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Vocapedia > Life / Health > Death > Suicide


Help, Prevention





The Samaritans are receiving more than 7,000 calls for help a day.


Photograph: Brian Anthony



Poorer middle-aged men most at risk from suicide in pandemic,

say Samaritans

Charity raises concerns over ‘hidden victims’

in a socioeconomic group known to be reluctant to seek help


Sun 17 May 2020    07.26 BST
















If you are having thoughts of suicide,

or are concerned

that someone you know may be,

resources are available here.










National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


Call 13 11 14












The Samaritans


Call 116 123












988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline


We can all help prevent suicide.

The Lifeline provides 24/7,

free and confidential support

for people in distress,

prevention and crisis resources

for you or your loved ones,

and best practices for professionals

in the United States.
















Other international

suicide helplines

can be found at

















suicide > prevention > Zero Suicide Alliance        UK













suicide > talking about it        UK










predict suicide risk        USA










artificial intelligence > app > SuiSensor >

detecting risk before it's too late        USA










design an app

that uses AI to scan text for signs of suicide risk >

SuiSensor        USA



















































































































































How to Help Someone Who is Suicidal

16 May 2013





How to Help Someone Who is Suicidal

Video        watchwellcast        16 May 2013




















Illustration: Caroline Gamon


The Opinion Pages | Letters

Treating Depression to Prevent Suicide


AUG. 24, 2014

















suicide > prevention        USA




















































asthma drug >

Singulair /  generic name: montelukast > side effects        USA


Singulair, now a generic,

is still used by millions of people in the United States

even after thousands of patients and dozens of studies

have described harm.


In early 2020,

the Food and Drug Administration responded

to decades of escalating concerns

about a commonly prescribed drug

for asthma and allergies

by deploying one of its most potent tools:

a stark warning on the drug’s label

that it could cause aggression,

agitation and even suicidal thoughts.










Facebook's suicide prevention tools        USA










charities > The Samaritans        UK










suicide prevention hotline        USA


100000005620786/hurricane-maria-puerto-rico-mental-health.html - January 2018








suicide hotline

USA > San Francisco Suicide Prevention        USA


hotline (...) set up in 1961

with a single red telephone

in the city’s

gritty Tenderloin District.












prevent suicide        USA


















school > prevent suicide        USA












Corpus of news articles


Life / Health > Death > Suicide >






Blocking the Paths to Suicide


MARCH 9, 2015

The New York Times



Every year, nearly 40,000 Americans kill themselves. The majority are men, and most of them use guns. In fact, more than half of all gun deaths in the United States are suicides.

Experts and laymen have long assumed that people who died by suicide will ultimately do it even if temporarily deterred. “People think if you’re really intent on dying, you’ll find a way,” said Cathy Barber, the director of the Means Matters campaign at Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

Prevention, it follows, depends largely on identifying those likely to harm themselves and getting them into treatment. But a growing body of evidence challenges this view.

Suicide can be a very impulsive act, especially among the young, and therefore difficult to predict. Its deadliness depends more upon the means than the determination of the suicide victim.

Now many experts are calling for a reconsideration of suicide-prevention strategies. While mental health and substance abuse treatment must always be important components in treating suicidality, researchers like Ms. Barber are stressing another avenue: “means restriction.”

Instead of treating individual risk, means restriction entails modifying the environment by removing the means by which people usually die by suicide. The world cannot be made suicide-proof, of course. But, these researchers argue, if the walkway over a bridge is fenced off, a struggling college freshman cannot throw herself over the side. If parents leave guns in a locked safe, a teenage son cannot shoot himself if he suddenly decides life is hopeless.

With the focus on who dies by suicide, these experts say, not enough attention has been paid to restricting the means to do it — particularly access to guns.

“You can reduce the rate of suicide in the United States substantially, without attending to underlying mental health problems, if fewer people had guns in their homes and fewer people who are at risk for suicide had access to guns in their home,” said Dr. Matthew Miller, a director of Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

About 90 percent of the people who try suicide and live ultimately never die by suicide. If the people who died had not had easy access to lethal means, researchers like Dr. Miller reason, most would still be alive.

The public has long held the opposite perception. In 2006, researchers at the Harvard center published an opinion survey about people who jump from the Golden Gate Bridge. Seventy-four percent of respondents believed that most or all jumpers would have completed suicide some other way if they had been deterred.

“People think of suicide in this linear way, as if you get more and more depressed and go on to create a more specific plan,” Ms. Barber said.

In fact, suicide is often a convergence of factors leading to a sudden, tragic event. In one study of people who survived a suicide attempt, almost half reported that the whole process, from the first suicidal thought to the final act, took 10 minutes or less.

Among those who thought about it a little longer (say, for about an hour), more than three-quarters acted within 10 minutes once the decision was made.

“We’re very bad at predicting who from a group of at-risk people will go on to complete suicide,” Dr Miller said. “We can say it will be about 10 out of the 100 who are at risk. But which 10, we don’t know.”

Dr. Igor Galynker, the director of biological psychiatry at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, noted that in one study, 60 percent of patients who were judged to be at low risk died of suicide after their discharge from an acute care psychiatric unit.

“The assessments are not good,” he said. So Dr. Galynker and his colleagues are developing a novel suicide assessment to predict imminent risk, based upon new findings about the acute suicidal state.

“What people experience before attempting suicide is a combination of panic, agitation and franticness,” he said. “A desire to escape from unbearable pain and feeling trapped.”

Sometimes, depression isn’t even in the picture. In one study, 60 percent of college students who said they were thinking about ways to kill themselves tested negative for depression.

“There are kids for whom it’s very difficult to predict suicide — there doesn’t seem to be that much that is wrong with them,” said Dr. David Brent, an adolescent psychiatrist who studies suicide at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Brent’s research showed that 40 percent of children younger than 16 who died by suicide did not have a clearly definable psychiatric disorder.

What they did have was a loaded gun in the home.

