Local Professional: Social media put suicide in the spotlight

Published 9:40 am Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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With Alabama having the 24th highest suicide rate in America, local child psychologist Lisa Patterson said social media might be putting it in the spotlight more.

Nationally suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, and the second leading cause of death for youth and young adults. Alabama’s suicide rates have increased by 36.5 percent since 1999, which marks the 33rd largest increase of any state over this time, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control.

“I’m not saying that it’s not more common now,” Patterson said. “I just think we are seeing more of it because of social media. Since we have access to more information that might be why we are hearing more about it. I have just not heard that it is more common.”

Patterson said that there are several reasons why an adult might commit suicide.

“A lot of the time, it is because there is more pain in a person’s life than the ability to cope with,” Patterson said. “It could be a variety of things from losing a loved one, losing a job, finances or mental illness, but just because a person has a mental illness does not necessarily mean they are going to commit suicide or a person who has committed suicide doesn’t mean they are mentally ill.”

When it comes to children committing suicide, Patterson said she has heard that somebody as young as six years old commit suicide.

“Children are more self absorbed,” Patterson said. “They believe everything is their fault. It is usually more of an impulse when they commit suicide. Since children are committing suicide as young as six, they are just now realizing and understanding the finality of death. Bullying is a key issue for children that commit suicide. They feel like it is never going to end and it can actually happen well into their young adulthood at their jobs. Bullying lowers a child’s self esteem, causes depression, anxiety and fear. Most of the time, when a kid is bullied, they believe what the person says to them.”

According to the most recent data recorded by the Center for Disease Control, Covington County is ranked 22nd in the state for its suicide rate at 12.69 per 100,000.

“The most important thing a person who has suicidal thoughts can do is reach out to people,” Patterson said. “If they are prone to this, having their own resource kit can be very beneficial. The kit can have names of people that they know they can call on or a list of things they can do that get their minds off of those thoughts. I am always harping on being outside, exercising, water and taking care of yourself. No, these things are not a cure, but they distract you from those thoughts and can help. The mind and body go hand in hand. If the body is in poor shape, then the mind starts to suffer, as well.”

For anyone who is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or call 911.