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Suicides Leave Lasting Effects on Friends, Family


September is suicide prevention month in the United States.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers suicide a worldwide problem.

WHO reports that 800,000 people take their own lives each year. On average, a person commits suicide every 40 seconds, it said.

WHO officials say suicides have long-lasting effects on the family members and friends left behind.

People not only feel very sad about the death, but feel guilt for not taking action they think might have prevented the suicide.

A Woman Who Lost Her Father and Son to Suicide

Dorothy Paugh was nine years old when her father shot himself to death.

“I count that day as the last day of my childhood,” Paugh said. “Because from that moment on, I had no sense of security. I had no sense that the world was a safe place.”

She made her comments as she stood near her father’s burial place at Arlington National Cemetery, just outside of Washington D.C. It is where American war veterans are buried. Her father served in the U.S. military during World War II.

Dorothy Paugh’s life was shaken again -- 50 years after her dad’s suicide. Her son Peter bought a gun for protection. Peter would go on to take his life at the age of 25.

Paugh looks at a photograph of her son. “This is my favorite picture of Peter because he has a hint of a smile,” she said.

Paugh said it is important that people not see those who take their own lives as cowards. “Because my father was brave,” she said. “He fought in World War II….I think he just got overwhelmed.”

Veterans Trying to Stop Suicides

Seven hundred fifty U.S. military veterans rode bicycles 110 miles from Arlington, Virginia to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. They wanted to bring attention to the continuing problem of suicides.

One of the riders was retired Army Sergeant Norberto Roman of Puerto Rico. “Our mission is to stop the suicides,” he said.

Suicide is a very personal to Roman.

“I tried to commit suicide myself in Iraq and I went through eight years of hell, through PTSD treatment and I’m blessed to be here today,” he said.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is known by the letters PTSD. The National Institute of Mental Health describes it as a condition suffered by individuals who experienced a shocking, frightening or dangerous event.

More Action is Needed

The World Health Organization said in its recent report that more action can be taken to reduce suicides.

Many people who commit suicide do so by swallowing poison, using a gun or taking an overdose of drugs, WHO officials said. They added that people should try harder to keep those things away from individuals who might use them to hurt themselves or others.

It would also be helpful to reduce the stigma of suicide, WHO said. A stigma is when people have a poor or bad opinion about something, often for no good reason. The stigma makes people afraid to ask for help when they are thinking of taking their own lives, the WHO report said.

Paugh, who lost her father and son to suicide, now works to inform people about the problem. She urges them to take action if they have reason to think a friend or relative is considering suicide.

“If we think someone may be troubled, ask them outright if they are having thoughts of suicide,” Paugh said. It is not an easy discussion, but it is much better “than a funeral,” she added.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 15-29 years old, according to the World Health Organization.

I’m Bruce Alpert.

Carol Pearson reported this story for VOANews.com. Bruce Alpert adapted the story and did additional reporting for Learning English. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­George Grow was the editor.

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Words in this Story

commit -- v. to say you will do something

moment -- n. a particular time

hint -- n. a very small amount of something

coward -- n. someone who is too afraid to do what is right or expected

overwhelmed -- v. to affect someone very strongly

bicycle -- n. a 2-wheeled vehicle that a person rides by pushing on foot pedals

mission -- n. a task or job that someone is given to do

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