“If the kids are under 16, the availability of a gun is more important than psychiatric disorder,” Dr. Brent said. “They’re not suicidal one minute, then they are. Or they’re mad and they have a gun available.”

Availability is a consistent factor in how most people choose to attempt suicide, said Ms. Barber, regardless of age. People trying to die by suicide tend to choose not the most effective method, but the one most at hand.

“Some methods have a case fatality rate as low as 1 or 2 percent,” she said. “With a gun, it’s closer to 85 or 90 percent. So it makes a difference what you’re reaching for in these low-planned or unplanned suicide attempts.”

Statistically, having a gun in the home increases the probability of suicide for all age groups. If the gun is unloaded and locked away, the risk is reduced. If there is no gun in the house at all, the suicide risk goes down even further.

Findings like these are far from popular. Taxpayers resist spending public money on infrastructure that they believe will not prevent people determined to die by suicide, and the political tide has turned against gun control. But growing evidence of suicide’s unpredictability, coupled with studies showing that means restriction can work, may leave public health officials little choice if they wish to reduce suicide rates.

Ken Baldwin, who jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge and lived, told reporters that he knew as soon as he had jumped that he had made a terrible mistake. He wanted to live. Mr. Baldwin was lucky.

Ms. Barber tells another story: On a friend’s very first day as an emergency room physician, a patient was wheeled in, a young man who had shot himself in a suicide attempt. “He was begging the doctors to save him,” she said. But they could not.

A version of this article appears in print on March 10, 2015, on page D2 of the New York edition with the headline: Blocking the Paths to Suicide.

Blocking the Paths to Suicide,
MARCH 9, 2015,






Suicide Rates

Rise Sharply in U.S.


May 2, 2013

The New York Times



Suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.

More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the findings in Friday’s issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,364 suicides.

Suicide has typically been viewed as a problem of teenagers and the elderly, and the surge in suicide rates among middle-aged Americans is surprising.

From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35 to 64 rose by nearly 30 percent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 people, up from 13.7. Although suicide rates are growing among both middle-aged men and women, far more men take their own lives. The suicide rate for middle-aged men was 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while for women it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000.

The most pronounced increases were seen among men in their 50s, a group in which suicide rates jumped by nearly 50 percent, to about 30 per 100,000. For women, the largest increase was seen in those ages 60 to 64, among whom rates increased by nearly 60 percent, to 7.0 per 100,000.

Suicide rates can be difficult to interpret because of variations in the way local officials report causes of death. But C.D.C. and academic researchers said they were confident that the data documented an actual increase in deaths by suicide and not a statistical anomaly. While reporting of suicides is not always consistent around the country, the current numbers are, if anything, too low.

“It’s vastly underreported,” said Julie Phillips, an associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University who has published research on rising suicide rates. “We know we’re not counting all suicides.”

The reasons for suicide are often complex, and officials and researchers acknowledge that no one can explain with certainty what is behind the rise. But C.D.C. officials cited a number of possible explanations, including that as adolescents people in this generation also posted higher rates of suicide compared with other cohorts.

“It is the baby boomer group where we see the highest rates of suicide,” said the C.D.C.’s deputy director, Ileana Arias. “There may be something about that group, and how they think about life issues and their life choices that may make a difference.”

The rise in suicides may also stem from the economic downturn over the past decade. Historically, suicide rates rise during times of financial stress and economic setbacks. “The increase does coincide with a decrease in financial standing for a lot of families over the same time period,” Dr. Arias said.

Another factor may be the widespread availability of opioid drugs like OxyContin and oxycodone, which can be particularly deadly in large doses.

Although most suicides are still committed using firearms, officials said there was a marked increase in poisoning deaths, which include intentional overdoses of prescription drugs, and hangings. Poisoning deaths were up 24 percent over all during the 10-year period and hangings were up 81 percent.

Dr. Arias noted that the higher suicide rates might be due to a series of life and financial circumstances that are unique to the baby boomer generation. Men and women in that age group are often coping with the stress of caring for aging parents while still providing financial and emotional support to adult children.

“Their lives are configured a little differently than it has been in the past for that age group,” Dr. Arias said. “It may not be that they are more sensitive or that they have a predisposition to suicide, but that they may be dealing with more.”

Preliminary research at Rutgers suggests that the risk for suicide is unlikely to abate for future generations. Changes in marriage, social isolation and family roles mean many of the pressures faced by baby boomers will continue in the next generation, Dr. Phillips said.

“The boomers had great expectations for what their life might look like, but I think perhaps it hasn’t panned out that way,” she said. “All these conditions the boomers are facing, future cohorts are going to be facing many of these conditions as well.”

Nancy Berliner, a Boston historian, lost her 58-year-old husband to suicide nearly two years ago. She said that while the reasons for his suicide were complex, she would like to see more attention paid to prevention and support for family members who lose someone to suicide.

“One suicide can inspire other people, unfortunately, to view suicide as an option,” Ms. Berliner said. “It’s important that society becomes more comfortable with discussing it. Then the people left behind will not have this stigma.”

Suicide Rates Rise Sharply in U.S.,
NYT, 2.5.2013,






Suicide numbers rise sharply,

especially among middle-aged men

Male suicides at highest level for a decade
while rate for men aged 45-59
is at worst level since 1986


Tuesday 22 January 2013

13.38 GMT


James Meikle

This article was published on guardian.co.uk
at 13.38 GMT on Tuesday 22 January 2013.

It was last modified at 14.19 GMT
on Tuesday 22 January 2013.


Significant rises in the overall UK suicide rate and in the proportion of men aged between 45 and 59 killing themselves have been reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Male suicides are now at their highest rate for nearly a decade, although they are still proportionally fewer than they were 30 years ago. The rate among men aged 45-59, which has gone up sharply in recent years, is at its worst since 1986.

In Wales, the overall suicide rate for men and women rose by 30% between 2009 and 2011.

The Department of Health in England last year identified middle-aged men as being at high risk of killing themselves, in its suicide prevention strategy, while a report for the Samaritans suggested men from low socioeconomic backgrounds living in deprived areas were 10 times more likely to die by suicide than were men from high socioeconomic backgrounds living in the most affluent areas.

