Suicide Prevention and Survivor Healing

Information and resources to help the community cope with and heal from Tuesday's tragic event.

Police 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
  • Pessimism
  • Hopelessness
  • Desperation
  • Anxiety, psychic pain and inner tension
  • Withdrawal
  • 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:

Surviving Suicide Loss: A Resource and Healing Guide

Knowing How to Respond to the Warning Signs of Suicide

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)

Eileen P May 02, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Susan, thank you so much for proactively and positively responding to the recent death.
Shipoo May 03, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Hi Susan is it normal to feel that you need closure by knowing her name. I was there and am having a hard time and was wondering if they would ever release her name. I would like to have a mass said for her
Susan Larson May 05, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Dear Shipoo: Yes, it is normal to want to know her name. But it has not been released out of respect for her family.


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