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James Donaldson on Mental Health – Suicide Among Women: A Growing National Tragedy

James Donaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for mental health awareness and suicide prevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. But, women suffer just as much, if not more!

Having gone through a recent bout of depression and suicidal thoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle  

Checking in on Your Friends

PORTLAND (WGME) — Suicide rates have increased in nearly every state from 1999 to 2016.

A North Yarmouth teacher, Kristin Westra was missing for days. Her family and friends were frantic.

“My colleague said, ‘Well, Kristin’s not going to be here for the next two days, she called,’ and my stomach dropped, it instantly dropped,” friend Tammy Drew-Hoidal said. “I knew something was terribly wrong.”

Westra’s body was later found in the woods.

A Maine mother, 25-year-old Heidi McGovern, stepped in front of a tractor-trailer on I-95 in Penobscot County while holding her two-year-old son. He survived, but she did not.

Fashion designer Kate Spade, who created iconic handbags popular both nationally and internationally, was found hanging in her Manhattan apartment.

All three, died by suicide.

The evidence is growing of national tragedy.

“Yes, actually, the rate of suicide has increased in women largely because there’s a larger number of attempts of suicide naturally because of an increase in attempts, there will be an increase in deaths,” Maine Behavioral Healthcare Psychiatrist Dr. Linda Durst said.

A recent study by the CDC shows the national suicide rate is rising the fastest among women.

As of 2016, the rate of suicide by women doubled from three to six per 100,000 deaths.

The CDC says over half of people who have died by suicide have no history of mental illness.

“Usually people think about it for a fairly long time and it’s a number of circumstances that might at the moment put them over the edge,” Dr. Durst said.

So why more women?

Dr. Durst says there are a number of factors.

“There’s a lot of stressors that are facing women these days,” Dr. Durst said. “It’s really, you can have it all, but in a way, it’s can you do it all well. And I think women feel especially the pressure of having to do it all.”

The CDC says suicide rates are higher in women age 45-64.

Dr. Durst says there is an increase in divorce among women who are older, which can add more stress, and there’s also the “empty nest.”

“I think women feel they had a sense of purpose up to a certain point, and when their family has disbanded, they may feel what do I have, do I have any purpose any longer,” Dr. Durst said.

Still, none of those possible causes is a “one size fits all.”

Dr. Durst says it may be very hard for loved ones to detect how much someone is suffering, especially because suicidal thoughts are not rational.

“You don’t think rationally and you start to believe truly that you would be, your family would be better off without you and so, so it’s unfortunate,” Dr. Durst said. “Not only are you tortured by these thoughts, but you’re feeling that you can’t even share them with anybody.”

And that, says Dr. Durst is the real problem.

We don’t want to talk about it.

“I think we have to deal with our own discomfort in discussing a very uncomfortable topic,” Dr. Durst said. “And that if we could, if we could address it more matter-of-factly, in a more caring way, you can make an impact.”

An impact in the broader sense, and maybe for someone you love.

“I think what we have to normalize rather than the fact that people are dying by suicide, is the discussion around suicide,” Dr. Durst said. “So if we can help people feel comfortable in raising the issue, we absolutely can prevent deaths.”

It is entirely possible to miss the signs and symptoms of a loved one considering suicide, especially because it may be a spontaneous decision.

Signs can include:

  • Increased isolation
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Talking about wanting to die

Mental health professionals say it’s important to help reduce the shame and stigma attached to suicide, so more people seek help.

Here is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, 1-800-273-8255.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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