Anyone who says suicide is a long-term solution to a short-term problem has never slipped into that blackest hole of hell, or has never listened — really listened — to someone who found their way out.
Last week's high-profile deaths of designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain brought the discussion to dinner tables and water coolers, supplanting, for the time being, discussions of opioid abuse and addiction.
Experts in psychiatry and counseling shared warning signs; social service workers begged people to use hotlines for themselves, or to seek help for those in distress.
But, like Spade and Bourdain, many people who die by their own hand do so to the shock of their family and friends. They may have seemed down, but not enough to want to die. Like people who cover up their alcoholism, drug abuse or habitual theft, those considering suicide may keep those thoughts completely to themselves to avoid the stigma of "needing help." For others, the demons of mental illness have been all too obvious for far too long.
Either way, left behind are caring friends and loving family members who forever will question what more they could have done.
Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A weekend story by Lee News Service said rates have been climbing for years: There were 44,965 suicide deaths in 2016, with a 30 percent increase from 1999 to 2016.
Numbers in McLean County have declined in recent years. Twenty-two suicides were reported in 2015, up from 16 in 2014. There were 19 suicides in 2017, with an average age of 46. There have been five so far this year, with an average age of 50.
Karen Zangerle, executive director of Providing Access to Help (PATH), said the number of suicide-related calls to 211 in 2017 totaled 1,482, up from 1,413 in 2016. Numbers in 2018 were at 531 as of last Friday, compared to 635 for the same time period last year.
If someone you know is having difficulty with day-to-day living, listen to them and watch for signs: Have they lost interest in their favorite activities? Have there been major changes in their eating and sleeping habits? Is it hard for them to concentrate or make decisions? Do they talk about feeling worthless or hopeless? Offer to listen and don't judge their answers. If you're not sure what to do, talk to their doctor or call 211 for guidance.
If you're the one in pain, talk to a trusted friend, family member, teacher or coworker. There are people who want to help, and medicine and counseling that can ease your pain.
Call 211 for the crisis and social services referral hotline operated by PATH. Help also is available through the Center for Human Services, 309-827-5351, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255.