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May 28th, 2010 by Dr. Phil

The Suicide Crisis

NSPILogo_lgOn the show and on this blog, I’ve talked a lot about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a free, 24-hour hotline that provides access to trained counselors for those going through the hardest of times. Last year, the Dr. Phil show worked with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to intensify suicide prevention efforts during the economic crisis, as more and more people are grappling with job loss, foreclosures and debt.

I’m so proud to announce that all of our efforts are paying off. This week, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a report saying that more people are becoming aware of the Lifeline and its 147 call centers. The year-over-year increase in suicide prevention hotline calls rose by almost 15 percent between 2008 and 2009. The report directly attributes the increase in calls to the Dr. Phil show and to Internet providers who are promoting the Lifeline. For instance, Google now posts the Lifeline’s toll-free phone number at the top of the page when users type in “suicide” or “kill myself.” Also, MySpace, Facebook and YouTube are now providing information about the national hotline.

One of the reasons we do this show is to open up a dialogue about difficult issues and to provide resources for viewers who may be struggling with self-destructive thoughts or behaviors. “This combination of education, awareness and providing a way to get help, we believe, made a huge difference in the lives of many people,” says Dr. John Draper, CEO of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. “I want to thank Dr. Phil for handling the subject of suicide so sensitively in a way that people can understand.”

Here’s about as distressing a statistic as I’ve read in a long, long time: suicides now account for 34,598 deaths per year in the U.S. That’s almost twice the number of homicides.

Let that number sink in for a minute. Every year, more than 34,000 of our fellow citizens — men, women and youth — reach a point where they decide life is no longer worth living. It’s simply flabbergasting and so, so devastating to realize what a crisis this has become. 

This is only a beginning, of course. Studies by SAMHSA found that 8.3 million American adults seriously contemplated suicide in the past year, with 1.1 million adults actually attempting it. “Relatively few people realize how pervasive suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts are in our society,” says SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “Fortunately, the Lifeline has made a remarkable difference in saving the lives of countless Americans.”

Here’s the number of the hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Keep it with you. Pass it out to anyone you believe might be thinking about doing something disastrous. This is a fight we cannot lose.

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67 Responses to “The Suicide Crisis”

  1. diane1102 says:

    To M. Sturgeon, You sound like wonderful caring parents. We all make mistakes as parents but showing our kids that we are there for them no matter what, that speaks volumes for your love for them. Kudos to you for reaching out to help your son!

    I am 42 y.o. and I think about suicide almost daily but will not do that to my husband and daughter. They don’t deserve that. Depression runs rampant in our family but no one talks about it.

    Two years ago I had to leave my job due to chronic pain and we had to sell our home. I blamed myself and went into a deep depression. My doctor prescribed an anti-depressant but within a couple of days I was writing my suicide note to my family and my one friend. I knew I did not want to do that to my husband so I brought him the notes as my way of reaching out for help. He called my mother and put me in the hospital where I learned that I was given too low a dose of the anti-depressant which INCREASED my suicidal thoughts.

    I feel very sad all the time but feel I have to hide these feelings from my husband and family. I feel lonely and find it very difficult to maintain friendships.

    I hope the Dr. Phil Show and others will continue doing shows on this topic.

  2. Becca says:

    Hi my name is Becca and my brother killed his self in April 2008. We have no idea why he did it and no idea that he was going to do it. It has really impacted our lives. Since he passed its been very very hard for me and my mom. He was only 22years old when he took his life he was like my best friend and was always there for me when I needed anything and I thought that he would come to me any time he needed anything. No one had a clue and we still don’t have a clue why he took his life it has been so vey hard. I now have a son that I have named after my brother and he helps me get threw the day. But half the time its hard to get outta bed because I don’t want to execpt the fact that my brother is no longer here. I don’t know how people take there lives and think that people would be better off without them here. Ever since my brother took his life things have been harder and very crappy very painful and very depressing. I would like to see more about this subject because no one really talks about it and there are lots of kids killing themselves and it hard everyone seems to block it out or act like that will never happen to them. Well it can happen to them and it is happining and its sad and hurtful for everyone in that persons life.

