When someone makes a choice to end their life, it is a decision that has a ripple effect, not only impacting the one with the implement of destruction in their hand, but those in their immediate circles and beyond.
According to The American Association of Suicidology, the year 2011 saw 39,518 suicides, with 108.3 occurring daily. Of that figure, 31,003 were men and 8,515 were women. Consider the hole left behind in the hearts and lives of those who loved them.
In an article titled “The Link Between Substance Abuse, Violence, and Suicide,” published in the Psychiatric Times, Mark Ilgen, PhD, and Felicia Kleinberg, MSW, note: “Although it is difficult to compare the relative impact among different mental health problems with the risk of suicide, alcohol and drug use disorders have been found to be strongly related to suicide risk. Individuals with a substance use disorder (ie, either a diagnosis of abuse or dependence on alcohol or drugs) are almost 6 times more likely to report a lifetime suicide attempt than those without a substance use disorder.”
As a career therapist, I have heard thousands of stories over the years from those who have attempted suicide, as well as those family members who remain and are left to wonder what they might have done to have intervened, had they known how much pain their loved ones were actually in.
Enter Don Ritchie, an Australian Man who has since passed (May 2012). Living on a magnificent cliffside with a panoramic view, he was a human lighthouse for those who chose to use what is known as The Gap as a launching pad from which to leap to their deaths. For 50 years, he would watch, binoculars in hand, and if he noticed someone standing too near the edge, he would approach them carefully and offer a listening ear, a friendly smile and a cup of tea.
Police estimate he has saved over 160 people. As a corollary to the previous statement about the number of lives devastated by suicide, imagine how many were enriched because these people who might have cast themselves over the edge of this notorious spot, were called back to life by Ritchie. He was referred to as an angel by many he encountered. What a legacy he left.
Although many who contemplate suicide leave no note, no trail, not even the slightest indication that they are planning their own demise, others do. If you are aware of people who are in that state or if you find yourself feeling as if the pain of life is more than you can manage on your own, there are competent therapists, treatment programs, support groups, including Suicide Anonymous. Even if you yourself are not a professional, a kind word, a shoulder to lean on and direction to those who can be of assistance, could indeed earn you your wings.