Filza Hussain, M.D.
Behavioral Health, Psychiatry & Psychology
The author of a popular Oscar-winning film, "The Imitation Game," and a filmmaker who won the Oscar for the best documentary both highlighted an important subject at the 87th Academy Awards ceremony — suicide. I was extremely pleased to see the film industry use the Oscars to raise awareness about this important, yet seldom talked about, issue.
According to the most recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mortality data collected in 2013, which includes suicide deaths; suicide is the 10th leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. In that year, someone in the U.S. died of suicide every 12.8 minutes.
As a psychiatrist, I come across many individuals who have either attempted suicide in the past or have thoughts of ending their life due to circumstances out of their control. They tell me it’s a desperate, lonely and frightening state of mind to be in. However, the stigma attached to mental illness and the fear of being locked up and forgotten about leads to these patients being tongue-tied and hiding their feelings from care providers and loved ones.
There is much we do not know about suicide and much to be learned. Every individual is different and their circumstances unique. Studies show that talking about suicide does not promote the act. So if you speak with your loved one when you are concerned or in general with family members to raise awareness, this will not promote the act itself. We have to remember that suicidal thoughts usually are a sign of poorly controlled mental illness, much like increased blood sugar is a sign of poorly controlled diabetes.
Suicidal thinking is not a weakness of faith, nor is it lack of strength of character. It certainly can be quite dramatic and written off as attention-seeking in some instances, although a kinder way to look at it would be to consider it a cry for help.
I firmly believe that most solutions can be found through honest conversation. Let's talk about suicide. Why does one feel this way? Why do some individuals feel like this more often than others? And why, even though some people feel suicidal, do they will never act on it? What deters them? The more we understand this, the better we will be able to help decrease the number of preventable deaths.
If you are thinking about harming yourself or attempting suicide, tell someone who can help right away:
- Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-888-552-6642
- Call 911 for emergency services.
- Go to the nearest hospital emergency room.