Police responded to a shooting at Burke Target on Tuesday, and discovered a 56-year-old Burke woman had taken her own life.
“Yesterday’s completed suicide raised a number of important issues in our society,” said Steve Iselin, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) National Capital Area Chapter volunteer board chairman. The Burke resident said he is not a mental health care professional, but a trained volunteer with the foundation.
Iselin said there is a stigma attached to suicide that increases the difficulty of sharing information that can save lives and help the survivors—those left behind after a suicide.
According to the foundation:
- Every 14 minutes someone in the United States dies by suicide.
- Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable, treatable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.
- Most people with mental illness do not die by suicide.
- Men are nearly four times more likely to die by suicide than women. However, women attempt suicide three times as often as men.
- Suicide rates are the highest for people between the ages of 40 and 59.
"When a person is in that [suicidal] state of mind they are in great pain, and their only thought is to end that pain," said Iselin. "They are not thinking about what they will leave behind."
A diagnosable, treatable psychiatric disorder is a disease, according to Iselin. "Diabetes is a disease of the blood, heart disease leads to heart attacks, and mental illness is a disease of the brain," he said. Friends and family can watch for signs that someone needs help, although sometimes the signs are not obvious.
The observable signs of serious depression include:
- Unrelenting low mood
- Anxiety, psychic pain and inner tension
- Sleep problems
Serious depression and the following, especially when combined, are suicide warning signs:
- Increased alcohol and/or other drug use
- Recent impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks
- Threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die
- Making a plan
- Giving away prized possessions
- Sudden or impulsive purchase of a firearm
- Obtaining other means of killing oneself such as poisons or medications
- Unexpected rage or anger
Coping with suicide loss is difficult. "There is a lot of second guessing," said Iselin. The foundation offers a survivor outreach program. At the family's request, two trained volunteers who are themselves suicide survivors will visit the family members left behind after a suicide.
Other foundation resources include:
Local and National Crisis Resources
If you or someone you know is in crisis, the phone number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
Other resources include:
Crisis Link, www.crisislink.org, 1-800-SUICIDE or 703-527-4077
Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board Emergency, www.fairfaxcounty.gov/csb, 703-383-8500 (TTY: 703-207-7737)