Notice signs when someone is in despair

The death of a loved one by his or her own hand always is crushing to those left behind.

Every suicide is a tragedy, and to some degree, each also is a mystery.

That tragedy and mystery is multiplied exponentially when it involves the death of a child.

Members of this newspaper’s editorial board, undoubtedly like countless other members of our Mahoning Valley community and especially of Lowellville, struggled with the topic of suicide following last week’s death of a seventh-grader in the cafeteria at Lowellville school complex.

Many people won’t stomach saying the word that too often society views as taboo.

We suspect many readers today will wonder how we could dare touch on such an insensitive topic, particularly when the pain of the loss remains so raw.

Only after much solemn consideration have we realized the more important question is this: how could we not address this critical issue that, sadly, touched so many lives last week and that touches so many lives every single day.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 45,979 people died of suicide in 2020 in the United States. In 2020, an estimated 12.2 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.2 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.2 million attempted suicide.

Children are not exempt.

In fact, the CDC reports that suicide was the third leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 14.

Like all human behaviors, suicide has no single determining cause. Instead, it occurs in response to multiple biological, psychological, interpersonal, environmental and societal influences that interact with one another, often over time.

Risk factors can be a history of depression and other mental illnesses, hopelessness, substance abuse, certain health conditions, previous suicide attempt, violence victimization and perpetration, and genetic and biological determinants.

High levels of conflict or violent relationships can be a risk factor, along with other issues like inadequate community connectedness, barriers to health care and the availability of lethal means of suicide.

Psychologists explain that often warning signs from those contemplating suicide do exist. Too often to the untrained eye, they go unnoticed.

If a person deemed at high risk of suicide exhibits sudden mood changes or new behaviors, he or she may be suicidal. Those who speak about being a burden to others, having no reason to live, feeling trapped or in unbearable pain also may be contemplating suicide.

No, it’s not easy to believe.

If such words of warning are uttered by a child, they especially often are dismissed. Certainly, we tell ourselves, no one at the tender age of 13 — or 15 or 17 or any other young age — could seriously have troubles that run so deep.

Today, we all know too well that isn’t the case. We must be alert and ready to help.

Suicide is an issue in which no blame usually can be assigned. Still, it’s human nature to demand answers for the horribly sad outcome that takes a young life.

When a child has experienced such despair at such a young age that he chooses death at his own hand over life, we all must question what more we could have done. At the very least, we must bear in mind the circumstances and reach out to help when we witness or suspect similar despair.

We all — that means each one of us — must try harder to be alert and aware of any cries for help, no matter how subtle, so this type of tragedy never happens again.


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