  3. I am so glad that you will be doing more shows on this topic and also on the domestic violence. Dr. Phil I think about suicide every day. I am very unhappy and don’t feel worthy to anyone anymore and I just don’t have the desire to live. Depression is genetic in our family and we have had five suicides in our family. About a month ago I was so angry with my husband and everyone else that I knew that if I didn’t get help soon I would literally kill myself. I went and admitted myself into a mental facility here in San Bernardino. I really hope that your intervention into this topic will certainly save lives and hopefully be an instrument of valuable information for people such as myself. Because unless you are carrying this disease it’s very hard to understand what you go through…Thank you for sharing this with the public

  4. Stefani Hutchison says:

    In 1997 my younger brother took a gun and blew off the back of his head. He was only 25. Last June, my mother died unexpectedly in her sleep. She was a lifelong prescription drug abuser so she was pretty incapable of any kind of loving relationship with me, though I tried. 13 days after she died, on the evening of her memorial service my step dad took a gun and killed himself.
    My whole family is gone. Poof. If it weren’t for my husband and son I would be alone. Suicide is a selfish, cowardly way out.
    The holidays are coming. Who am I going to celebrate with? Who do I buy cards for? I’m all alone and it sucks.
    If you have an addiction to drugs of any kind or if you are thinking about killing yourself stop for just one minute and think about the pain, anger and lonliness you are about to inflict on the people you’ll leave behind. Stop being selfish and get some freaking help.

  5. Rose says:

    On july 3rd i decided to take a hand full of zanax,I didn`t think about my children my husband or even my grandchildren.I just knew i was tired of being tired,i have battled depression all my life,I`m now 48 years old and i didn`t want to do it any more.8years ago i lost my home and everything we owned to a house fire,we started over.we purchased a new home.6years later my husband was laid off, we struggled for 2 years to keep our home but we eventully lost it to bankruptcy.we now live in a 2 bedroom apt.I thought about suicide weeks.Icouldn`t accept that we had lost everything,we had worked 23 years to get.So on july 3RD,2010 i attemted suicide,This poem was written the day beforeon July 2nd……………………My soul is empty,My spirit is gone. In a life i can`t call my own.People all around me, yet i feel so alone.It`s like i`ve lived forever but i havn`t lived at all,Iv`e lived for others and what they thought i shoul be.I`ve lived for others and not for me.My heart beat echos in my empty soul,My heart aches where love should grow.People all around me yet they don`t know the emptyness i feel in my soul…This poem descrbes what depression is to me.A sad dark lonely place that most people don`t understand until its to late!!!

  6. Kate says:

    My name is Kate and I have tried to take my life twice and never finished what I started to do with myself. I am glad there is people out there that are taking this subject into consideration and awareness.

  7. Dorothy says:

    A few months ago a total stranger’s decision to kill himself changed our lives forever. This man decided to end his life by putting himself in front of my moving vehicle. I was driving in the far-left lane of a 3-lane highway at a speed of almost 65 mph, it was dark, and he stepped from the middle lane into the path of my car. One moment my (adult) daughters and I were feeling happy, just enjoying life, and the next we were spitting shattered glass and dirt from our mouths, and picking it from our skin.

    The selfish act of this man has impacted not only our lives, but the lives of our other family members as well as his. The emotions run the gamut:

    ANGER-we were living our lives, we want to live, and he almost killed us!
    SADNESS-for his family’s loss and the loss of my daughters’ innocence, and sense of security and safety.
    HELPLESSNESS-because I could not protect my daughters from this man’s actions.
    SLEEPLESSNESS-nightmares because that awful night, the impact of his body hitting our windshield keeps playing over and over again.
    DEPRESSION-a human life was lost and I was behind the wheel of the car that hit him, one of my worst fears, taking the life of someone, regardless of the fact it was this man’s choice, not mine. Joy is elusive, it is difficult to be happy when guarded all of the time.
    FEAR-that something like this will happen again, every time we get behind the wheel of our cars, the slightest movement will startle us, we’re afraid someone will hit us or walk out in front of us again.
    CONFUSION-why would anyone do such a horrific thing to another human being?
    SHOCK-we still can’t wrap our brains around the fact that this happened to us. It was such a selfish act.

    We live our lives in a way so as not to make a negative impact on anyone, yet this man came along and did just that, literally. Life will never be the same, ever. If you’re contemplating suicide, please, get help, because it causes more pain than it cures.