Norman Lamb, the care services minister, said the figures caused very real concern, and they needed to be tackled "head on".

In all, 6,045 suicides were recorded among people aged 15 and over in 2011, the ONS said. That is up 437, or 8%, on the previous year, the rise being the same in percentage terms for men and women. The UK suicide rate is now 11.8 deaths per 100,000 people, up from 11.1 in 2010, and the highest since 2004.

The number of male suicides increased to 4,552, which at a rate of 18.2 per 100,000 was the highest level since 2002. The worst suicide rate remains among men aged 30 to 44, at 23.5 per 100,000; for 45 to 59-year-old men, the figure now stands at 22.2 per 100,000.

Female suicides rose to 1,493, a rate of 5.6 per 100,000. Although suicide among 15- to 29-year-old females is rare, the rate in this age group has also risen significantly, from 2.9 per 100,000 in 2007 to 4.2 per 100,000 in the latest statistics. Big gender differences have been recorded for a generation.

The ONS accepts that some of the increases could be down to changes in statistical recording. Coroners in England and Wales are now giving more "narrative" verdicts, where causes of death are difficult to identify. The ONS advised them to describe the circumstances of deaths in a way that could make clearer the intentions of those who died: for example, whether there was deliberate self-harm rather than an accident.

In England, the overall suicide rate is 10.4 deaths per 100,000, with the rate highest in the north-east, at 12.9, and lowest in London, at 8.9. In Wales, the suicide rate has leaped up sharply, from 10.7 in 2009 to 13.9 in 2011.

Changes in death registration rules and the way in which deaths are recorded in Scotland appear to have had a more dramatic effect on figures there, making statisticians cautious about comparing previous figures. In 2011, there were 889 suicides under the new rules and 772 under the old ones. But the General Register Office for Scotland says the "moving average" over recent years has consistently been "around 800 or so".

In Northern Ireland, there were 289 suicides in 2011, 216 men and 73 women. That figure is down from the 313 (240 men, 73 women) the previous year.

Suicide numbers rise sharply, especially among middle-aged men,






Please Take Away

My Right to a Gun


January 18, 2013
The New York Times


A FEW years ago, I awoke at 2:30 a.m. to more than a “rapping, rapping at my chamber door.” It was a full-force pounding of a body trying to break into my little house in Washington, D.C. It was the sound and scenario that, as a single woman living alone, I feared more than spiders in the house.

Because I was writing political speeches at the time, my BlackBerry slept on the pillow beside me. I grabbed it and looked out my bedroom window at the stoop below. There he was: tall, dark clothes, big. He backed up and then raced to the door, pounding his body against it. Then he kicked at it the way actors take boots to the heads of bad guys in the movies.

I dialed 911 and ran downstairs, my 100-pound Newfoundland with me.

I gave the dispatcher my address, let her know that I lived around the corner from a police station and said, “Please hurry.” She heard the loud noise and remained on the line with me.

I put the BlackBerry on speaker and pushed a heavy armchair toward the door. I watched as the wood expanded with each pound. The white paint splintered some. The deadbolt held at the top, but the bottom half of the door popped open, letting in the steam heat from the summer night. I took that chair and slammed it so the side pushed the door back in line with the frame. I held that chair with everything my 5 foot 3 inches had. My dog sat right by me on the rug, ready.

“The police are outside,” the dispatcher said.

I let go of the chair’s arms and thanked the woman for staying on the phone with me. I answered the questions from the police and looked at the drunk man in the back of the patrol car, kicking at the seats. When they left, I pushed the couch, chair, coffee table and even a lamp in front of the locked door. I did that every night for a week until a steel-gated security door was installed.

And then, I did more.

I considered buying a gun. The threat of violence rattles you like that. What rolled round my head after that dark morning was: what if I hadn’t heard the noise, what if it’s different next time? While I held that chair with all of my strength, I wished that I had had a gun because if he had gotten in, then I could have pointed it at him, maybe deterred him and if necessary pulled the trigger.

So I looked at guns. Some had mother-of-pearl handles and looked like something Mae West would use in a movie. Others were Glocks, shotguns and rifles. I had gone as far as to dial the number of the Metropolitan Police Department’s firearms registration division and begin the process. Then I stopped and put my BlackBerry down.

I remembered who I am.

I am one of the millions of people in this country who live with depression. I knew that in the gun registration form there would be a version of this question: Have you ever voluntarily or involuntarily been committed to a hospital? The answer is yes — voluntarily. But because my hospitalization was years earlier and I wasn’t in treatment at the time, I could have gotten a gun.

My depression appeared for the first time in the late ’90s, right before I began writing for politicians. It comes and goes like fog. Medicine can help. I have my tricks to manage and get through it. Sometimes it sticks around for a day or a week, and sometimes it stays away for a couple of years. But it never leads me to sleep all day, cry and wear sweat pants like the people in the commercials. You’d look at me and never know that sometimes my fight against the urge to die is so tough the only way I get through it is second by second; I live by the second hand.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38,364 Americans lost that fight in 2010 and committed suicide; 19,392 used a gun. No one ever attempted to break down my door in the early morning again, but I had an episode when my depression did come back in full force in the early winter of 2009, after I made a career-ending decision and isolated myself too much; on a January night in 2010; and again in May 2012, after testifying in the federal criminal trial of John Edwards, my former boss. If I had purchased that gun and it had been in my possession, I’m not sure I would have been able to resist and would be here typing these words.

The other day, the president and the vice president announced their plans to curb gun violence in the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Conn. I agree with all of their measures. But I believe they should be bolder and stop walking on eggshells about what to do with people like me and those not even close to being like me but still labeled with the crazy term “mentally ill.” The executive actions the president signed to increase access and treatment are all good, although the experts will struggle with confidentiality and privacy issues.

But since most people like me are more likely to harm ourselves than to turn into mass-murdering monsters, our leaders should do more to keep us safe from ourselves.

