“There is an epidemic. One that claims a million victims a year, leaving twenty million fractured lives in its wake.It is largely unspoken of and shrouded in stigma.Those left behind are the Suicide Survivors. These are their stories. Their stories are mine. On June 12, 2001, my father scrawled a goodbye note on a scrap of paper, strung a rope to a rafter, stepped off a stool and ended his life. For six years I never spoke of it, determined to bury my pain by living every day with a full agenda. It was a strategy that almost worked, pulling me forward in awkward strides. This was his choice and I refused to allow it to change me. But of course it did. How could it not? ” [Kerry Payne]
Each year, 1 million people worldwide die by suicide — more than in war, terrorist activities and homicides — making it the tenth leading cause of death in the world. For every person that dies by suicide at least 20 more will attempt to do so, yet despite the high rate, little attention is paid to the phenomenon.
At least 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable (but often undiagnosed) and treatable psychiatric illness – such as depression, bipolar disorder, or some other depressive illness. In many cases, it is a treatable, preventable tragedy. Although most suicides are caused by mental health problems, mental health-care allocations often comprise less than 2 per cent of national health budgets.
Worldwide, the prevention of suicide has not been adequately addressed due to a lack of awareness of suicide as a major problem and the taboo in many societies to discuss it openly. In fact, despite a 60% worldwide increase in deaths by suicide in the past 45 years, only a few countries have included prevention of suicide among their priorities.
Greater attention must be given to suicide prevention, such as increased funding for education and research, help lines and mental health facilities. According to the World Health Organization, it is clear that suicide prevention requires intervention also from outside the health sector and calls for an innovative, comprehensive multi-sectoral approach, including both health and non-health sectors, e.g. education, labour, police, justice, religion, law, politics, the media.
I will continue this work and by sharing my story and those of my fellow survivors, it is my hope that others will learn from our experiences, speak up about their own, and seek comfort and support in the knowledge that they are not alone.
The silence, secrecy and stigma that surrounds suicide has to end and if my work prevents a single death or helps one survivor avoid the mistakes I made, it will give some meaning to a loss that fourteen years later, I still struggle to make sense of.