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It's time to talk openly about suicide, how to prevent it

With the death of Robin Williams, it is time to talk openly about suicide and how to prevent it.
by Michelle Sutherlin Modified: August 12, 2014 at 6:46 pm •  Published: August 12, 2014

I am not an expert on suicide. I am not a doctor, I am not a licensed professional counselor, and I am not a therapist.

But I am a school counselor who has talked to many, many suicidal people - young and old - throughout my life. I have received a great deal of training on the matter and have trained hundreds of people about suicide, the warning signs of suicide and how to help someone who is suicidal.

To put it plainly, suicide is an issue no one wants to talk about but an issue we cannot ignore.

With the death by Robin Williams that authorities are calling suicide, there is no better time to bring it out in the open and talk about it. So many people don't understand suicidal ideations and truly can't understand why people die by suicide.

According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide rates are steadily climbing in the United States. With nearly 40,000 people each year dying by suicide in the United States, it is likely that you have been affected by suicide in some way, either directly or indirectly.

I lost a good friend to suicide several years ago. She was a mother of two boys, whom she adored. She was married. She was intelligent, funny and caring. And she was mentally ill. She hid her illness from me for years, much the same way someone who is physically ill might try to hide it from her friends.

While I suspected my friend's mental illness for some time, part of me was still surprised when she confided in me one day. She revealed that she had an eating disorder, bipolar disorder and depression. She diligently sought treatment for her illnesses. However, even while she was being treated, she took her own life.

I think that's when it first truly sunk in for me how mental illness works. It doesn't make sense to people who don’t have a mental health disorder. Even with a high profile death such as Robin Williams, people can't seem to understand why someone who "had it all" would do such a thing.

When my friend died by suicide, I knew that the illness must have been so bad that it overtook her. I know for a fact how much she loved her family and would have done anything for them. She had a relationship with Christ, she had a supportive extended family and she knew she had friends who would help her however possible.

But mental illness is no different than an insidious cancer that eventually takes its toll; it is real and it can kill you, even if you are receiving treatment.

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by Michelle Sutherlin
NewsOK Contributor
Michelle Sutherlin is a middle school counselor in Norman, OK, who works with students ages 11-15 daily. She is also a mom to two boys, Ryan (12) and Will (9). She and her husband have been married for 16 years. She loves middle school students so...
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