America's suicide rate is rising ominously, especially among middle-aged men and teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For children under 15, the rate has climbed a startling 128 percent since 1980. For men in their 50s, it grew nearly 50 percent between 1999 and 2010. Military suicides cause more deaths than combat does. The U.S. toll from suicide was 38,000 in 2010, surpassing deaths from car crashes.
This is a tragedy for families involved, and a sad loss for America. Most of the victims are sunk in depression when they take their lives. If a pistol is handy, their temporary misery produces a permanent loss. But if they could be persuaded to postpone the act, they might begin to feel better and enjoy satisfying lives.
Philosopher-historian Jennifer Hecht has written a 2013 book, Stay, attempting to curtail suicide. She says it's a selfish action by despairing people who don't consider the agony they inflict on their families and friends.
If relatives or friends sense growing depression and talk with a sufferer, she says, the tragedy usually can be prevented. For example, one man was near suicide, but a colleague told him the action would devastate his adoring daughter -- so the despondent man forced himself to persevere, and regained good spirits.
Her book quotes Voltaire: "The man who in a fit of melancholy kills himself today, would have wished to live had he waited a week."Around the planet, an estimated 1 million suicides -- and many more attempts -- occur yearly, the World Health Organization says. While self-destruction may be understandable for terminally ill people suffering great pain, it's a sad mistake for most others.