Suicide is silent, pervasive

By Ray Regan

I have things around the house that need doing, like de-cluttering, getting rid of stuff I don’t use.

I avoid working on the project by deluding myself, “I might need that some day" (when I know I won’t).

When the thought of clutter pops into my mind, I distract myself by reading a book (my crack cocaine) or by having lunch with a friend to talk about clutter.

Things are one thing we can delay; a loved one acting weird is another story.  

We sometimes overlook unhealthy behaviours of loved ones by distracting ourselves with something less intractable, less intimate.

We skirt the issue and talk about mundane things like the weather or how a job is going. We think she’ll be OK or it’s just a phase he’s going through.

Mental health is like that.

it’s easier to ignore and pretend it’s not happening.

Like other hot-button issues, suicide is shameful and hidden. We’re embarrassed and don’t want to talk about it.

For example, Sept. 10  was World Suicide Prevention Day. Did you read or see any media announcement?

But recently, like opiate addiction, mental health and suicide are starting to come into the light in epidemic proportions all around us.

Headlining the latest Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study — “45,000 deaths from suicide occurred in 2016 alone” in the U.S. More than double the homicide rate, making it the 10th leading cause of death.

By comparison, Canada, with a lower population, has a suicide rate of 11 per 100,000 versus the U..S. at 13 per 100,000 according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

Suicide is a heartbreaking solution to (in most cases) solvable problems.

To protect us and our loved ones, we need to learn what to do.

When I was six years old, I walked into my parent’s bedroom and didn’t understand what I was seeing. Mom had attempted suicide — I ran to my older brother for help.  

They said our mom was depressed. My two brothers and I were separated — staying with different families while mom was in the hospital to get treated.

This was an unsuccessful attempt. But any suicide attempt or occurrence is a turbulent event,  causing emotional suffering for family and friends.

Untreated mental health: depression. bipolar disorders and substance abuse are among the leading causes of suicide.

You may be thinking you’re different — this doesn’t affect you. not? There are no mental health issues or history in your family. 

You think, “My kids are fine."

But mental illness is often disguised or we ignore a change in behaviour, saying, “It’s a phase William is going through.” --- blinded by the way we want him to be.

And according to the same CDC 2016 study, more than half of people who died — did not have a diagnosed mental health condition. And the CMHA says it’s the same in Canada at 49 per cent.

Also, the increase of suicide is inclusive — rates rose in all sexes, ages, races, and ethnic groups.

And shocking to me, behind accidents, suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people, ages 10-34, and it’s the same in Canada.

Self-harming ideation has other causes. According to lead researcher Dr. Deborah Stone, “relationship issues and financial troubles” tend to be top contributing factors.

Relationships and money issues — this means potentially, we’re all at risk.

Life-changing events, major losses, and broken relationships happen to us every day.

My family’s story continued. When I was 15, my mom noticed a change in me, unusual behaviour she recognized as an affective disorder.

She chose in-patient treatment for me (like rehab). I was upset, didn’t like being there, but I received treatment and got well.

Looking back, my life saver was acceptance, the recognition that I was the same as millions of other people who need mental health support from time to time and it’s no big deal.

This intervention saved my life. Now grown with children of my own, I think about my mom’s anguish — the doubt and second-guessing she must have gone through about putting her son in a mental hospital, and the courage she had to do it.

Our story is not unique. It happens every day

What’s the point? Two people who could have died, but didn’t.

We owe thanks to our family’s action and the professionals who helped us. Later in life, Mom went into nursing and died a loving grandmother. And I grew up, got married and raised three great kids.

Be alert for the alarming symptoms, including sudden behaviour changes in loved ones and your friends

Here are a few signs

  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Talking or texting about suicide
  • Talking about feeling hopeless — seeing no future
  • Talking about feeling trapped
  • Alcohol or drugs abuse
  • Reckless behaviour — being anxious or agitated,
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Excessive sadness or moodiness

Many young folks, touched by mental health or the loss of a friend to suicide are getting a ‘semicolon’ tattooed on their body as a reminder to “never give up." 

“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence but decided to keep going. The author is you and the sentence is your life.” (Anonymous)

Awareness and education about mental health and suicide save lives. Showing someone you care by listening to them is a start.

How can you save a life?

We have the innate courage to overcome fear and stigmas and follow our guts. If you see unusual behaviour; ask the question with kindness and patience — “Are you thinking about suicide?”

And then talk about ways to get help.

If you or someone you know is in imminent danger of suicide call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at
1-833-456-4566 and in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Help is available regardless of your economic situation. 

Ray Regan is a suicide hotline operator, writer and friendly neighbour living below the border (whoa!) in Downingtown, Pa.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Comments are pre-moderated to ensure they meet our guidelines. Approval times will vary. Keep it civil, and stay on topic. If you see an inappropriate comment, please use the ‘flag’ feature. Comments are the opinions of the comment writer, not of Castanet. Comments remain open for one day after a story is published and are closed on weekends. Visit Castanet’s Forums to start or join a discussion about this story.

More Writer's Bloc articles

About the Author

Welcome to Writer’s Bloc, an opinion column for guest writers to share their experiences and viewpoints with our readers.

Do you have something to say that is timely? of local interest? controversial? inspiring? foodie? entertaining? educational?

Drop a line. [email protected]

Opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of Castanet. They are not news stories reported by our staff.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories