By Eileen Fleming
Every day in Gaza at least one person attempts suicide. In the USA someone dies by suicide every 12.8 minutes.
The Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, which was destroyed during last summer’s assault by Israel, announced that at least one person attempted suicide every day.
The reasons for increasing suicide rates in the West Bank were are due to psychological disorders, resulting from the worsening social, political and financial situations.
A quarter of the Palestinian population lives in poverty, with the rate in Gaza twice as high as that in the West Bank.
In addition, the 51-day Israeli offensive last summer on Gaza killed more than 2,200 people, about 500 of them children under the age of 11.
The aggression also demolished 19,000 homes creating 100,000 homeless people and causing more social disintegration, despair and existential crises, leaving the victim obsessing over escaping.
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention suicide ranks as the tenth leading cause of death and the second leading killer among US citizens age 15-34.
At least 90 percent of all people who died by suicide were suffering from a mental illness at the time, most often depression. Among people who are depressed, intense emotional states such as desperation, hopelessness, anxiety, or rage increase the risk of suicide. People who are impulsive, or who use alcohol and drugs, are also at higher risk.
Because every suicide is preventable and this sister’s brother, James Alexander Kasmir died by self-inflicted strangulation, this reporter spoke with Peter Wood, Tallahassee’s organizer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Community Walk
Peter Wood said:
Being based in Florida, where there is a sizeable Jewish population and the Israel-Palestine conflict is a prominent concern for many, I think my ongoing work on suicide and mental health awareness is directly related to these global trends in psychological and sociological anguish.
I’m currently organizing an event for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention through two groups I’m involved with: the Secular Student Alliance at Florida State University, and the Center for Inquiry of Tallahassee (FL).
Each year AFSP holds two national-level gatherings called Out of the Darkness Overnight Walks. Being a bit far from Dallas and Boston (this year’s two locations) I decided to organize a Community Walk in the state capital of Tallahassee for this coming October 24.
Suicide is a common, appallingly underfunded method of death throughout the world, which is why SSA and CFI are so eager to change that status quo. AFSP’s community walks are a great way to enhance awareness and bring those affected by suicide and mental illness together in a supportive environment.
One of the most exciting things for me about this walk is the larger opportunity to show the important role secularism has in advocating for mental healthcare. The greater Levant is a clear example of how religious affiliation can complicate already complicated issues like cultural and geopolitical conflict. In Florida, like anywhere, maintaining separation of church and state is needed as much as ever. CFI and SSA are two of the largest groups in the world who convey this message well, that both religions and governments suffer when the line between them is blurred.
While organizing this Community Walk is exciting for the local community of Tallahassee, I am equally excited by the chance to bring attention to Florida as a national beacon for progress in mental health awareness. Huge social stigmas exist regarding conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and many others.
There are amazing organizations out there already committed to fixing this problem; by bringing them together in Tallahassee I hope to be part of an already inspiring trend of supporting research, rehabilitation, and family counseling for the millions who are impacted by mental health illnesses.
HOPE has two children. The first is ANGER at the way things are. The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it.-St. Augustine
This reporter’s hope is that my brother’s pain that led to his death by suicide not be in vain and that requires breaking the silence which is the only way to end the epidemic of suicide.
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