by Pride Transport | Jan 16, 2020
There is a moment when dark is more than just the lack of light in a room. When it is a physical presence. When it consumes your every thought. At that moment, there is a feeling that nothing will heal, no one will understand, no words will help. It feels as if all is futility, all is without purpose and this world is no longer the place you want to be. For millions of people, that feeling is a daily struggle. That darkness is too real.
On the website of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, you can click on a link that will tell you where the next walk is and how to get involved. The walks are held to raise awareness about suicide, ways to prevent it and how to cope when someone you love has taken their own life. The walks are called “Out of the Darkness”.
If you’ve never dealt with depression or pain or loss, if you’ve never thought that taking your own life is the only option then, perhaps you’re not familiar with the darkness. Here’s what the darkness looks like:
On average 129 Americans die by suicide every day.
1.4 million Americans attempt suicide.
In 2019, 47,173 Americans died by suicide
The 2nd leading cause of death in people ages 15-34
The 4th leading cause of death in people ages 35-54
The 10th leading cause of death in the United States
There are more stats such as men died by suicide 3.5 times more often than women. Women are 1.4 times more likely to attempt suicide. Suicide rates are 1.6 times higher among American Indians/Alaska Native adolescents and young adults.
These are, of course, statistics, numbers. But behind the numbers and the calculations that create these statistics are people. Human beings. Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, cousins and acquaintances. People you may encounter every day. People who drop their kids off at school, the same as you, people who work in your favorite shop or restaurant. People. Everyday people.
The difference is these people are in pain. Here’s another statistic; 90% of those who died by suicide had a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death.
The Causes of Suicide are Complex
There are many reasons that cause people to feel they’ve hit their limit and decide that it’s time to end it all. That “all” can be a number of things. The risk factors for suicide can include depression, substance abuse problems, serious mental illness, serious physical health issues including chronic pain.
Social isolation is also a major factor when it comes to suicide. Loneliness. The feeling of having no one to talk to when going through a difficult or a number of difficult situations. This can be serious factor that leads to suicide.
Suicide is Misunderstood
Think about the language we attach to suicide; someone takes their own life, someone commits suicide. This language is connected to an old idea of suicide. Until 1961 suicide was considered a criminal offense, alongside murder and rape. If you tried to kill yourself and failed you were prosecuted as a criminal. This is an outdated idea and although the criminality has been dropped, the stigma that suicide is criminal, in some way, remains.
Because suicide still carries a stigma of being a crime, it creates a sense that the suffering person is being or acting in a selfish manner instead of recognizing that their pain has far outrun their coping mechanisms.
We mourn and express shock when someone famous takes their life. There was great shock when David Foster Wallace, Kate Spade, and Anthony Bourdain ended their lives. If these famous suicides tell us one thing it’s that the external trappings of success or happiness, the notion that someone “has it all”- are in no way a truthful indicator of emotional contentment.
This is one of the things that makes suicide so difficult to spot and prevent
The Isolation of the Truck Driver
One of the facts of being a truck driver is you tend to spend a lot of time alone. Long haul drivers especially have extended periods of being alone in the cab, alone on the road, alone with their thoughts.
Although people who like solitude are a good fit for the trucking industry, being alone can quickly turn to being lonely. Being lonely can quickly turn a driver’s thoughts to suicide if they’re already dealing with other issues like substance abuse problems or troubles at home.
Truck drivers are 5th on the list of highest risk for work-related suicide. The trucking industry has been classified as one of the highest risk occupations in the United States. The stress, the loneliness can clearly be seen as factors in making truck driver suicide risk so high.
It cannot be stated enough how important truck drivers are the economy and the well being of this nation. $700.4 billion worth of goods is moved by trucker drivers on a daily basis. If they stopped driving the country would grind to a complete halt in a matter of days. The level of mayhem and loss that we, as a nation, would experience would simply be catastrophic.
Just for a taste: in the United States all 55,000 pharmacies receive goods and drugs daily via truck delivery. Without truck drivers, the medical supplies would quickly run out.
The importance of truck drivers cannot be underestimated and yet, for all they do, they don’t receive half the respect or thanks they deserve. This lack of respect and understanding of what they do for us certainly contributes to their high risk of suicide.
On top of the lack of recognition, truck drivers have a number of stressors to contend with. Time pressures, social isolation, disrespectful treatment from other drivers, driving hazards such as weather changes, traffic, poor road conditions, people who don’t understand that a truck cannot stop on a dime like a bicycle, violence, and fear of violence all make up the daily life of a truck driver.
Because of all these factors, mental health promotion and treatment for truck drivers is vital.
What To Do
First and foremost, it’s important to let truck drivers know that they are not alone when they don’t want to be and make sure they have someone to talk to. Someone in the company, a hotline, friends, family. Surround truck drivers with people and the opportunities to talk about life, troubles and even thoughts of suicide.
Set these situations up and make sure they are free of judgment and the old, outdated stigmas behind suicidal feelings. Suicidal thoughts are not crimes to be shunned. They’re real feelings, frightening feelings that can be dealt with and handled with care and understanding.
Do things that allow the community to understand and learn about how important truck drivers are to the country. Make a real effort to dispel all the old, negative stereotypes about truck drivers and show how diverse, interesting and caring truck drivers really are.
Since there is a very strong link between depression and suicide, it helps to recognize the symptoms of depression before they get to the level of suicide. All the stressors truck drivers deal with can easily lead to depression which then can become too much to handle and end in suicide. Symptoms may vary from mild to severe and they may include:
Having a short fuse, quick to anger
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
Change in appetite -weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
Trouble falling asleep or sleeping too much
Loss of energy is increased fatigue
Increase in purposeless physical activity; hand-wringing, pacing. Slowed movement and speech which would be observable by others.
Feeling worthless or guilty
Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
Continued thoughts of death or suicide
If you experience any of these yourself or if you see someone struggling with these symptoms, especially the last one, seek help right away. Don’t wait for it to pass or try to tough it out, talk to someone and get on top of it right away.
Help is available, ask for it, don't be afraid. Remember, suicide is a choice you can never come back from.
Make sure this information is posted where all can see it, it may save a life:
National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI) Hotline:
24/7/365 Crisis Hotline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline