By Eli Zaret, Guest Blogger
When the Sandy Hook massacre a few months back sparked the raging gun debate in America, one stunningly awful statistic rattled my thinking. The raw number, that roughly 30,000 Americans are killed by guns each year, had a startling asterisk attached: nearly 20,000 of those deaths were by suicide. How awful is that, seeing as every death devastates dozens more who missed the warning signs?
I get a chilling reaction to these stats because a suicide attempt some years back by a family member failed, and had it not, my life would have been affected in ways I shudder to dwell upon. The reason had been undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and it brought me to New Oakland to seek both treatment and answers. Fortunately, the suicide attempt had been one of the approximately 1.1 million that fail each year. Overall, 35,000 do succeed through various means. More women attempt than men, but men complete the act more often because they’re more likely to use a gun.
I learned at New Oakland that the great majority of people who experience depression, bipolar disorder or other related mental illness do not die by suicide. But of those people who do die from suicide, more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder.
Perhaps the grimmest of facts about it is that we still don’t know why people kill themselves, and that’s why we’re not very good at preventing it. Eight million people have suicidal thoughts each year, yet researchers know astonishingly little about how to treat people who contemplate killing themselves.
The subject has been so roundly ignored that the 900-page bible of psychiatry, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, offers no advice for doctors on how to assess suicide risk.
By Martha Adair, Therapist, Director, New Oakland
Ariel Castro kidnapped 3 young girls and kept them in slavery and bondage for a decade inside a house in a crowded Cleveland neighborhood. A child, now 6, born as a result of his torture and rape, saw him as a her father and would accompany him in public, while her mother and the two other captives remained locked in a dungeon-like basement.
Castro, like Hannibal Lecter, the serial killer in Silence of the Lambs, is a chillingly and classic sociopath, a man of cunning and charm who ruthlessly controlled and manipulated his victims while seeming “regular” to his many neighbors and associates who suspected absolutely nothing.
For the world at large, you and me, this embodiment of evil and disconnection from the rights and respect of others is incomprehensible.
How did Castro engage his two brothers in this? Were they sociopaths as well? Perhaps we’ll find that out as this story continues to unfold. What we do know is that Castro was brilliant in his cover up and mind manipulation, exhibiting the required glibness and superficial charm as well as all the many other intricate skills and characteristics of a sociopath, like:
Dr. Jeffrey Sendi, DO, New Oakland
It’s the age we live in. Events like the Newtown Connecticut massacre and the Boston Marathon bombings not only won’t be the last, but we also accept the reality that they might come in more rapid succession as time goes on. How we deal with these events as adults is one consideration. The other consideration is how we help our children absorb, accept and move on from this sobering modern day reality.
Emergency Room physicians like me deal with all manner of medical crises. As parents, however, we can feel as uncertain as any other adult when it comes to communicating to our kids about existential crises like the inexplicable one in Boston that confronted us this week. Continue reading