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National Survivors Of Suicide Day

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It comes around every year -- the Saturday before Thanksgiving is the day Congress has called National Survivors of Suicide Day.

What this means to me is that it's time to reflect on the more than 7,000,000 Americans who are left behind after the suicide of a friend, family member, or colleague.

While "only" 30,000 people kill themselves every year, many more tens of thousands are left behind to mourn and live the rest of their lives trying to figure out what they might have done to prevent the suicide. And the number of 7 million is my conservative estimate of how many there are at this point in time.

This Saturday I'll be speaking at the newly formed Westchester chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I'll remind people that they are not to blame. They could have done little or nothing to keep a friend or family member from suicide. People who kill themselves are ill and are propelled toward death because of depression or other illnesses. Those of us who survive can mourn, but we should not blame ourselves or treat ourselves badly.

That is the message of this day.

This year I'm also thinking about the men and women who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan damaged by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; whose families cannot connect with them; who are killing themselves in greater numbers than ever before. This mounting toll has to be doubly painful to the families; they have waited, worried sick, while their sons, daughters, wives, and husbands go off to war. Now, they have to mourn the death of those they love.

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