Another Death in the Tragic Epidemic
My former friend Yu Yan called me. Her name appeared on my screen, even though several years have passed since she ended our friendship, possibly in fear that the mental illness and suicide in my family were contagious. I think a lot of folks believe that.
Anyway, she’d really pulled away when Jacob turned up dead; and I’d long since left the beach town where we’d been neighbors … and I decided not to pick up her call.
The voicemail she left me, however, caused me to jump from my desk and stab at the screen, frantic to connect with her.
It was Maria, Yu Yan said, a friend and counselor who’d worked overtime during the Covid pandemic, seeming to take it all in stride.—Until one day when her husband went for a run on the oceanside path, Maria unlocked their gun, stepped into their side yard, and shot herself in the head.
She Cared for Everyone, but What About Her?
Suicide, the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., does not usually go this way for women: They are more likely to attempt suicide, but men are 3-4X more likely to succeed. Women who do complete the attempt use drugs or poison; the least likely cause is by gunshot. Her husband Daniel, in fact, was far more likely, as white middle-aged males comprise 70 percent of all suicide deaths.
Up 33 percent since the turn of the century, suicide now ranks as the tenth highest cause of death in the U.S. That’s one Maria every eleven minutes. However, only 4 percent die on their first attempt, as she did.
She was forty-five.
On Top of the Grief, Her Husband Faces Blame
Her family blames her husband. They said he was to blame because he had purchased the (licensed) gun. They took him to court to try to wrestle away any assets she’d left behind. They even accused him of murdering her.
This happens far too often in suicide cases, when we desperately seek to comprehend causation and assign blame.
Her husband stumbles numbly through the days, hardly aware of whether he eats, wishing only for the elusive amnesia of sleep. He has allowed his friends and siblings to come and hold watch with him; he has hosted a memorial in her honor at the church she attended; and he even has joined a suicide-loss support group. Daniel will spend years striving to find a reason to go on without Maria, and he will never fully heal.
We’re All in This Together, Unfortunately
He is not alone.
For every death by suicide, at least 135 people are deeply impacted.
Yu Yan, who lives a serene life supported by an active yoga practice, told me she now knows of three people who have died by suicide, and she struggles every day to accept these losses.
Until we all speak up, we will never know that possibly everyone sitting in this restaurant, posting on social media, or pushing the grocery cart down the same aisle, knows someone like Maria who has died inexplicably and terribly, and someone like David, who’s left gasping for strength and a reason to be.
So, please–let’s talk about our psychological pain, which is just as real, legitimate, and worthy of care as our physical pain. Let’s talk about the causes of suicide and how we might band together to prevent even one death in the future … Because that one person matters.