By Carol Loehr —

Our son Keith was 29 years old when he decided to end his life. Keith’s death was a suicide. But it was not a choice.

Suicide is a frightening word, and it is not only ignorance but fear and stigma that keep people from understanding why someone would take their life. In a way, it is easy to think that a person made a “choice.” Then we don’t have to spend time discovering that this might not be true.

The definition of “choice” is “the freedom in choosing, both in the way one chooses and in the number of possibilities from which to choose.” In a presuicidal state, an individual is overwhelmed by the situation he or she is in. The person suffers extreme mental anguish and a sense of hopelessness. The person’s judgement is distorted. Generally, the person wants to kill the pain, not himself or herself.

John T. Maltsberger, M.D., past president of the American Association of Suicidology, and a teacher at Harvard Medical School, says: “There is no suffering greater than that which drives people to suicide; suicide defines the moment in which mental pain exceeds the human capacity to bear it. It represents the abandonment of hope.”

Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the second leading cause of death for those ages 25-34. About 30,000 of the 650,000 Americans who attempt suicide each year die. Suicide is almost always the result of an illness of the brain, depression.

Our son Keith died by suicide, and we can only imagine the horrible mental torture he endured. Depression is one of the most terrible and pervasive illnesses of our day. In 1999, the Surgeon General of the United States listed suicide as a national public crisis. In order to overcome this crisis, we must educate ourselves and each other, and not let these stereotypes persist.

Copyright 2008 by Carol Loehr

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Carol Loehr

Carol Loehr is the author of My Uncle Keith Died (Trafford), which addresses children’s questions about suicide and depression. Carol’s only son, Keith Loehr, died at the age of 29 by suicide in 1999. Carol has been an elementary and special-education teacher. She created and continues to maintain, a web site to help comfort and educate survivors of suicide, as well as clergy, health care professionals, and counselors. Carol appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” discussing “Honoring a Child Who Died By Suicide.” To hear Carol being interviewed on this show by Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley, click on the following link:

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