A website called Prevent Suicide Now.Com recently came to my attention by chance. I almost sent it back into cyber obscurity with a mouse click as it seemed unlikely to be of any interest or use to me in my carefree home business programme.
My first thought was that a website dedicated to suicide must be macabre. However, a tour of the website revealed that a great deal of loving work had gone into its creation. The site's purpose is to prevent suicide and raise public awareness of the subject. In America alone over 31,000 lives ended in 2002 as a result of suicide. That is one suicide every sixteen and a half minutes. Trends show the suicide rate to be increasing.
There is a touching remembrance section on the site. The first memorial on the "wall of angels" is to a little girl aged 13 who was driven to suicide by school bullies. I could hardly bear to look at the photographs of the other beautiful, bright children who became "angels" in their teenage years. In the year 2002 in America a total of 4,010 people below the age of 24 committed suicide. That equates to 11 young lives destroyed each day. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in the 15-24 age group.
Suicide is a subject which most of us would wish to avoid. We would rather not think about it, let alone discuss it. We are uncomfortable when dealing with people who have been bereaved through suicide and feel helpless when somebody we know is tormented by suicidal thoughts.
Our reluctance to contemplate the issue of suicide is understandable. It is painful and we don't want to be reminded of our own mortality, but we would be better equipped to deal with the issue if we were brave enough to face suicide and become familiar with its features. The ability to recognise the enemy would give us a better chance of knowing when help should be sought.
Seeing the photographs of the young suicide victims reminded me of two young women I used to know but had not thought of for some time. I was friends with both these women but they never met each other. Their lives, however, strangely paralleled each other for a while when they reached the age of 25.
My friend Janet had been engaged for two years and was looking forward to a traditional white wedding. The wedding dress and cake had been made and the big day was only two weeks in the future when her fiancé abruptly broke off the engagement. She was quietly devastated. Janet was a warm person with a wonderful sense of humour but she was not a pretty girl - not ugly - just not a head turner and she was rather shy. Being jilted shattered her self-confidence and she suffered through several lonely years before finding another boyfriend. He treated her abysmally but she felt that it was better to put up with his behaviour than to face the loneliness of being single. By then Janet was approaching the dreaded 30th birthday and felt like everybody else in the world was married. I was relieved when she finally found the courage to end that relationship.
My other friend was Cathy. Like Janet, she was jilted only a couple of weeks before her wedding was due to take place; with impeccable timing her fiancé chose to dump her on the very day her wedding dress was delivered. Cathy was a charming, sweet girl but, unlike Janet, she was also extremely pretty and outgoing. Cathy had many friends and, with her good looks and bubbly character, was very attractive to men. She bounced back from the rejection and had a new suitor within a matter of months. I thought her new boyfriend was much nicer in every way than the former fiancé and that the jilting had been a blessing in disguise.
The last time I spoke to Janet she was blissfully happy. She had met and married a lovely man and was living by the coast with him and their two gorgeous children. Cathy never married; she hanged herself at the age of 26. We were all utterly shocked: we had not realised that Cathy was hiding deep depression behind her pretty smile.