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A Mental Health Moment

By Bernadette Joy Graham, MA, LPC, NCC, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist

The Truth Contributor

On a fall day in 1974, twin girls sat on their motherís bedroom floor playing as they most usually did. The next moment of their life changed their lives forever.  Their mother took a gun and shot herself in the head falling dead on her bed bleeding to death. 

 Bernadette Joy Graham

In the days to come, the twin girls were put into foster care and later adopted by a woman who took them in as her own children.  The twins entered grade school and would often share, at appropriate times, their memories of their motherís death.  In reality, they used their story for empathy and, at times, it seemed as if they used it as a shock value.  I spent the remainder of my elementary grade school years thinking about their horrible experience and often listening to their story of how their mother ended her life in such a tragic and shocking way. 

There are many reasons why people decide to take their own lives. There are many decisions they make when and how For those of us left behind, we will never know precisely the reasons why. Even with great efforts we will never understand why they hurt us. 

Lately, in the news there have been several celebrity suicide deaths.  We scratch our heads as if to say why would they want to die?  They have money, fortune, fame. Everything they want they can have right?  Like you, I assume the answer is wrong because something is obviously missing in their lives that does not allow them to escape the unfortunate pains of life.

I have helped many clients in my many years as a counselor who have either wanted to take their lives or need help getting through the reasons why other family members have taken their own lives.  Honestly, there is no answer yet but there is a genetically-linked trait that on twins that shows suicidal behavior is between 30 and 50 percent due to heritable factors. Suicide victims' biological relatives who were adopted away also show an increased risk of suicide.

The rate of suicide in America is 10.9 suicide deaths per 100,000 people, according to the latest information from the National Institute of Mental Health. That means, although the likelihood of suicidal behavior increases in families, a completed suicide is still a rare event. According to the Washington Post 2018, suicide rates for black children are twice that of white children.  Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for older children and teens in the United States.

So how do we know if a loved one is at risk for suicide?  Most of the time we donít but there are certain signs we can look for such as those we know becoming withdrawn, tying up loose ends and settling debts and having investigated or discussed suicide methods. 

During an assessment with clients, it is our norm to ask clients if they ever felt suicidal or homicidal in their lifetime and, if so, do they have a plan? Have they ever attempted suicide in the past?

Will we be given the most honest answer?  Probably not, but it is in the trained counselorís eye and instinct that their behaviors be looked upon as such. Then we keep a close eye and provide the client and parents if necessary with suicide information such as resources and available apps for their phone. 

Many colleges are equipped with suicide apps for students as they arrive in their new surroundings, but these apps can be used by any individuals who need help.  Some apps are:  Jason Foundation A Friend Asks, MY3, Ask and Prevent Suicide, Suicide Crisis Support, Stay Alive and Operation Outreach. 

If you know anyone who is showing signs of suicide or threaten suicide, do not take it lightly Ė call 911 and report it.  Lastly, keep an open line of communication with those you love and care for.  Ultimately, if an individual takes his own life, there is no one to blame and there is virtually nothing anyone could or should have done that could have spared that life. 

If you have a loved one you have lost to a suicide, please donít blame yourself.  Seek out counseling to begin to understand human nature and never give up

ďDeath is lifeís way of telling you youíre fired. Suicide is your way of telling life you quit.Ē  Anonymous

Bernadette Graham is a Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor and Certified Grief Recovery Specialist.  You may contact her for questions or resources at graham.bernadette@gmail.com


Copyright © 2018 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/16/18 14:12:11 -0700.

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