  8. Roedy Green says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing up this issue of the suicides of teens. Because of the work of people like you, things are hundreds of times better than they were when I was in teen growing up in the 1960s. Homosexuality was a taboo subject. There were no gays in the movies or in books. They weren’t mentioned in school. There were no gay personal ads. There were no gay newspapers. I saw a very negative article in Life Magazine about gays in New York City, but I thought I must be the only one in Canada. I found a dusty tome written in 1898 called the Encyclopedia Of Sex by Havelock Ellis that called us “inverts” as if being gay were a type of transsexuality. That did not seem to apply to me. I had no desire to be female. I eventually ran across Death In Venice by Thomas Mann where the gay/ephebophile protagonist dies a degraded death. A bummer. Of course the Christians kept up a drumbeat of hate toward gays that appeared not to exist (except for me hiding in the closet). I could not talk about any of this with anyone. Once I finally met some fellow gays and discovered I had swallowed a load of codswallop, my life immediately went from miserable to unbelievably pleasant.

  9. I know that what I am about to say will be rejected by many and make many of you angry. When it comes to addictions of what ever kind, there isn’t much we can do. They have become a prisoner, a slave, and their drug of choice is their master. The only one who can help them, heal them and set them free is God! The solution is to get connected to a Spirit filled group of people who will commit along with you to pray and fast and cry unto God for your loved one to be healed and free of their addiction. As a minister who has been free from my own trauma and addiction because of people praying and fasting for me, I can assure you, that prayer and fasting in addition to educational and thereputic group sessions, works if at some point you can get your loved one stabalized and commited to their own recovery.

  10. Kim Pentz says:

    I was laid off from my job working for a subcontractor on July 2, 2010. I worked for them eleven years. To try and make a long story short, I personally believe I was let go becasue of bullying, nepotism and the fact that I have suffered from chronic depression since I was eighteen (maybe even longer than that).

    Seven people worked in the office and about twenty men worked out in the field. I was one of the seven that worked in the office and was not part of the family or a family friend. The bullying became so bad that I admitted myself to a mental hospital to learn how to deal with this problem and also because my depression was getting worse.

    After I was released from the hospital I expected to return to work with my new coping skills, but I was wrong. The owners (husband and wife) decided to lay me off with the reason being due to a lack of work. Since less than fifty people worked there, I could not be covered under the FMLA Act.

    The first nine years that I worked there it was a pretty good job. Bullying was not a big issue. But then they hired a family friend (who was 19 going on 40). Her mother was working at the office and had been for about five years. She never disciplined her daughter for her behavior towards me. Everyone just stopped caring about me at the office. I felt very alone. I received no help from the husband and wife duo. I was just told to grow thicker skin.

    Since I have been laid off from that job, I cry everyday. My depression has never been so low. Now, I do go out and apply for other jobs. The best job I could get was a seasonal position at Macy’s, which was very humbling for me. But now Macy’s has no openings for me and I am left jobless again.

    I pay $ 500.00 a month for health insurance that does not include mental health, which is what I need the most. I have also not had a drink in over nineteen years and am involved in AA (my aniverssary date is February 16). I am forty-four years old and I never thought I would ever feel so bad. I am too afraid to drink and too afraid to kill myself.

    I trusted my bosses from the subcontractor office and thought that they would never do this to me. I am still grieving the loss of that job. I just can’t seem to let go. My main reason for writing this is all about the unfairness of nepotism and bullying on the job. There should be laws for this. I know that there are laws in some parts of Europe. I just don’t have a leg to stand on. If I could, I would sue them for everything they have, but according to lawyers I have spoken to; I would never win. All of my savings and 401K are gone.

    Basically, I feel I was let go because I went into a mental health hospital and also because nobody liked me at work. What they did is very unethical and morally wrong. I just wanted someone else to hear my story. I want this deep depression to go away. I feel like I am a mistake and that God has given up on me. Friends tell me this is not true, but it is hard to believe when you are the one in the middle of it all (plus people who do not suffer with depression just don’t get it, and I feel that they are tired of me too). I just feel very lost and alone with no place go.

  11. dshol1 says:

    Hello Dr. Phil,
    I was wondering if you could send some information my way that would help me. I lost my husband by divorce and the took me to the cleaners. He refused to give me my little bit of money and said to sue me. Well I was already financially strapped so how could I. I moved from place to place and then finally got our rental house with a hugh mortgage. But now the finances are even worse. Oct 27, 2010 I had a car wreck that was not my fault. More money hout of pocket. More problems. Now they threathened to take my house and the electric keeps getting turned off. I am not unemployed as of Dec 29, 2010. Ane I just don’t know how to pick up the pieces. There is nothing to make me get up in the morning. Nothing that makes me want to live anymore. Any help?

  12. C.F. says:

    Dear dshol1,

    My psychiatrist says that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The philosopher Nietsche said “..it is always consoling to think about suicide, in that it gets one through many bad nights.”

