Daring to Die: The Psychology of Suicide

Wanting to die is not enough to trigger suicide. To end their own lives, humans need the guts and the means to carry out their plans
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At age 18, Erica Hernandez tried to kill herself—twice. Depressed and plagued by family problems, she first took “every pill in the house,” she says. Then she attempted to drink herself to death. But whether through luck or indecision, her attempts were not drastic enough to end her life before help arrived. Now age 31, Hernandez has found “peace” through her church and a parent-child psychotherapy group she has joined.

Every year millions of people around the world try to kill themselves—and nearly one million of them succeed. Suicide is the 11th biggest killer of Americans and the third-leading killer of 15- to 24-year-olds. The U.S. suicide rate is increasing for the first time in a decade, primarily as a result of the rise in the practice among whites aged 40 to 64, according to a new report covering the years 1999 to 2005 from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The economy is now adding to the problem: the chief financial officer of Freddie Mac killed himself last April, and so have some Americans who have been evicted from their homes. The U.S. government’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, begun in 2005, is also getting record numbers of calls: 57,625 in August 2009, up from 47,191 the same month a year before.

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