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Editorial: Suicide’s needless, heartbreaking toll

This morning, a flock of concerned people will gather at Magic Island for Charleston’s fourth annual Walk For Suicide Prevention. We hope the walkers succeed in raising watchfulness against the menace of self-killing, a tragedy that inflicts grievous harm on families and society.

Suicides have risen ominously in America, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. In 2011, they totaled 39,518 — more than the 32,479 killed in highway crashes — and they caused $34 billion loss, chiefly from lost wages and work productivity. That’s a horrible waste of human lives and potential.

In the military, suicides now exceed combat deaths. Guns — highly effective killers — are used in more than half of instances. Men are four times more likely to take their lives than women are. Whites are almost three times more at risk than blacks or Hispanics.

“Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death,” according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Depression is the chief factor.

In other words, nearly all the victims suffer temporary misery that could be cured by antidepressant pills — or even by sympathetic talking with relatives or friends — but self-killing wipes out any chance for healing. Once a trigger is pulled, it’s too late. Talk show host Phil Donahue called it “a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

Alcohol or drugs are involved in many cases. They impair judgment, leading to deaths that might not have occurred, had the person been sober.

Experts list these warning signs: If someone talks about suicide — or mentions feeling worthless and hopeless — or seems noticeably depressed — or starts giving away possessions and making farewell comments — relatives and friends should intercede. Sincere talking or getting outside help may avert tragedy.

Assistance can be found via a toll-free call. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline says:

“No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.”

All the walkers at Magic Island this morning deserve praise for their effort to save lives.

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