Talking about a taboo

Living can sometimes take more courage than dying.

It’s hard to fully understand the drive of someone who takes themselves to the edge, daring to jump off — unless you happen to be someone who has been down in that lonely road.

But, while we know very little about the motivations of a person who chooses to commit suicide, each year about 4,600 people nationwide pick a permanent end to their daily struggles.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the suicide rate on the Kenai Peninsula was about 23 per 100,000 people in 2007-2009, the most recent year for which numbers are posted. While we may not know exactly how many people have died by their own hand here, we know that it is too many. State data shows that Alaska’s suicide rate is nearly twice that of the national average and the leading cause of death in Alaska for people between the ages of 15 and 24.

We’re willing to bet that means you know someone whose life has been altered by the sudden loss of a loved one.

People are uncomfortable talking about it, keeping those who suffer from suicidal thoughts hidden in the dark with their pain. But, the thing is, talking about suicide with friends, neighbors, teachers or anyone else willing to listen might be the key to reaching someone who feels invisible.

Feeling hopeless should never be a private shame. Being bullied into the ultimate submission should never be the only way. Depression, anxiety, hopelessness and low self-esteem are all treatable — a successful suicide is not.

It is the responsibility of the community to recognize that the importance of speaking openly about suicide — especially in situations where the subject has been in the public eye — far outweighs the uncomfortable feelings it produces.

At least one local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is working to reduce the spread of suicide in the area and their Soldotna Out of the Darkness Walk will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Soldotna Regional Sports Center, 538 Arena Ave. The money funds suicide research and educational programs to increase awareness. Check out www.outofdarkness.org for more details.

We urge you to be mindful of the pain of others as you go about your life. Don’t be afraid to reach out — it may just make someone’s life worth living.

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