By SHER FOSTER
Our hearts go out to the Gannon family for the loss of their son. We realize that others may be asking if there might be concerns or issues to address in their own families.
There's a myth that people who talk about suicide won't really do it. This is wrong. Before attempting suicide, many people make direct statements about their intention to end their lives. They might make less direct comments, for example, "I might as well be dead" or "you'd all be better off without me." Any reference to suicide should be taken seriously.
Sometimes in the aftermath of a friend's suicide, a person sees suicide as an option for her or himself. So, if someone tells you he or she is contemplating suicide or shows signs of being suicidal, don't be afraid to talk about it. Your willingness to discuss suicide shows the person that you care and are willing to be a friend. Ask questions about how the person feels. "You seem really down. Is there a reason?" Ask questions about suicide itself. "Do you know how you'd do it?" Determine whether the person has the means to carry out a plan, such as access to a gun or pills. The more specific the plan, the higher the risk. If the person refuses, call yourself and ask for guidance. Suicide is only one solution. There are always other options to solve their problems.
Many suicidal people have given up hope, believing that they can't be helped. With time, though, most suicidal people find reasons to live. It's up to others to see that they get the help they need. Don't be afraid to be disloyal. Suicidal feelings often are transitory, while suicide is permanent. What may seem like an act of betrayal or the breaking of a promise can be the favor of a lifetime.
There's no typical suicide victim; however, it's the second leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults in Idaho. Regardless of the person's age, there are common warning signs:
- Talking about suicide or making statements revealing a desire to die.
- Drastic changes in behavior (withdrawal, apathy, moodiness).
- Losing interest in hobbies and in personal appearance.
- Depression (crying, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, hopelessness)
- Worsening academic or job performance and sudden failure to complete assignments.
- Lack of interest in activities and surroundings (dropping out of sports and clubs).
- Settling affairs (giving away prized possessions such as books or a CD collection).
If you are concerned about a friend or family member, please call the confidential and anonymous Crisis Hotline of the Wood River Valley at 788-3596 or 726-3596. Trained volunteers are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide resources and emotional support.
Sher Foster is director of the Crisis Hotline.