Suicidal thoughts are actually very common and unfortunately, the act of attempting and completing a suicidal gesture is rapidly increasing. Recent CDC reports reveal the drastic increase in suicide and many are working to solve the causes of this. While depression is often a cause, it is not the only cause.

My Personal Experience

For my family, there are at least five generations who have a history of depression. Our depression is what is known as endogenous, which means “coming from within” – i.e., there is a medical reason for the depression. For us, the depression is related to the lack of or depletion of necessary bio-chemicals in our brain. I had my first depressive episode when I was 13; back then, no one believed that kids could be depressed so I was not treated for depression. But my second episode, when I was in graduate school, was treated effectively with medication and therapy, both of which I continue to this day. Have I had suicidal thoughts – yes – but no attempts as I know there is help available.

For some families, there appears to be a genetic factor with suicides. This too, is a problem within the genetic makeup of the family members. For example, I have a friend who has lost two daughters to suicide and I worry about her other family members, including grandchildren.

Another type of depression is caused by the status of our lives. Here, we may be unhappy, sad, grieving, frustrated, and/or angry about the way life is going. We may have just lost a loved one to divorce or death, we may not have gotten into the college we wanted, we may have been bullied in school, we may have been abused and traumatized, we may have had a huge financial loss – these types of losses can lead to our thinking about suicide as a way out of our struggles and our feelings.

Depression Isn’t The Only Problem

Other mental health issues such as borderline personality disorder, PTSD, and anxiety disorders may lead to suicide. Some medications and medical conditions may influence one’s desire to commit suicide; numerous meds have side effects of depression and a chronic pain condition or declining health status may be reason enough for someone to end his/her/their life.

I also believe that the American culture is a culprit leading to suicide. With the changes over the last few decades, we are finding people who expect life to go perfectly. For some younger people, they have been raised believing they are the best in everything, are glorified by their parents, and have not learned that life also includes tragedy and sorrow.

I think that our culture, especially recently, has become meaner, angrier, and sicker, while blaming all situations on another person, event, activity, etc. This violence has increased as well as hate crimes against minorities. Instead of our culture going from tolerance to acceptance, we are now seeing an upswing in hate. Along with hate, we are seeing the proliferation of guns, and if one is suicidal, shooting one’s self can become way too easy, especially for someone (especially youth) to act out with killing themselves before even thinking about their actions. Likewise, the media focuses on such horror stories as school shootings and naming the shooters – which merely glorifies these actions. Also, the media focuses on violence including suicide through shows, movies, and video games, which normalizes such behavior. Similarly, many find it difficult to reach out for help in a society that focuses on individualism instead of unity.

What’s Commonly Missing?

While a large proportion of the American population is embracing acceptance, love, healing, hope, and health, many are not. I believe this relates to our lack of spirituality (not religion although some religions are spiritual). Here we examine spirituality as seeking the highest good for all, helping others, working towards peace and acceptance, and working towards healing the Earth and Cosmos. This spiritual focus is about the Oneness of all that is and we need to embrace this oneness for humanity, and the Earth and Cosmos, to survive. Without this sense of spirituality (remembering that atheists and agnostics can be spiritual), we are back sinking into the worst of our humanity. And as we sink lower, we find ourselves in a quagmire that we sometimes feel we can’t accept – thus suicide.

So it is time to reach within ourselves to find our highest essence, our strengths, and our love for self and others and realize we can cope, we can grow, and we can achieve out of our despair. Hope is what can carry through our struggles.

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Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience in the fields of mental health, addictions, and co-occurring disorders. Her other specialties include grief and trauma, women’s issues, chronic pain management, holistic healing, GLBTQ concerns, and spirituality and transpersonal psychology. Dr. Anderson has been educated and trained in the fields of education, social work, and spirituality, and she holds a Doctor of Ministry degree (non-denominational/interfaith) specializing in spirituality.


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