We must try to understand suicide so we can prevent it

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Thank you to the Post-Gazette for starting a discussion of depression in the Aug. 13 article “Depression: A Disease That Conceals Hope.” The article discusses the recent suicide of Robin Williams and the connection to depression.

The article has many good clinical spokespersons on the topic of depression. I noted a missing specialist in the area of suicide. The need to understand suicide is important for everyone because of the myths involved.

Myth: People who take their own life are selfish, cowards, weak or are just looking for “attention.”

Fact: More than 90 percent of people who take their own life have at least one and often more than one treatable mental illness such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.

Myth: Teenagers and college students are the most at risk for suicide.

Fact: The suicide rate for this age group is below the national average. Suicide risk increases with age. Currently, the age group with the highest suicide rate in the United States is middle-aged men and women between the ages of 45 and 64. The suicide rate is still highest among white men over the age of 65.

Fact: In 2011 (the most recent year for which data are available), 39,518 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans.

Fact: Research has shown that the risk for suicide can be inherited.

Fact: About one-third of people who took their lives did not communicate their suicide intent to anyone.

These statistics come from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (www.afsp.org).

In addition, a second organization is the American Association of Suicidology (www.suicidology.org).

Suicide is a serious public health problem that takes an enormous toll on families, friends, classmates, co-workers and communities, as well as on our military personnel and veterans.

As a professional and a family member who lost a loved one to suicide, I would ask the Post-Gazette to continue this discussion now on suicide.

Squirrel Hill

The writer is a licensed professional counselor in private practice.

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