Death by suicide
By: ELIZABETH WEST
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It is the 11th leading cause of death in Louisiana, however, it is one of the causes of death that is the least discussed.
According to an episode of Louisiana Public Square, death by suicide seems to be worse in rural areas. This statement rings true in Evangeline Parish and Avoyelles Parish, which both have a suicide rate that is more than double the national rate.
With this cause of death on the rise, one Evangeline Parish mother who faced losing her son by suicide in 2015 has made it her mission to work to bring awareness to what has seemed to become an epidemic.
“When people would ask me how my son passed away, I found myself whispering the word suicide,” said Jeneane Miller. “You never think it will be your loved one, and it’s the stigma attached to suicide that makes it hard for people to talk about it.”
However, talking about it is what it takes to prevent death by suicide according to Nancy Bourque, who is a suicide interventionist with the Acadiana Area Human Services District’s Ville Platte Behavioral Health Clinic.
“The more awareness a community brings to suicide,” said Bourque, “the more open people may become to talking about it if they are suffering with suicidal thoughts.”
According to Bourque there are different signs you can look for in a person if you are concerned that they may be dealing with suicidal thoughts, such as, changes in behavior or appearance, isolation, substance abuse and depression.
Bourque, who is also the clinic manager of the Ville Platte Behavioral Health Clinic, said, “If you notice any of these signs in a person, follow your gut and try to talk to them. Nothing negative can come out of you asking the question. The biggest obstacle people face when dealing with suicide is they assume if they ask the question, then it will make that person they are asking have suicidal thoughts. However, that’s not the case.”
According to Bourque, someone suffering typically wants help. “For people contemplating suicide, there is always a part of them that wants to live and a part of them that wants to die,” said Bourque. “And, it takes them saying it out loud in a non-judgemental environment to make the dying side begin to lose its power.”
In some instances the signs aren’t present that a loved one is contemplating suicide. That is the situation that Miller faced when her 18-year-old son left this world.
“I questioned why for a long time,” said Miller. “And, I wondered if there was something that I missed. But, the signs weren’t there. Cody’s grades never dropped and he wasn’t depressed. He and his girlfriend had broken up and he didn’t know how to deal with it.”
Miller’s son’s situation rings true for many of those in their adolescence years who die by suicide.
Bourque said, “Death by suicide happens much quicker for adolescent individuals because they may not have the coping skills yet to deal with major events in their life. That’s why it is important for people to have a support system, whether it be friends or family members. That way if they are ever in that situation where they are contemplating suicide they can talk to someone about it.”
For those left to cope with the loss of a loved one whose life was taken by suicide, Miller says it’s important to find ways to “occupy your mind” to get through the pain.
“I started keeping a journal to help me cope,” said Miller. “Whatever was on my mind, I would write down. Then I started crocheting to occupy my mind so that I didn’t just sit and dwell on what happened to my son.”
Miller continued, “My son was a great kid, who made good grades and was never in trouble. And, today, I now realize that the way he chose to leave this world will never change or define who he was while he was alive.”
According to the Louisiana Suicide Statistics, one person on average dies every 13 hours to suicide, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-34 year-olds.
The Ville Platte Behavioral Health Clinic offers services for mental health and substance abuse as well as counseling services, medication, evaluations, and group therapy for individuals suffering with suicidal thoughts and for individuals having to cope with the lose of a loved one by suicide. For more information on receiving any of these services, call (337) 363-5525 or visit the clinic located at 312 Court Street in Ville Platte.