The game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I'll someday lay
So this is all I have to say
Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please
-- Suicide is Painless, Theme from M*A*S*H
Johnny Mandell and Michael B. Altman
Most of us, perhaps, have forgotten or maybe never knew that the theme for M*A*S*H -- both the movie and the TV series that ran for 11 years -- was Suicide is Painless. Fewer still realize that there were words to the music.
The lyrics are wrong, though. Suicide is never painless. For the people who take their life -- and it overwhelmingly is white males who do so -- the pain of whatever drove them to the ultimate decision is done. But for the loving families, friends and coworkers who are left to wonder "why," the pain goes on and on. No one is unaffected by the tragedy of suicide.
September is Suicide Prevention Month and it is worth having a conversation, a dialog about what to do before it becomes too late.
Probably many, if not most, of us have been touched by suicide, and invariably we say if only we knew or if only we had seen any indication our loved one was so desperate. The signs probably were there, but often they are subtle, easy to miss.
The statistics are staggering, but they are abstract until a loved one or someone you know takes his or her own life. Then they become personal.
In the United States, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 47,000 people take their life in America each year, approximately 123 a day and an average of a suicide every 12 minutes.
In Texas, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death for all ages. Breaking that down, it is the second leading cause of death for Texans 15 to 35, the fourth leading cause for those 35 to 44, the fifth leading cause for those 45 to 54, and ninth leading cause for Texans 55 to 64. One might think -- wrongly -- that suicide in the elderly would be greater due to increasing infirmities, painful diseases and loss of loved ones. But for people 65 and older, suicide is only the 17th leading cause of death.
More than twice as many Texans died by suicide than in alcohol-related vehicle accidents in 2017.
While any suicide is tragic, the fact that so many young people are taking their life is especially troubling. What would drive a young person with do much life ahead to commit suicide? Almost 85,000 years of potential life before the age of 65 are lost to suicides.
Texas suicides cost the state more than $3.5 billion annually in lost work, medical expenses and other costs.
Among veterans, the rate of suicide is more than double that of the civilian population. Our veterans have sacrificed so much for this country and far too many come home to a life of hopelessness and despair.
Suicide is an epidemic we all must fight. We should reach out to each other and be aware of changes in mood, sleeping habits or eating habits of those you love. Listen to what they say and be aware of what they don't say. Any deviation from their normal behavior could be a sign of trouble. Let those you know they are not alone, that help is available. Be encouraging and supportive. And listen, listen, listen.
If you despair and are contemplating taking your life, please taken some time to reach out to others, in person, on the computer or by phone. Let family, friends and trained counselors know what is going on in your life.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours aday at 1-800-273-8255.
Let's not wait until all we can do is mourn.