Weekend open thread: Suicide prevention edition

Better late than never with this weekend’s open thread and with links I had intended to post during National Suicide Prevention Week, which was September 8 through 14. If you are suicidal, click here for many free helplines. Please pass those numbers on to anyone you know who is motivated to end the pain by ending his or her life. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has many resources available here.

Last night I watched part of Piers Morgan’s interview with Rick and Kay Warren, who lost a son to suicide earlier this year. I don’t care what you think of Warren’s politics or the Saddleback mega-church he founded. It’s impossible not to be moved hearing the Warrens talk about their son’s struggle and their devastating bereavement. They didn’t just rely on prayer to heal his mental illness; they sought professional help in many different forms. They also tried to prevent him from getting hold of the gun he used to take his own life.

I did not realize until recently that suicide has directly affected Representative Bruce Braley’s family. His niece Kayla ended her life nearly three years ago. I’ve enclosed his statement on National Suicide Prevention Week after the jump.

Suicide is a leading cause of death for young Iowans. Too many families who keep a gun at home for “protection” end up grieving for a teenager who died accidentally or deliberately because that gun was close to hand at the wrong time. Research has shown that “access to firearms is associated with increased suicide risk” for adults as well as children, but the teenage brain is particularly impulsive and emotionally volatile. Please keep your firearms away from young people and anyone suffering from serious mental health problems.

The suicide rate among U.S. veterans has long been a national disgrace. Some of the helplines on this page are specifically aimed at veterans suffering from suicidal thoughts.

Des Moines-based blogger Ben Gran wrote a powerful post earlier this year about six people he has known who ended their own lives.

Press release from Representative Bruce Braley (D, IA-01), September 12 (emphasis in original):

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today released the following statement on National Suicide Prevention Week, which is the week of September 8-14, 2013:

“I have personally seen the devastating impact of suicide on entire families.  We lost my niece, Kayla, to suicide on October 6, 2010, and we are still haunted by her death.  During National Suicide Prevention Week, it’s important for us to remember the millions of Americans who have been impacted by this tragic problem, which is the 10th leading cause of death in America.  

“It’s time we do more to prevent suicide, whether it’s helping veterans cope when they come home, improving our mental health system, and doing what we can to help family members take a more active role in the care and medical decisions of loved ones.  My thoughts and prayers go out to all Americans impacted by suicide, and I look forward to a renewed investment in suicide prevention, education and research.”

Suicide is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States, claiming the lives of 38,000 Americans annually resulting from over 1.1 million attempts. Iowa ranks just below the national average at 12.2 suicides per 100,000 people.

Ninety percent of individuals who die by suicide have had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death and 20 percent are veterans.

These figures and other resources and information on suicide can be found at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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