Suicide – the number one killer among Baby Boomers and young men age 17-25. As a Boomer, I grew up being told that we had everything to live for – economic prosperity, advanced technology, medicine that treated illness and prolonged life. As the parent of a Millennial, I believe my child has even more reason to live. If everything is so great, why are people choosing to end their lives?
Among Boomer men, the reasons for suicide range from economic devastation to catastrophic illness to loss of a beloved spouse. Among younger men and women, suicide is prompted by depression, self-esteem issues, and loneliness. Men and women are both susceptible to suicide, with men four times as likely to attempt suicide and succeed. The method of choice for men is hanging or firearm. Women tend to consume pills or use less traumatic methods of demise. Women attempting suicide are generally crying out for help rather than being intent on taking their lives.
Family and friends left behind are devastated by the loss of their loved one. Once the initial shock of the loss passes, they are consumed with guilt. Many spend the rest of their lives trying to make sense of what they believe to be a senseless and selfish act. They live with guilt for not having “been there” for the victim. They forever wonder if there was something they could have done or said that would have prevented the suicide.
Active Minds is a national organization with chapters on college campuses. The organization is run by students for students. Johnny Estrada, president of Active Minds – Cerritos College, says that many students like him have attempted suicide and failed. They have come to terms with their past mental state and sought help. They have decided that speaking about the unspoken, the stigma of suicide, is the best way to dispel the shame associated with mental illness. These are the survivors. They want to help others take back their lives!