A Sad Slide to Suicide

Former “Growing Pains” star Andrew Koenig killed himself, presumably with some chemical, and he did this in a park where he used to go to “chill” or “meditate.” Apparently, he stopped taking his anti-depression medications, which then allowed him to sink into a very dark place. That means his decision to commit suicide was a considered one.

He disappeared on February 14, Valentine’s Day. I wondered about that when I heard that. Here he was, with no wife and family on Valentine’s Day: alone, with a minor career (and he was also the son of a famous actor who was on the original “Star Trek” TV series). It seems he had also turned down a job offered by a friend, and when that friend was away, Andrew collected all the gifts his friend had given him over the years, and then made that last trip to the park.

Of course, his parents are suffering deeply, but whatever emotions they’re experiencing, guilt should not be one of them. The truth is that if a person is hell-bent on killing themselves, they will find a way.

The most common cause of suicide is an underlying mental disorder, followed by alcoholism as the second cause, and drug abuse as the third most common cause. Financial difficulties or other undesirable situations can add stress too. Over 1 million people commit suicide every year, and it’s the leading cause of death among teenagers and adults under 35.

I’ve listed below all the warning signs, but people who don’t clearly show these signs can kill themselves as well, and people who show most of these signs may not. There is no “cut and dry” signal, but there are indications which serve as a warning. When you’re aware that someone is LIKELY to kill themselves, please call 911 and have that person taken to a psychiatric ward at your local hospital. Physicians have the legal option of a 3 day “hold” to discern whether or not that person is a threat to themselves or others. When that determination is made, the potentially suicidal individual may very likely be put in a “forced commitment” status for treatment. Even that doesn’t insure that they will never commit suicide, so it is good to be alert and know how to respond.

Here’s an easy way to remember the warning signs of suicide (this is from the American Association of Suicidology):
IS PATH WARM?
I   Ideation
S  Substance abuse

P  Purposelessness
A  Anxiety
T  Trapped
H  Hopelessness

W  Withdrawal
A  Anger
R  Recklessness
M  Mood changes

If you observe these, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or calling 1-800-273-8255 for a referral. You can find out more information at http://www.suicidology.org