September is Suicide Prevention Month – Walk for Hope – September 22, 2018
If you have followed my blog you know that my oldest son took his life on March 15, 2015, 41 1/2 months ago, but I need to share his story again.
Kristopher Scot Caswell, 29, was one of my greatest joys. I was so proud of him. He had to grow up fast after my accident in 2001. All our lives drastically changed but Kris seemed to really excel. It was an important year, he got a job and his driver’s license. I never imagined that his life ending the way it did.
We knew he was struggling and thought we were doing everything right. He was seeing a therapist, he was on medication, he and his ex-wife were getting past all the hurdles and learning to co-parent their almost 3-year-old daughter. I talked to him on the phone every day. Living 50 miles from each other and me not able to drive it wasn’t possible to see him every day. He texted with his sister the day he died, he worked that day, he set up a playdate for his daughter for the following week. Something happened between Kris and his girlfriend that night. I knew part of it at the time, but months later when the police gave us his cell phone we saw what could have been the thing that pushed him over the edge. The police even said they wished they could charge her with something, but the laws hadn’t caught up with all this technology. When the local police came to our door at about 3:30 a.m. I knew as soon as I heard the knock that he was gone. I was awake and had been hours. He died 14 years after my accident on the exact same date. I will never know if that was intentional or just a fluke, but it haunts me.
The sad thing is we are not alone.
- Suicide is the leading cause of death in the U.S.
- 44965 Americans die each year by suicide.
- For every suicide 25 attempt.
- Men die by suicide 3.53 times more often than women.
- On average, there are 123 suicides per day.
- White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016.
- Firearms account for 51% of all suicides in 2016.
- The rate of suicide is highest in middle age — white men in particular.
- The annual age-adjusted suicide rate is 13.42 per 100,000 individuals.
Suicide Rates by Age
In 2016, the highest suicide rate (19.72) was among adults between 45 and 54 years of age. The second highest rate (18.98) occurred in those 85 years or older. Younger groups have had consistently lower suicide rates than middle-aged and older adults. In 2016, adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 had a suicide rate of 13.15.
I saw an article last week about a 9-year-old boy that was bullied at school and he took his life. I know of a 10-year-old boy that took his life that same day as my son. To be in so much pain at such a young age is heartbreaking. Suicide strikes at all ages. Kris was 14 days away from his 30th Birthday.
Risk Factors and Warning Signs
What leads to suicide?
There’s no single cause for suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated. Conditions like depression, anxiety and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase risk for suicide. Yet it’s important to note that most people who actively manage their mental health conditions go on to engage in life.
Suicide Warning Signs
Something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.
If a person talks about:
- Killing themselves
- Feeling hopeless
- Having no reason to live
- Being a burden to others
- Feeling trapped
- Unbearable pain
Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
- Withdrawing from activities
- Isolating from family and friends
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
- Giving away prized possessions
People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:
- Loss of interest
- Relief/Sudden Improvement
Suicide Risk Factors
Risk factors are characteristics or conditions that increase the chance that a person may try to take their life.
- Mental health conditions
- Substance use problems
- Bipolar disorder
- Personality traits of aggression, mood changes, and poor relationships
- Conduct disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Serious physical health conditions including pain
- Traumatic brain injury
- Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs
- Prolonged stress, such as harassment, bullying, relationship problems or unemployment
- Stressful life events, like rejection, divorce, financial crisis, other life transitions or loss
- Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide
- Previous suicide attempts
- Family history of suicide
- Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma
What can you do to help STOP SUICIDE?
First, watch your family and friends, for the warning signs listed above. If you notice anything, don’t be afraid to talk to them about it. I made the mistake of treading lightly around Kris, just trying to show him I loved and supported him, but what I should have been doing was get in his face, make him hear me and start a continuing conversation. At the time I didn’t want to pressure him and we saw how well that worked. My pastor told a story at Kris’s funeral about what another young man wrote in his suicide note – “The weeds of my mind have grown so long that they entangled my tongue and I am no longer able to speak.” The pastor continued “There is a takeaway from that and I hope all of you take it with you this afternoon. When someone stops communicating with you, you need to know that something is wrong. Do not sweep it under the rug. Sometimes all we can do is let someone pour their heart out to us and sometimes all we can do is listen.”
Second, there are many ways to volunteer. With local programs and events in all 50 states, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s chapters are at the forefront of suicide prevention. Our mission is to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP engages with families, mental health professionals, community and local business leaders, school administrators and others interested in preventing suicide. Many counties, cities, colleges, and schools have their own organizations too. Many offer training so you can spread the word of suicide prevention. You can sign up here to become an AFSP advocate.
Third, WALK, there are suicide prevention walks all over the country. Our family with be walking in the Walk for Hope organized by Prevent Suicide of Columbia County here in Wisconsin on September 22. To find a walk near you or to create your own walk, follow this link. Also, watch your local papers or search on the internet for walks near you.
Last, DONATE. There are many ways to donate. You can find ways to donate nationally here. You can donate locally if you have an organization in your area.
Or you can donate for someone who is participating in a walk, like me and my family. This walk is very important to Kris’ daughter who is now 6. She calls it “Daddy’s Walk” because we get together to celebrate and talk about her daddy. She is still too young to understand the true meaning and having that conversation when she gets older is going to be so hard. We call our group Kris’ Krusaders. Kris loved Superman and Batman or any Super Hero for that matter.
Our local organization does not have a way to take online donations so my daughter, Elizabeth has set up a Go Fund Me page for our family with a goal of $500. I was hoping to say if everyone just gave $1 we would easily reach our goal, but Go Fund Me’s minimum donation is $5. (They also ask for a tip, but you can choose “other” and type in 0.00.) If you would like to donate and feel more comfortable sending a check, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Facebook, and I will send you the address. We welcome all donations, no matter the amount.
About Prevent Suicide Columbia County
The funds raised will benefit Prevent Suicide Columbia County and its local suicide prevention initiatives, including:
Free QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) suicide prevention training that teaches 3 simple steps anyone can take to save a life from suicide
Support groups for survivors of suicide loss
Public information campaigns, including social media and an on-screen video shown at local movie theaters
Supporting community sectors, like law enforcement and mental and physical health care providers, to implement best practices for preventing suicide
Increasing access to local mental health care services
A suicide-free community where people will recognize the warning signs,
intervene and help individuals find hope.
To prevent suicide through awareness, education, collaboration, and improved access to mental health care, and to support those who have lost a loved one to suicide.
My personal goal is to have no other family go through the pain that our family continues to endure because of suicide. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The world will not be better off without you and everyone will miss you if you are gone.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.