He woke up to an everyday kind of summer day. The kind that most of us northerners dream of in the middle of a barren tundra-esque winter. The pearly white skies gave way to streaks of sun on mountain peaks. A usual stroll down his dirt road, lush as it was with greenery, trees, and flowers, along with seasonal birds and diverse wildlife, was not at all on Jessup’s mind this morning, though. Those soul-refreshing walks, once the bookends to his workdays, lost their appeal 10 months ago when his cancer-stricken wife succumbed to her 2-year health battle.
Although his twin teenage boys desperately needed Jessup’s affection and strength now more than at any point in their lives, he could barely pull one foot out of the bed and onto the floor and make a haphazard breakfast, let alone be attentive, nurturing and encouraging with his boys. This day was no different. His first waking thoughts centered around his sense of burdening his boys with his growing bleak and pessimistic outlook and melancholic demeanor. He tried to remember the last time he took his boys fishing, their favorite pastime. “Must’ve been two weeks before Adrianna died, when we kayaked up Coyote Lake together,” he thought to himself. He felt terrible that the twins were heading back to school tomorrow from a long summer and that he really didn’t do much with them except the necessary duties around the house. “I’m not even a good dad anymore. The best thing in their lives died and now I’m just a burden to them.” His associated thoughts spiraled downward from there. He conjectured, “There were so many people around me when Adrianna was alive, but all of our friends were her friends first. Now that she’s gone, nobody comes around anymore. I really am all alone. I’m a worthless father and I don’t have anyone who cares about me. My life seriously sucks. Maybe it’s time to finish what I failed at a couple of times in college. Maybe at least I can make the pain go away once and for all…”
Faces Behind the Numbers
Jessup represents tens of thousands of people who experience hopelessness borne from losing a loved one, unresolved trauma, chronic substance abuse, terminal illness, sense of being a burden to others and social isolation. At these pivotal emotional points many people choose, some successfully and many others not, to end their lives. It’s important to me that we put faces to the numbers. It’s also critical to understand the numbers to more fully grasp the gravity of suicide's effect on our communities.
The Numbers in America
Data on suicide are taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Data & Statistics Fatal Injury Report for 2018
On average, there are 132 suicides per day
The rate of suicide is highest in middle-aged white men
Men die by suicide 3.5x more often than women
White males make up 30% of the population but account for 69.67% of suicides
In 2018, firearms accounted for 50.57% of all suicide deaths
Females attempt suicide 1.5x more than males
For every successful 1 suicide there are more than 25 unsuccessful attempts
Here to Help
The pressing questions that arise when someone who is close to us decides to end their life are painful and often unsatisfactory. In the mental health professions we are taught to look for telltale signs that point toward a person taking his or her life. We are charged with offering hope to those who have attempted to take their lives and to compassionately encourage them to do the necessary work to build a sense of belonging, community and internal wellness, all of which point to more joy and happiness, despite the pressures and disappointments of life.
We also sort through the inexplicable grief of family members and friends who attempt to make sense of the loss of loved one by suicide. People want to make as much sense of a terrible situation that they can. Often this sense-making is a first step toward healing. Finding meaning in the wake of suicide is not easy, but it is invaluable.
If you’d like someone who can come alongside of you in sorting through your own thoughts or attempts at suicide or if you have tragically lost a loved one to suicide and would like to begin your process of healing, please feel free to reach out to us at 607-953-0294 to set-up a counseling conversation with one of our counselors.
If you are in immediate need of help (re: you are having suicidal thoughts) please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. For more suicide prevention resources, check out https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
Finding joy in the pain,
Joshua J. Nickels, MA, LMHC