Please take away my Second Amendment right. Do more to help us protect ourselves because what’s most likely to wake me in the early hours isn’t a man’s body slamming at my door but depression, that raven, tapping, rapping, banging for relief.

I have a better chance of surviving if I never have the option of being able to pull the trigger.


Wendy Button is a former political speechwriter.

Please Take Away My Right to a Gun,
NYT, 18.1.2013,






Anatomy of a Murder-Suicide


December 22, 2012

The New York Times



SUICIDE is not as newsworthy as homicide. A person’s disaffection with his own life is less threatening than his rage to destroy others. So it makes sense that since the carnage in Newtown, Conn., the press has focused on the victims — the heartbreaking, senseless deaths of children, and the terrible pain that their parents and all the rest of us have to bear. Appropriately, we mourn Adam Lanza’s annihilation of others more than his self-annihilation.

But to understand a murder-suicide, one has to start with the suicide, because that is the engine of such acts. Adam Lanza committed an act of hatred, but it seems that the person he hated the most was himself. If we want to stem violence, we need to begin by stemming despair.

Many adolescents experience self-hatred; some express their insecurity destructively toward others. They are needlessly sharp with their parents; they drink and drive, regardless of the peril they may pose to others; they treat peers with gratuitous disdain. The more profound their self-hatred, the more likely it is to be manifest as externally focused aggression. Adam Lanza’s acts reflect a grotesquely magnified version of normal adolescent rage.

In his classic work on suicide, the psychiatrist Karl Menninger said that it required the coincidence of the wish to kill, the wish to be killed and the wish to die. Adam Lanza clearly had all three of these impulses, and while the gravest crime is that his wish to kill was so much broader than that of most suicidal people, his first tragedy was against himself.

Blame is a great comfort, because a situation for which someone or something can be blamed is a situation that could have been avoided — and so could be prevented next time. Since the shootings at Newtown, we’ve heard blame heaped on Adam Lanza’s parents and their divorce; on Adam’s supposed Asperger’s syndrome and possible undiagnosed schizophrenia; on the school system; on gun control policies; on violence in video games, movies and rock music; on the copycat effect spawned by earlier school shootings; on a possible brain disorder that better imaging will someday allow us to map.

Advocates for the mentally ill argue that those who are treated for various mental disorders are no more violent than the general population; meanwhile an outraged public insists that no sane person would be capable of such actions. This is an essentially semantic argument. A Harvard study gave doctors edited case histories of suicides and asked them for diagnoses; it found that while doctors diagnosed mental illness in only 22 percent of the group if they were not told that the patients had committed suicide, the figure was 90 percent when the suicide was included in the patient profile.

The persistent implication is that, as with 9/11 or the attack in Benghazi, Libya, greater competence from trained professionals could have ensured tranquillity. But retrospective analysis is of limited utility, and the supposition that we can purge our lives of such horror is an optimistic fiction.

In researching my book “Far From the Tree,” I interviewed the parents of Dylan Klebold, one of the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre in Littleton, Colo., in 1999. Over a period of eight years, I spent hundreds of hours with the Klebolds. I began convinced that if I dug deeply enough into their character, I would understand why Columbine happened — that I would recognize damage in their household that spilled over into catastrophe. Instead, I came to view the Klebolds not only as inculpable, but as admirable, moral, intelligent and kind people whom I would gladly have had as parents myself. Knowing Tom and Sue Klebold did not make it easier to understand what had happened. It made Columbine far more bewildering and forced me to acknowledge that people are unknowable.

When people ask me why the Klebolds didn’t search Dylan’s room and find his writings, didn’t track him to where he’d hidden his guns, I remind them that intrusive behavior like this sometimes prompts rather than prevents tragedy and that all parents must sail between what the British psychoanalyst Rozsika Parker called “the Scylla of intrusiveness and the Charybdis of neglect.” Whether one steered this course well is knowable only after the fact. We’d have wished for intrusiveness from the Klebolds and from Nancy Lanza, but we can find other families in which such intrusiveness has been deeply destructive.

THE perpetrators of these horrific killings fall along what one might call the Loughner-Klebold spectrum. Everyone seems to have known that Jared Loughner, who wounded Representative Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others at a meet-and-greet in Tucson in 2011, had something seriously wrong with him.

In an e-mail months before the shootout, a fellow student said: “We have a mentally unstable person in the class that scares the living crap out of me. He is one of those whose picture you see on the news, after he has come into class with an automatic weapon.” The problem was obvious, and no one did anything about it.

No one saw anything wrong with Dylan Klebold. After he was arrested for theft, Mr. Klebold was assigned to a diversion program that administered standardized psychological tests that his mother said found no indication that he was suicidal, homicidal or depressed. Some people who are obviously troubled receive no treatment, and others keep their inner lives completely secret; most murder-suicides are committed by people who fall someplace in the middle of that spectrum, as Adam Lanza appears to.

So what are we to do? I was in Newtown last week, one of the slew of commentators called in by the broadcast media. Driving into town, I felt as though the air were full of gelatin; you could hardly wade through the pain. As I hung out in the CNN and NBC trailers, eating doughnuts and exchanging sadnesses with other guests as we waited for our five minutes on camera, I was struck by a troubling dichotomy. People who are dealing with a loss of this scale require the dignity of knowing that the world cares. Public attention serves, like Victorian mourning dress, to acknowledge that nothing is normal, and that those who are not lost in grief should defer to those who are. When I stopped in a diner on Newtown’s main drag, I did not sense hostility between the locals and the rest of us but I did sense a palpable gulf between us. We need to but cannot know Adam Lanza; we wish to but cannot know his victims, either.

In a metaphoric blog post called “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” a woman in Boise, Idaho, who clearly loves her son but is afraid of him worries that he will turn murderous. Many American families are in denial about who their children are; others see problems they don’t know how to stanch. Some argue that increasing mental health services for children would further burden an already bloated government budget. But it would cost us far less, in dollars and in anguish, than a system in which such events as Newtown take place.

