Thursday, February 09, 2017 - Updated: 8:53 AMThis is one of those editorials where it is hard to find words to even begin. Our hearts ache for so many people hurting in our community. Massac County clearly has a suicide problem that we can not seem to shake or mend. Unfortunately, this is the outcome of a disease so many don’t want to talk about, or simply will not talk about.
The fact is though, the problem is here, and the problem is big and growing larger — out of our control. There is such a stigma surrounding suicides, and we understand that. But we can not simply keep turning our backs when one occurs or whispering to our neighbor about the news we saw on Facebook because society has shaped the way we perceive those people who choose to take their own lives.
In the past month, page two of the Metropolis Planet has ran the obituaries of several unofficial suicide victims. Could any of us acted on a situation to prevent those suicides? We don’t know. But as a community and as neighbors we must open our eyes and accept the fact that people here suffer from depression and mental illnesses that lead to suicide, because there is the stigma surrounding mental illnesses. Many people do not seek treatment for this because “society” will think they are crazy. And that’s a sad and hard pill to swallow knowing there are people like that not only hurting but judging others as well. There are warning signs that we all should all be looking for.
In the past three years, we have published an editorial and two stories regarding suicide rates in our county. We are saddened by this and assume you, our readers, are as well.
Illinois currently ranks 44th in the nation in suicide death rates. Don’t let that number fool you though. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports a person dies of suicide in Illinois every six hours. In 2014 that totaled, 1398 deaths, made suicide the 11th leading cause of death overall in Illinois and the second leading cause of death for individuals, ages 10-34. This is a public health issue on the rise.
When we ran a suicide series in August 2016, since 2008, 28 people had ended their lives by suicide in Massac, according to former Massac County Coroner Mark Fitch. Broken down by month, eight of them happened in July. Broken down by gender, 24 of the suicides were males and four of the suicides were female. Since those stories printed, our county has suffered several more suicides.
It is important to know the warning signs for loved ones contemplating suicide. Massac County Mental Health Executive Director Tina Martin says there are three major warning signs we should all be on the look out for. First, if someone even mentions suicide, rather joking or not, it could be a cry for help. Secondly, if you suspect someone is having suicidal thoughts say something to them. “If you think someone is a little unhappy, say something to them about it. Ask them about it. ‘Do you think of hurting yourself?’ Let them know you are concerned,” Martin said. And lastly, if your loved one is making negative comments they may be reaching out for help. Again, Martin says to ask them questions — ‘How serious is it? Do you think about it often? Do you have a way to do it?’
The National Alliance on Mental Illness also offers these signs to look for in adults and adolescents:
Excessive worrying or fear
Feeling excessively sad or low
Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
Avoiding friends and social activities
Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
Changes in sex drive
Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality)
Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (“lack of insight” or anosognosia)
Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance (mostly in adolescents)
Symptoms in children may include the following:
• Changes in school performance
• Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance fighting to avoid bed or school
• Hyperactive behavior
• Frequent nightmares
• Frequent disobedience or aggression
• Frequent temper tantrums
MCMH has a local crisis line — 1-877-670-9753. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Use these resources if you are hurting.
The important thing is to not leave them alone. Find someone for them to talk to about it, or call 911 if you think they are in extreme danger of hurting themselves.