As part of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Community Walks, I will be walking on Sunday, Sept. 15, at the Scheels Arena to draw attention to the importance of suicide prevention. I won’t be walking alone. I will be joined by many who share my dedication. Our movement is growing.
Like many, I walk because suicide has affected me personally. As a psychiatrist in the community for the past 30 years, I have unfortunately had patients die from suicide. Like others, being a survivor of suicide caused me to feel guilt, sadness, grief, shame and made me question what I could have done differently.
Research has shown that over 90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying medical condition, most often depression. They were not weak, in fact they had strength to fight the pain of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses.
Early in my career, I was impressed when a patient who was dying from cancer told me her biggest fear was her depression returning, not dying from her cancer. Wow, I thought, that really says something about the hopelessness and desperation of depression. She felt the pain of depression was worse than cancer. That was a moment ingrained in my mind forever. I look at depression, anxiety, etc., as medical conditions that have biological etiologies. People don’t commit suicide, they die from suicide, just as one dies from a stroke. People don’t commit strokes.
Mental illness likely affects all of us in some way, whether it be a friend, relative or coworker. We might think suicide affects others but not us. But think what it would be like for you to hear that your own parent, sibling, spouse or child died by suicide. Suicide can affect any one of us. Join the fight against suicide to reduce the risk of it affecting yourself or others you know.
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Our goal is to spread awareness of what is currently the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and let others know they are not alone. Please help us ensure that mental health is looked upon in equal importance to physical health, and continue to bring hope to those affected by suicide. Join me in this walk. We need you.