Robbie Parker, the father of one of the victims, spoke out within 24 hours of the shooting and said to Adam Lanza’s family, “I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you, and I want you to know that our family and our love and our support goes out to you as well.” His spirit of building community instead of reciprocating hatred presents humbling evidence of a bright heart. It also serves a pragmatic purpose.

My experiences in Littleton suggest that those who saw the tragedy as embracing everyone, including the families of the killers, were able to move toward healing, while those who fought grief with anger tended to be more haunted by the events in the years that followed. Anger is a natural response, but trying to wreak vengeance by apportioning blame to others, including the killer’s family, is ultimately counterproductive. Those who make comprehension the precondition of acceptance destine themselves to unremitting misery.

Nothing we could have learned from Columbine would have allowed us to prevent Newtown. We have to acknowledge that the human brain is capable of producing horror, and that knowing everything about the perpetrator, his family, his social experience and the world he inhabits does not answer the question “why” in any way that will resolve the problem. At best, these events help generate good policy.

The United States is the only country in the world where the primary means of suicide is guns. In 2010, 19,392 Americans killed themselves with guns. That’s twice the number of people murdered by guns that year. Historically, the states with the weakest gun-control laws have had substantially higher suicide rates than those with the strongest laws. Someone who has to look for a gun often has time to think better of using it, while someone who can grab one in a moment of passion does not.

We need to offer children better mental health screenings and to understand that mental health service works best not on a vaccine model, in which a single dramatic intervention eliminates a problem forever, but on a dental model, in which constant care is required to prevent decay. Only by understanding why Adam Lanza wished to die can we understand why he killed. We would be well advised to look past the evil against others that most horrifies us and focus on the pathos that engendered it.


Andrew Solomon is the author, most recently,

of “Far From the Tree:

Parents, Children and the Search for Identity.”

Anatomy of a Murder-Suicide,






Increase Seen in U.S. Suicide Rate

Since Recession


November 4, 2012

The New York Times



The rate of suicide in the United States rose sharply during the first few years since the start of the recession, a new analysis has found.

In the report, which appeared Sunday on the Web site of The Lancet, a medical journal, researchers found that the rate between 2008 and 2010 increased four times faster than it did in the eight years before the recession. The rate had been increasing by an average of 0.12 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 through 2007. In 2008, the rate began increasing by an average of 0.51 deaths per 100,000 people a year. Without the increase in the rate, the total deaths from suicide each year in the United States would have been lower by about 1,500, the study said.

The finding was not unexpected. Suicide rates often spike during economic downturns, and recent studies of rates in Greece, Spain and Italy have found similar trends. The new study is the first to analyze the rate of change in the United States state by state, using suicide and unemployment data through 2010.

“The magnitude of these effects is slightly larger than for those previously estimated in the United States,” the authors wrote. That might mean that this economic downturn has been harder on mental health than previous ones, the authors concluded.

The research team linked the suicide rate to unemployment, using numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Every rise of 1 percent in unemployment was accompanied by an increase in the suicide rate of roughly 1 percent, it found. A similar correlation has been found in some European countries since the recession.

The analysis found that the link between unemployment and suicide was about the same in all regions of the country.

The study was conducted by Aaron Reeves of the University of Cambridge and Sanjay Basu of Stanford, and included researchers from the University of Bristol, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the University of Hong Kong.

Increase Seen in U.S. Suicide Rate Since Recession,






Midlife Suicide Rises,

Puzzling Researchers


February 19, 2008
The New York Times


Shannon Neal can instantly tell you the best night of her life: Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2003, the Hinsdale Academy debutante ball. Her father, Steven Neal, a 54-year-old political columnist for The Chicago Sun-Times, was in his tux, white gloves and tie. “My dad walked me down and took a little bow,” she said, and then the two of them goofed it up on the dance floor as they laughed and laughed.

A few weeks later, Mr. Neal parked his car in his garage, turned on the motor and waited until carbon monoxide filled the enclosed space and took his breath, and his life, away.

Later, his wife, Susan, would recall that he had just finished a new book, his seventh, and that “it took a lot out of him.” His medication was also taking a toll, putting him in the hospital overnight with worries about his heart.

Still, those who knew him were blindsided. “If I had just 30 seconds with him now,” Ms. Neal said of her father, “I would want all these answers.”

Mr. Neal is part of an unusually large increase in suicides among middle-aged Americans in recent years. Just why thousands of men and women have crossed the line between enduring life’s burdens and surrendering to them is a painful question for their loved ones. But for officials, it is a surprising and baffling public health mystery.

A new five-year analysis of the nation’s death rates recently released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the suicide rate among 45-to-54-year-olds increased nearly 20 percent from 1999 to 2004, the latest year studied, far outpacing changes in nearly every other age group. (All figures are adjusted for population.)

For women 45 to 54, the rate leapt 31 percent. “That is certainly a break from trends of the past,” said Ann Haas, the research director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

By contrast, the suicide rate for 15-to-19-year-olds increased less than 2 percent during that five-year period — and decreased among people 65 and older.

The question is why. What happened in 1999 that caused the suicide rate to suddenly rise primarily for those in midlife? For health experts, it is like discovering the wreckage of a plane crash without finding the black box that recorded flight data just before the aircraft went down.

Experts say that the poignancy of a young death and higher suicide rates among the very old in the past have drawn the vast majority of news attention and prevention resources. For example, $82 million was devoted to youth suicide prevention programs in 2004, after the 21-year-old son of Senator Gordon H. Smith, Republican of Oregon, killed himself. Suicide in middle age, by comparison, is often seen as coming at the end of a long downhill slide, a problem of alcoholics and addicts, society’s losers.

“There’s a social-bias issue here,” said Dr. Eric C. Caine, co-director at the Center for the Study of Prevention of Suicide at the University of Rochester Medical Center, explaining why suicide in the middle years of life had not been extensively studied before.

There is a “national support system for those under 19, and those 65 and older,” Dr. Caine added, but not for people in between, even though “the bulk of the burden from suicide is in the middle years of life.”

