we spoke of it the way we speak of high blood pressure or diabetes — that mental health would emerge from behind a shadow of stigma and is discussed prior to making headlines. In this way, the Mental Health First Aid education initiative in which Cascadia is actively participating is very inspiring to me. It promotes an important conversation about mental health, as well as an avenue to provide support and resources to those in need. We can all play a role in furthering the dialogue, in normalizing the stressors we face and feelings we have as human beings living in a complex, complicated world.
Below are a few resources available for individuals who may be in crisis or in need of support and resources:
- Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
- Each county in our region has a 24×7 mental health support and crisis line.
- Multnomah: (503) 988-4888
- Washington: (503) 291-9111
- Clackamas: (503) 655-8585
- Each county in our region has an urgent walk-in mental health clinic, open 7 days a week. Anyone may visit these clinics.
- Multnomah: 4212 SE Division Street, Portland – this is Cascadia’s urgent walk-in clinic at Plaza. Open 7:00 AM – 10:30 PM.
- Washington: 5240 NE Elam Parkway, Hillsboro. Open 9:00 AM – 8:30 PM
- Clackamas: 11211 SE 82nd Avenue, Happy Valley. Open M-F 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM, Sat/Sun 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM.