My son took his life in 1993, and I continue to go to meetings of Survivors of Suicide (SOS) to find companionship among grieving families. As I drove home from a recent meeting, I thought about how many moms lost sons or how many wives lost husbands and how women are often left behind to pick up the pieces.
The “females left behind” phenomenon suddenly struck me even though I had been going to SOS for more than 20 years. Why did I see suicide as a male problem and miss the grief of the females left behind?
I suppose I just expected that men commit suicide, and females would be left behind to care for their families.
Then I received this e-mail from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC). Between 1999 and 2014, the largest rate increase in suicide of any age group occurred in girls ages 10-14, according to the CDC. That rate had tripled over the past 15 years.
Suicide rates for females were highest for those aged 45-64 in both 1999 (6.0 per 100,000) and 2014 (9.8). Percent increases in suicide rates since 1999 for females aged 15 to 24, 25 to 44 and 65 to 74 ranged between 31 and 53 percent.
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Many women suffer following the suicide of a family member, and that can turn into depression. Often they are the ones left to support the family economically, socially, spiritually and emotionally after a family member has completed suicide. They might be having their own suicidal thoughts, sometimes called suicide contagion.
If you know a woman who has experienced a suicide in her family, look for ways to offer her support.
If you believe someone in your family is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Sherry Bryant is a licensed clinical social worker and a mom who lost her son, Todd, to suicide in 1993. She is the co-chair of the Lutheran Suicide Prevention Ministry.