Of the more than 32,000 people who committed suicide in 2004, 14,607 were 40 to 64 years old (6,906 of those were 45 to 54); 5,198 were over 65; 2,434 were under 21 years old.

Complicating any analysis is the nature of suicide itself. It cannot be diagnosed through a simple X-ray or blood test. Official statistics include the method of suicide — a gun, for instance, or a drug overdose — but they do not say whether the victim was an addict or a first-time drug user. And although an unusual event might cause the suicide rate to spike, like in Thailand after Asia’s economic collapse in 1997, suicide much more frequently punctuates a long series of troubles — mental illness, substance abuse, unemployment, failed romances.

Without a “psychological autopsy” into someone’s mental health, Dr. Caine said, “we’re kind of in the dark.”

The lack of concrete research has given rise to all kinds of theories, including a sudden drop in the use of hormone-replacement therapy by menopausal women after health warnings in 2002, higher rates of depression among baby boomers or a simple statistical fluke.

At the moment, the prime suspect is the skyrocketing use — and abuse — of prescription drugs. During the same five-year period included in the study, there was a staggering increase in the total number of drug overdoses, both intentional and accidental, like the one that recently killed the 28-year-old actor Heath Ledger. Illicit drugs also increase risky behaviors, C.D.C. officials point out, noting that users’ rates of suicide can be 15 to 25 times as great as the general population.

Jeffrey Smith, a vigorous fisherman and hunter, began ordering prescription drugs like Ambien and Viagra over the Internet when he was in his late 40s and the prospect of growing older began to gnaw at him, said his daughter, Michelle Ray Smith, who appears on the television soap “Guiding Light.” Five days before his 50th birthday, he sat in his S.U.V. in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., letting carbon monoxide fill his car.

Linda Cronin was 43 and working in a gym when she gulped down a lethal dose of prescription drugs in her Denver apartment in 2006, after battling eating disorders and depression for years.

Looking at the puzzling 28.8 percent rise in the suicide rate among women ages 50 to 54, Andrew C. Leon, a professor of biostatistics in psychiatry at Cornell, suggested that a drop in the use of hormone replacement therapy after 2002 might be implicated. It may be that without the therapy, more women fell into depression, Dr. Leon said, but he cautioned this was just speculation.

Despite the sharp rise in suicide among middle-aged women, the total number who died is still relatively small: 834 in the 50-to-54-year-old category in 2004. Over all, four of five people who commit suicide are men. (For men 45 to 54, the five-year rate increase was 15.6 percent.)

Veterans are another vulnerable group. Some surveys show they account for one in five suicides, said Dr. Ira Katz, who oversees mental health programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs. That is why the agency joined the national toll-free suicide hot line last August.

In the last five years, Dr. Katz said, the agency has noticed that the highest suicide rates have been among middle-aged men and women. Those most affected are not returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, he said, but those who served in Vietnam or right after, when the draft ended and the all-volunteer force began. “The current generation of older people seems to be at lesser risk for depression throughout their lifetimes” than the middle-aged, he said.

That observation seems to match what Myrna M. Weissman, the chief of the department in Clinical-Genetic Epidemiology at New York State Psychiatric Institute, concluded was a susceptibility to depression among the affluent and healthy baby boom generation two decades ago, in a 1989 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. One possible reason she offered was the growing pressures of modern life, like the changing shape of families and more frequent moves away from friends and relatives that have frayed social support networks.

More recently, reports of a study that spanned 80 countries found that around the world, middle-aged people were unhappier than those in any other age group, but that conclusion has been challenged by other research, which found that among Americans, middle age is the happiest time of life.

Indeed, statistics can sometimes be as confusing as they are enlightening. Shifts in how deaths are tallied make it difficult to compare rates before and after 1999, C.D.C. officials said. Epidemiologists also emphasize that at least another five years of data on suicide are needed before any firm conclusions can be reached about a trend.

The confusion over the evidence reflects the confusion and mystery at the heart of suicide itself.

Ms. Cronin explained in a note that she had struggled with an inexplicable gloom that would leave her cowering tearfully in a closet as early as age 9. After attempting suicide before, she had checked into a residential treatment program not long before she died, but after a month, her insurance ran out. Her parents had offered to continue the payments, but her sister, Kelly Gifford, said Ms. Cronin did not want to burden them.

Ms. Gifford added, “I think she just got sick of trying to get better.”

    Midlife Suicide Rises, Puzzling Researchers, NYT, 19.2.2008,







Suicides Among Middle - Aged Spikes


December 13, 2007
Filed at 10:56 p.m. ET
The New York Times


ATLANTA (AP) -- The suicide rate among middle-aged Americans has reached its highest point in at least 25 years, a new government report said Thursday.

The rate rose by about 20 percent between 1999 and 2004 for U.S. residents ages 45 through 54 -- far outpacing increases among younger adults, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

In 2004, there were 16.6 completed suicides per 100,000 people in that age group. That's the highest it's been since the CDC started tracking such rates, around 1980. The previous high was 16.5, in 1982.

Experts said they don't know why the suicide rates are rising so dramatically in that age group, but believe it is an unrecognized tragedy.

The general public and government prevention programs tend to focus on suicide among teenagers, and many suicide researchers concentrate on the elderly, said Mark Kaplan, a suicide researcher at Portland State University.

''The middle-aged are often overlooked. These statistics should serve as a wake-up call,'' Kaplan said.

Roughly 32,000 suicides occur each year -- a figure that's been holding relatively steady, according to the Suicide Prevention Action Network, an advocacy group.

Experts believe suicides are under-reported. But reported rates tend to be highest among those who are in their 40s and 50s and among those 85 and older, according to CDC data.

The female suicide rates are highest in middle age. The rate for males -- who account for the majority of suicides -- peak after retirement, said Dr. Alex Crosby, a CDC epidemiologist.

Researchers looked at death certificate information for 1999 through 2004. Overall, they found a 5.5 percent increase during that time in deaths from homicides, suicides, traffic collisions and other injury incidents.

