The stigma and the truth: Suicide by the numbers

The Grief Project Blog

When our son Ian died of suicide in September 2021, we could have remained silent in our grief, hiding his true cause of death and hoping no one would ask. But doing so would have made us complicit in the stigma and ignorance surrounding suicide and mental health. Doing so would have betrayed his memory and implied we were ashamed of how he had died. We are not. We’re heartbroken that he’s gone.

One of the most harmful misconceptions about suicide is the idea that it’s something someone actively chooses to do to themselves. I don’t believe that’s true. That’s like blaming someone for having cancer or a heart attack or diabetes.

Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions, race, gender, gender identity, substance abuse and age all play a role in determining who is most at risk of suicide.

People suffering with major depressive disorder and other mental illnesses who take their lives are ultimately dying from a disease. 

As someone who has suffered with chronic major depressive disorder for most of my adult life, I’ve stood on that ledge. For me it was the top of six-story parking garage, where I called my wife just to hear her voice because I knew for certain I was about to jump. Hearing her voice brought me back, but I was reluctant to seek the help I really needed.

Not until the morning that I couldn’t get out of bed for the fear and dread engulfing me did I admit I needed more help than I was getting from a mild anti-depressant and a low-dose of alprazolam.

If I’d been alone and had the means that day, I would have used it.

Ian lived alone and had purchased a gun we didn’t know about. Living alone with access to firearms are two of the most significant risk factors among young men for a depressive episode ending in suicide. Being alone with your feelings with ready access to lethal means virtually ensures how the story will end.

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, with 47,646 deaths in 2021, an increase of nearly four percent over 2020,  according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If you are experiencing mental health-related distress or are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support, contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

• Call or text 988 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
• 988 is confidential, free, and available 24-hours-a-day.


For more information, visit the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at



Published by Tim Rowden

The Grief Project is dedicated to sharing the stories of suicide loss survivors as well as information and research on suicide, mental health, advocacy and prevention. I’m a suicide loss survivor, husband, father, writer and journalist, with 33 years experience as a reporter and editor. I believe sharing our stories can help help others who are struggling, whether they are loss survivors or struggling with depression or other mental health issues. We honor them and honor our loved ones by sharing our stories.

One thought on “The stigma and the truth: Suicide by the numbers

  1. I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful son. Thank You for sharing your story,for helping to raise awareness and Suicide prevention. I too lost my precious son Andrew 10/20/2020. We are never the same.


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