September the 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), this initiative was launched back in 2003 and every year on this day there are now various events, conferences, campaigns and local activities in several countries all held to call public attention to one of the world’s largest causes of premature and unnecessary deaths.
Having lost my best friend to suicide when I was in my early 20’s, and he just a year younger than I, this is an issue that has always been both upsetting and challenging to me. And alas it is an issue that if anything has gotten worse over the years not better. One awful side effect of suicide is the stigma that goes with it, friends and family find it hard to deal with and often feel they ought to have known something. They grapple with the guilt that they may have been able to prevent the death of their loved one in the first place, and this is what feeds the stigma and makes it hard for them to deal with their loss and grieve in a way that others might who have lost someone that was not to suicide. It took me years to deal with these issues and I still think of my friend and what he would be doing with his life were he still here, and indeed what he would make of some of the choices I have made in my life over the 20 years since he died.
It is his birthday in a couple of weeks and I’ll be sure to have a drink in his honour as I always do and visit a church to light a candle for him, something I know his catholic mother would appreciate.
Some facts that you might not know are that here in Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for men under the age of 44 and for women under the age of 34. In addition suicides take more lives each year than car accidents or skin cancer. So much is done to combat skin cancer here in Australia and the number of public health messages relating to this is great, but very few deal with the issue of suicide, maybe it’s time our government did more to address this issue rather than spending millions of dollars on ads trying to scare refuges off from coming to Australia (but that’s a whole other post).
Not a happy blog post I know, but one from the heart.