The largest increases occurred in the 45 to 54 age group. A large portion of the jump in deaths in that group was attributed to unintentional drug overdoses and poisonings -- a problem the CDC reported previously.

But suicides were another major factor, accounting for a quarter of the injury deaths in that age group. The suicide count jumped from 5,081 to 6,906 in that time.

In contrast, the suicide rate for people in their 20s -- the other age group with the most dramatic increase in injury deaths -- rose only 1 percent.


On the Net:

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr 

    CDC: Suicides Among Middle - Aged Spikes, NYT, 13.12.2007,






Suicides leave Indiana county

mourning and mystified


By Jessie Halladay


EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Julie Amos never heard a gunshot, but she did hear her husband's labored breathing as she came up the stairs. He was dying in their bathroom.

Jeffrey Amos, 50, shot himself in the head Feb. 11. The father of two, who had lost his job, became one of a number of suicides in Vanderburgh County that has left families grieving and county officials searching for answers.

"I didn't see it coming," Julie Amos said. "I knew he was sad."

Suicides in the southwestern Indiana county of 173,000 usually don't exceed 30 a year. There have been 15 since Jan. 1 — nearly triple what Vanderburgh County had experienced at this point in 2006.

If the pace continues, Vanderburgh County's annual rate per 100,000 people would be 43. That's about three times Vanderburgh County's usual rate and four times the state rate. The national rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is 11.1.

Two other deaths are under investigation and are likely to be ruled suicides, said Donald Erk, Vanderburgh County coroner. At one point a few weeks ago, Erk said, his office was responding to a suicide about every 95 hours.

"These are not statistics that you're proud of," said Annie Groves, chief deputy coroner.

No one has come up with a pattern that would link the suicides, Erk and Groves said. There have been no large-scale layoffs, no natural disaster, no pressure from a countywide catastrophe that, when coupled with life's normal problems, might make living seem unbearable for some people.

The suicides include a 24-year-old man who hanged himself from a high school flagpole, a 76-year-old man who shot himself in his front yard and a 42-year-old woman who overdosed on drugs.

Suicide clusters occur, said Alex Crosby, a CDC epidemiologist, but they are "relatively rare." He said research has shown that less than 5% of suicides happen in clusters and often in those situations there is no one cause.

Erk said relationship issues played a role in seven of the deaths and health was a factor in three.

The Vanderburgh County suicides follow some national patterns:

•All but three victims were men, and males are four times more likely to die from suicide, according to the CDC.

•Guns were used in six of the deaths, and CDC statistics show that nearly 52% of suicides are committed with a gun. Two of Vanderburgh County's suicides were done by hanging and seven with drugs.

•The suicide rate nationally also has increased, from 10.8 per 100,000 people in 2003 to 11.1 in 2004, said Gail Hayes, a spokeswoman for the CDC's Injury Center. The CDC does not have more recent statistics.

The Vanderburgh County coroner's office has begun testing each victim to see whether drugs or alcohol are present. All have tested positive, Groves said.

Lanny Berman, head of the American Association of Suicidology in Washington, said drugs and alcohol are often involved in suicides — either as a long-term addiction or a method to get courage.

While Vanderburgh County officials focus on a reason for the spike, others focus on prevention.

"It's a great concern," said Janie Chappell, head of the Southwestern Indiana Suicide Prevention Coalition. "We need to look at what we can do with our limited resources."

In April, coalition members — representatives from mental health agencies, public schools, higher education and the coroner's office — will be trained in how to talk about suicide. They will then meet with community and business groups to educate them.

Maryann Joyce, executive director of Mental Health America in Evansville, said the training will help expand the coalition's reach.

"Suicide has a devastating effect on families and communities," Joyce said. She said it's vital for survivors to talk about the effects, which is often difficult to do because of the stigma attached to mental illness and suicide. "It's a more complicated grief," she said.

Although the cause of the increase remains a mystery, Erk does not want to rely on chance to bring it to an end. He wants to understand why his morgue has been so busy. "That's your goal. By simply understanding what's going on, you'll be able to come up with a solution that's viable," he said. "The goal is to obviously touch on some things and prevent some of this."


Halladay reports daily

for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal

Suicides leave Indiana county mourning and mystified, UT, 16.3.2007,
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-03-15-indiana-suicides_N.htm - brolen link






Delp Suicide Note:

'I Am a Lonely Soul'


March 16, 2007
Filed at 1:50 a.m. ET
The New York Times


ATKINSON, N.H. (AP) -- Brad Delp, the lead singer for the band Boston who killed himself last week, left behind a note in which he called himself ''a lonely soul,'' according to police reports released Thursday.

The note was paper-clipped to the neck of Delp's shirt when police found his body at his Atkinson home, on the bathroom floor, his head on a pillow. He had sealed himself inside with two charcoal grills; toxicology tests showed he had committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.

''Mr. Brad Delp. J'ai une ame solitaire. I am a lonely soul,'' the note read.

Delp joined Boston in the mid-1970s and sang two of its biggest hits, ''More than a Feeling'' and ''Long Time.'' He was cremated Wednesday, after a private funeral earlier in the week.

His fiancee, Pamela Sullivan, called police March 9 after noticing a dryer vent tube connected to the exhaust pipe of Delp's car. In the garage, police found a note taped to the door leading into the house.

''To whoever finds this I have hopefully committed suicide. Plan B was to asphyxiate myself in my car.''

In another note on a door at the top of the stairs, Delp cautioned that there was carbon monoxide inside.

''I take complete and sole responsibility for my present situation. I have lost my desire to live,'' he wrote. The note also included instructions on how to contact his fiancee: ''Unfortunately she is totally unaware of what I have done.''

Police later found four sealed letters in an office addressed to Sullivan, his children, their mother, Micki Delp, and another couple whose identity was not disclosed. Police Lt. William Baldwin said police gave the letters to family members without reading them.

Sullivan told police that Delp ''had been depressed for some time, feeling emotional (and) bad about himself,'' according to the reports.