    Being so depressed and in financial dire straights is a difficult position for one in life. I am assuming at this point that you do not have any health benefits so you cannot obtain mental health services.

    Certainly, I believe the economy is a factor in an increase in suicide for our country. If a man or woman cannot provide for their families, then it can slip from a normal depression, to a depression to one who has a predisposition to the disease. The problem is most insurance policies are void for death by suicide.

    Are you single and isolated at this point? The isolation is part of the depression, and it can bring you to some dark places.

    Moreover, the financial strains are unbearable. Even if you had financial security, you would need psychiatric help; but the poverty exacerbates the condition. It should be noted that people with money commit suicide as well.

    Let’s say you decide to commit suicide. You have heard different stories about people taking their lives on the first attempt; but you have not heard the side of people that live through their attempts, maimed and in more pain, or possibly handicapped and in a worse predicament. And this can happen albeit with some of the methods mentioned by other people.

    So I do not have a fear of death – I have a fear of not succeeding and pain.

    My brother, Peter, was a genius. We grew up in a military family and our father was on long deployments on Naval Destroyers.

    He was in and out of mental institutions; our parents did not have much money and this drained them even more. But when he was home, sometimes I would crawl on the top bunk with him when we were young and we would fall asleep together. I loved him.

    He had dreams of winning the Nobel Prize and I was going to help him with his research. This was in the seventies; based on his hospitalizations, he thought that if one could get the brainwaves basically in sync, then it would improve the disease of depression. He died before it was researched.

    I was 18 and in my freshman year of college, studying in the living room. Peter came into the living room and gave me his Merck Index. It would not be until later that I would find out people give away their prized possessions before they commit suicide. It would not be until his funeral that he wrote “Captain Peter XXXX M.D.”

    Mama went to the Commissary and would pick up cigarettes and groceries for him; it just so happened I was available to come with her to Peter’s apartment. Mama had a key to his flat. But something was amiss – she used her key and the door was chain locked. The door was barely opened. Mama said she thought he’d left some hamburger out and it smelled like it had gone bad.

    I pushed her back and told her to stay in the walk way. I pushed through the door and went through the living room into the one bedroom – the door was closed. I opened it and saw the bedspread raised from decomposition gases. I called his name a couple of times, but he said nothing.

    I gently tugged the end of the bedspread and it flew off, exposing a body in rigor with the body blackened, as if it had been burned.

    I went back to the hall and we called the police. We lived in Mobile, Alabama and pop was working as an engineer in Pascagoula, Mississippi. He was greeted by a line up of policemen, protecting the site from nosey newspaper men.

    The police found a suicide letter that was torn up; it was pieced back together and he had regressed to his feelings when he was 13 years old.

    When we went back home, Mama and Pop had to take each of the other kids one at a time into their bedroom to tell them the bad news. Our youngest brother, Michael, loved Peter the most of all 6 of us kids. I will never forget the initial ear piercing scream and crying that came from the room – he was only 10 and Peter was 20.

    Pop died at age 50 and Mama at 53 from natural causes. I have Bipolar Disorder, High Manic I; I was a company director when it reached it’s peak; I lost my 6 figure salary, my New York style loft, and any chance of working again as the disease took away my ability to work. I am on Social Security Disability & Medicare. I live with my sister; half of my income goes to pharmacy & medical expenses. I had about $400K in 401K and savings and I lost $300K trying to save my home. But I ended up in foreclosure and bankruptcy.

    I do not feel that suicide is selfish. Existentialists believe that people are free and responsible for their acts. I made a very close friend in college, when a classmate of mine and I found out that we both had siblings that committed suicide. She told me of her suicidal tendencies; she left her psychiatric nursing profession and became a chemical engineer.

    The true test of our strength is the ability to overcome these obstacles in life. I have “things” and gave away or lost “things” – but they are only material. Once I got past that, I did not beat myself up so much; if I do I see my doctor.

    I have very basic needs to make me happy. I never wanted a mansion and a lot of money. And I never thought I would ever accomplish as much as I did academically or in the Corporate world before my illness.

    All I want is a little one bedroom, one bath clean little home in a safe neighborhood. That is it. I am alright with that, and I have made that my goal. Living with my sister, she has set up a budget as my trustee. And thank heavens this year the “donut hole” in Medicare charges half of brand name medicine; I had one medication that cost $2700 for a 3 month supply.

