As a teenager, sirens, flashing police and ambulance lights woke me up one night around 1 o’clock in the morning. Growing up in a small mid-west town with a population of under 800 people, such activity was uncommon in our small rural community. The next morning, we discovered our neighbor’s teenage son, a high school senior, committed suicide by shooting himself with a shotgun. He left his mother and young brother behind. That was in 1987.
Over the decades as a mental health therapist, I have sat on suicide prevention committees, participated in suicide prevention task forces, worked as a clinician for hospitals and prisons doing hundreds of suicide assessments, follow suicide prevention protocols, and monitored suicidal patients and so on.
Suicide is considered a public health crisis. It affects almost everyone. If you do not personally know someone who has committed suicide, you most likely know someone who does. Suicide is not racist or sexist. It does not care about your age, how poor or rich you are.
Generally, males are more successful at suicide than females due to the fact they often use more lethal means. When alcohol or drugs are involved, the risk is much higher. When a person struggles with mental health issues, such as depression, hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, trauma, addictions, lack of sleep, or chronic physical pain, it increases the risk of suicide. The following may also increase the risk of suicide: the number of previous attempts, suicidal thoughts, history of being abused or neglected, life or school stress, victim potential, being bullied, accessibility to weapons, living conditions and family support or expectations, dishonoring your family, or a family history of suicide. Lack of friendships or fitting in can contribute as well. Over the years, I have discovered the person’s personal and religious beliefs about life after death may also be a key indicator of risk.
My family and I are blessed to live in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which is one of the most desired U.S. cities in which to live. However, in El Paso county, we also have a not so desirable problem, as we have one of the highest rates of teen and adult suicides in the nation.
Some believe it could be any of the above reasons as well as the altitude, as there is some correlation between the higher elevation and lower oxygen levels which may create a higher suicide risk. The problem is that suicides still occur at sea level and lower altitudes.
Suicide is not just a local problem. It is a national and international problem. A quick search will reveal that countries that are well to do financially in technology as well as those in poverty all struggle with this issue.
As I mentioned previously, physical pain can be a reason for suicide. However, it appears that people in physical chronic pain do not generally commit suicide. Some even believe suicide is selfish, and the person is only thinking about themselves. Regardless of where you stand or if you have experienced depression, perspective and life experience will influence your beliefs about suicide. This is not about suicide bombers or acts of heroism to save a loved one or comrade.
There are as many reasons to commit suicide as there are not to commit suicide. In this blog, I want to focus on the issue of emotional pain and more specifically‑shame. I believe one of the biggest reasons a person commits suicide is that guilt has turned into shame.
Guilt states, “I did a bad thing.” “I made a mistake.” “It was not good enough.”
Shame turns it all inward, “I am the bad thing.” “I am the mistake.” “I am not good enough.”
As you can see, it attacks your personhood and your essence. The only remaining option is not to get rid of your mistakes but to rid your mistakes of you.
Let me say this: Suicide is always a lie. Suicide is shame’s ugly cousin. Suicide comes from the father of lies. He uses shame as his greatest weapon to get a person to turn on themselves. His name is Evil, Azazel, the Dragon, the Serpent, the Accuser, the Devil, Satan, Lugus, Lux, Lucis, Lucent, Lucifer, Legion, the Deceiver, Islis, the Morning Star, the Great Star, the Shining One, the Fallen One, Wormwood, Quetzalcoatl, or Satr/Satyr. These are just a few of the names given to Satan from other cultures, traditions and myths. For some, this may come as a surprise or even be offensive. But humanity is physical, chemical, relational, emotional, financial and perhaps most importantly spiritual.
We here in the West are to be “sophisticated” and politically correct to acknowledge such things. Remember what I mentioned about a person’s spiritual beliefs about life after death? What they believe about life after death is a big indicator of suicide risk or not.
For centuries, people around the globe before us were either fools, and we know things they did not know, or just maybe they knew and better understood things we refuse to acknowledge about the good and evil parts of spiritual forces.
Yet, it is interesting how quickly we will accept Hollywood’s version of spirituality with movies like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The Sixth Sense, Aliens, Hell Boy, or Harry Potter without hesitation. Many of us don’t even question TV shows like Lucifer, Thirteen Reasons Why, Vampire Dairies, Charmed, Twilight or Once Upon a Time. The list is endless. These all significantly impact on our culture and moldable teen’s minds making death, suicide, and the afterlife look fun, revengeful, enticing, powerful and even sexy.
Remember suicide is not racist, sexist, and knows no social economic, culture or language preference – and neither does Lucifer. But, don’t take my word for it. Come to your own conclusions. I challenge you to think outside the box and begin to see what is unseen and what is not being looked at when it comes to suicide.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.