He had planned to marry Sullivan this summer during a break in a tour with Boston. A lifelong Beatles fan, Delp also played with the tribute band Beatle Juice.

    Delp Suicide Note: 'I Am a Lonely Soul', NYT, 16.3.2007,






Bacharach daughter

committs suicide


Posted 1/5/2007

11:15 PM ET


USA Today


BEVERLY HILLS (AP) — Nikki Bacharach, daughter of Burt Bacharach and Angie Dickinson, committed suicide, the songwriter and actress said in a statement Friday.

Nikki Bacharach, 40, suffered from Asperger's Disorder, a form of autism. She killed herself Thursday night at her condo, said Linda Dozoretz, a spokeswoman for the family.

"She quietly and peacefully committed suicide to escape the ravages to her brain brought on by Asperger's," the statement said.

Nikki Bacharach died of suffocation using a plastic bag and helium, said Mike Feiler of the Ventura County coroner's office.

Born prematurely in 1966, Lea Nikki Bacharach studied geology at Cal Lutheran University, but could not pursue a career in the field because of poor eyesight.

"She loved kitties, and earthquakes, glacial calving, meteor showers, science, blue skies and sunsets, and Tahiti," the statement said.

Nikki Bacharach was the only child of Burt Bacharach, 77, and Dickinson, 75, who were married from 1965 to 1981.

It was the second marriage for both Bacharach, the Oscar-winning composer of Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, and What the World Needs Now is Love, and Dickinson, star of the film Dress to Kill and the TV show Police Woman.

Bacharach has three children from other marriages.

Bacharach daughter committs suicide,






Husband Aided Wife's Suicide

in Cliff Plunge,

Police Say


June 17, 2006

The New York Times



It looked like an ordinary family outing. A minivan stopped at a scenic overlook, a strip of blacktopped pavement that is little more than a wide spot on a one-lane road along the edge of a cliff. In the distance is the Hudson River. A hundred feet below is a forest as thick as when the Harriman family owned it a century ago.

The police say three things happened next. A man stepped out of the minivan, maybe to take a picture. His wife, inside with their two young daughters, put the transmission in gear. And the minivan drove off the cliff.

The woman, Hejin Han, 35, was killed on Wednesday as the minivan bounced down the rocky hillside in Bear Mountain State Park, about 50 miles north of Midtown Manhattan, and slammed into a tree. The two daughters, strapped into their car seats in the back, were not seriously injured.

Yesterday, the man who climbed out of the van before its plunge — Victor K. Han, 35, an architect from Staten Island — was charged with promoting a suicide attempt. The police maintain that Mr. Han knew that his wife was suicidal and "afforded her an opportunity" to kill herself.

But the police also said that there was another twist in the already complicated case. Court papers referred to a female co-worker of Mr. Han's and said the two had a romantic relationship.

That disclosure was at odds with the way the Hans' neighbors on Staten Island described them — a stable family, happy and religious, with a father who had done design work for neighbors who wanted decks built on their houses.

"They'd wait outside for him to come at night, and they would all embrace," Pamela Cropley, who lives near the Hans on Elvin Street in Castleton Corners, said about Mrs. Han and the girls, ages 5 and 3.

Ms. Cropley, who said the couple moved into their half of a two-family house five or six years ago, said she never saw anything to suggest that Mrs. Han was troubled — let alone so troubled that she would take her own life. "She was smiling every time I saw her," Ms. Cropley said. "She would see you, and her face would light up."

Promoting a suicide attempt is an unusual charge, law professors and prosecutors said yesterday.

"As a prosecutor for a lot of years in the Manhattan D.A.'s office and now over 10 years here, I've never seen it charged," said Louis E. Valvo, the chief assistant district attorney for Rockland County, whose office is handling the case.

But it was not the only charge that Mr. Han faced when he appeared before Justice William Franks in Stony Point Town Court yesterday. He was also charged with two counts of reckless endangerment of a child, one count for each daughter, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Like the suicide-attempt charge, the reckless endangerment charges are felonies. The reckless endangerment charges carry tougher penalties than the suicide-attempt charge. Mr. Valvo said that if convicted, Mr. Han could be sentenced to as much as 14 years in prison.

Justice Franks set bail at $75,000 and scheduled another hearing for Tuesday. Mr. Han was being held at the Rockland County jail.

In court, he was represented by the Rockland public defender, James D. Licata, who said he had no comment on the case. As for what Mr. Han had told the police that would have led to the suicide-attempt charge, Mr. Licata said: "I'm not privy to the statements he made. They haven't been supplied to us."

Mr. Han was arrested early yesterday after spending much of Thursday being questioned. The park police said Mr. Han was aware that his wife "had earlier threatened to harm herself and their two children."

But a one-page statement from the park police outlining the charges provided few details about Wednesday's events, about why the Hans made the afternoon drive or Mr. Han's explanation of what transpired. Calls to the park police at Bear Mountain were referred to a spokeswoman in Albany, who did not make police officials available to the news media.

The overlook where the Hans parked has a view of the river and the Bear Mountain Bridge. At the edge, in place of a guardrail, are boulders set about 10 feet apart — just far enough, it turned out, for the Hans' Honda Odyssey to drive through.

The park police said that two hikers who had heard the minivan clatter down the hillside and smash into a tree helped officers find the vehicle. The park police also said that when they got there, Mr. Han had gone down the hillside despite the steep drop, and was standing by the van. By early yesterday, the park police were accusing Mr. Han of abetting his wife's suicide, and some legal experts were saying that it would be hard to make the charge stick.

Michael T. Cahill, an assistant professor at Brooklyn Law School, said the provision appeared to have been part of the state penal code that was enacted in the mid-1960's.

"The language of the provision is that you have to cause or aid another person's suicide attempt," he said, "and I wouldn't think that just leaving the car would amount to aiding another person's suicide attempt."


Ann Farmer and Nate Schweber

contributed reporting for this article.

Husband Aided Wife's Suicide in Cliff Plunge, Police Say,










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