    So if you can just make small goals, small steps toward a final goal, it may help you along the way. I don’t believe in the sugar plum fairy and all of that kind of non-sense. People who have not had that sinking feeling can’t appreciate the sick feeling. When I was on the psychiatric ward, one of the men in my therapy group had a father that shot himself in front of his children. He chose heroin and crack cocaine to ease his pain.

    They may not let my comments through for this last paragraph. I believe in assisted suicide or euthanasia as an option, so that people diagnosed with mental illnesses can have a peaceful departure from this world.

    In the Netherlands, two mothers who had children commit suicide, one by jumping on the tracks of a fast train (very common event) and a daughter who suffocated herself are advocating a peaceful way for other suicidal children to select, instead of dying such gruesome deaths. Just a note – the Netherlands is not a country that openly advocates and performs euthanasia and assisted suicides. This is a common piece of misinformation from the Internet.

  13. C.F. says:

    Dear Kim Pentz,

    I am sorry to hear of your plight. You could try to contact the State Labor Relations Division, to see if you have any recourse.

    The depression is awful. You said you do not have mental health coverage, even with COBRA. If you did not feel this depression early on in your work history, but felt it because of the change in dynamic in the work place, then it would be difficult to try to qualify for Social Security Disability – it would not hurt anything to apply; but they would require records from you doctors, hospital, workplace, what you do on a daily basis.

    I think you should polish up your resume and get onto the Internet looking for jobs, especially Head Hunters. While you are looking for jobs, look for programs for people changing their career fields. I think the medical field, especially nursing, is a good move, as people get sick.

    I know this is a rough time, and that is an understatement. You should try to stay close to family and friends to count on; I had to move in with my sister when I lost my job. It is humbling but I am getting on my feet, and I am lucky to have her in my life.

    Another avenue is to go to a temporary employment agency. More than likely if you are sent to an assignment and they like you, they will probably hire you full time in their company.

    Keep your chin up and don’t let the bad boys get you down.

  14. Rowdy says:

    I bow down hmubly in the presence of such greatness.

  15. Honeysuckle says:

    You’re the geraetst! JMHO

  16. maureenmo says:

    I have struggled with mental illness my entire life. I have been through a lot in my life some by my own choices and some by others choices. I have been hospitalized twice for suicide and have been in treatment on and off since I was 12. No one realizes how much pain someone is in and they feel like there is no other choice. The pain is so bad and dark and they can’t tell people how they feel. My last suicide attempt was November 2007. I still do not know how I survived as I did not go to the hospital. My boyfriend called my sister with whom I was living with and she found me passed out on the bed. I had taken 30 (1mg) xanax. I lost my Fiance to suicide on July 8, 2011. We had been together for 4 1/2 years and I had no clue that he would do this. We had talked about suicide before as we both have mental illnesses. He said he could never do that and was always more worried about me as I had tried so many times before. God only knows why I am still here. I was home when he did it. Nothing was different that day. He always was out in the garage and I did not even think about it until his son called and I went out there to get him. I did not see him at first and then I did. I found him hanging in our garage. We lost our baby girl in December 2008 from SIDS and it just escalated from their. He had a drug problem and had been clean but, when she passed he started using again. I tried to stop him and even threatend to walk out thinking that would make him realize what he was doing to himself. I lost my husband at age 28 just a few yrs ago from a drug overdose and was always worried of losing him to. I don’t even drink and it has been hard to watch those I love go down hill. I thought I could fix him and make him healthy. Since his death I have struggled with my own thoughts of suicide and am currently in counseling. I have been on medications for years and know if I do not take them it only makes me think about things worse. I also see an in home dept of mental health case worker. She checks on me weekly to make sure everything is okay. We have a contract for life that if I am feeling suicidal I will call the suicide lifeline. Which I have had to do several times since July. I never thought I would be burying the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Many people think suicide is just a teen issue it isnt Clint was 41 years old. We had been trying to have another baby. I wonder if our daughter had lived if he would be here today. I will never know. I just take one day at a time and I thank God for the lifeline because without it not only I would have tried again but, so many others would as well. I was scared at first that they would call the police but, it isnt like that at all. Just a friendly voice to listen and talk to. They even called me every week for a month after my initial call to make sure I was okay. It made me feel like someone cared.

  17. cesar rosario says:

    Hello dr Phil, I have multiple sclerosis 16 yrs but I’ve done every test and still don’t know anything about it. I’m ready to give up to much stress tired. Can’t do anything headache every day none stop. Don’t know were to start I gained 30lbs.please I need help. Thank you..

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