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Stock phrases trivialize complex issue of suicide

Guest Commentary
Donnalyne LaGiglia
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

I met a friend for lunch recently. I know, you’re thinking, “Thanks, that’s just real significant news.” I have a providential conclusion to add. I was fortunate to meet my friend, because she was fortunate to be here, having survived a suicidal episode.

I know that emotions run high on this issue. No other type of death causes such reproach both for the survivor and the one who completed. Most are quiet affairs, hushed up by the family, said cause of death unreported in the obituary, and the whole affair cloaked in an aura of shame and guilt by association.

I for one am unwilling to damn those whose individual pain ends by suicide. It is certainly not God’s best for any of his children, as he has given each of us a personal hope and future and wants us to run our race to win in this life. I know whereof I speak. My own parents took their lives many years ago. I still mourn the missing years we should have had together, though it’s a wistful musing, far from the devastating pain I felt upon first hearing the news.



With the hindsight that comes with time and maturity, I was certainly among the walking wounded for many years, but I don’t hold my parents cause of death against them. I only wish that they had had a better answer for the pain they must have been in. Thank God, he promises to heal every person who has survived an attempt or has had someone die.

Let’s consider another killer, breast cancer. Ever hear of the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month? A September 2007 report by the American Cancer Society projected about 178,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer and approximately 40,000 deaths for the year. (Researched by Donald Clegg)



Now what would you say about an affliction that impacts the lives of almost 550,000 Americans each year, with a fatality rate in 2005 reported at 32,637? That’s three times the number of breast cancer cases, with a roughly comparable death rate. Could we learn from the breast cancer organizations about a pink ribbon campaign for those who die by suicide?

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, about 80 Americans die by suicide a day, but more shocking, 1,500 others attempt to do so. The national suicide average is about 9 per 100,000, although rates vary considerably by various categories, among them age and sex. Or, say, veterans.

The following is from a CBS News report, Nov. 13, 2007:

“So CBS News did an investigation asking all 50 states for their suicide data, based on death records, for veterans and nonveterans, dating back to 1995. Forty-five states sent what turned out to be a mountain of information.

“And what it revealed was stunning.

“In 2005, for example, in just those 45 states, there were at least 6,256 suicides among those who served in the armed forces. That’s 120 each and every week, in just one year.”

Which brings me back to my earlier point, about the pain and stigma surrounding suicide. Suicidality is typically caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, is environmentally induced, or a lack of understanding our spiritual relationship to our Father in heaven, or some combination of the three. The resulting pain and debilitation, the feeling of utter worthlessness, dejection, the notion that the world would be better off without you, is far from something one wishes on oneself.

It’s easy to mouth the old stock phrases: that suicide is a sin, that a person who completes suicide is engaging in the ultimate act of selfishness, that suicide is an attack on the people left behind. The reduction of a person to a single, assumed vindictive act, trivializes the pain and emotional ruin that leads to such a final conclusion.

I find it particularly painful to think that those who are wounded in service to our country, beyond all help and hope, should be thought of and perhaps remembered with less regard, due to the way their lives ended and are daily ending.

Suicide is a tragedy, stemming from a national failure of conscience and care, and a medieval view of mental illness. Garfield County’s suicide rates have continued to rise in the last several years. Statistics show that in counties with suicide prevention awareness training, these statistics decline. Suicide prevention is a community responsibility.

Suicide Prevention Education Awareness classes are presented for anyone who wants to become a gatekeeper. A gatekeeper is someone who can learn the signs and symptoms of a person struggling with depression and who may be suicidal. This class can bring understanding for those who have attempted suicide in the past, may currently be experiencing suicide ideation or have lost someone by suicide. Loved ones don’t want to die, they want to get rid of the pain and restore hope. This information is for the lay or professional person. These classes are free, donations accepted.

There will be a class at the Sheriffs Annex at 106 County Road 333A, Rifle. Call Donnalyne LaGiglia, chair/suicide prevention education, for further information at (970) 948-6108 or donnalyneshalom@aol.com


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