PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – It's been a difficult week for the Local 10 family and for those of you who knew and followed our colleague, Todd Tongen.
Todd died over the weekend, and we learned Wednesday that he died by suicide.
Many people don't realize that middle-aged white men account for nearly 70 percent of all suicide deaths.
Chef Anthony Bourdain, comedian Robin Williams and high-profile dermatologist Dr. Fredric Brandt were all men who seemed to be in the prime of their lives, and their deaths by suicide sent shock waves throughout the world.
"Sometimes, they just feel hopeless and feel they have no options," Dr. Daniel Bober, a psychiatrist at Memorial Healthcare, said.
Bober said what stuns so many people about middle-aged suicide is the lack of any outward warning signs.
"This is often what we see when people kill themselves: 'But he seemed so happy. He seemed so fine.' Many times, people put on a happy face and play a role to make others think they're OK, but they're really suffering inside," Bober said.
Bober said seeing the warning signs means looking beyond some of the myths associated with suicide.
Many people contemplating taking their own life are actually ambivalent about the idea.
"Meaning they're sort of hanging between life and death," Bober explained. "In fact, 50 percent of the time, it's impulsive and not planned out over days, and only half the time do people leave a note."
So what are loved ones to do? Keep an eye out for any emotional changes. Is the person expressing a sense of hopelessness, anger or sadness? Have their eating or sleeping habits changed? Are they drinking alcohol or taking drugs that may deepen their dark mood?
For survivors, Bober said the hardest but most important thing to remember is that it's not their fault.
"When you take your own life, you're sending a shock wave through your family and friends because when you're gone, they're the ones who have to deal with the tragedy," Bober said.
Professionals in the field of suicide prevention are working toward a national goal to reduce suicide rates by 20 percent by the year 2025.
To reach that goal, greater focus is being given to high-risk groups, like men in their middle years, to make sure they receive treatment.
Below is a list of some suicide prevention resources:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
- Crisis Suicide Intervention in Broward/Switchboard of Miami: Dial 211 to reach either
- Henderson Behavior Health: 954-463-0911
- Teen Hotlines in Broward: 954-567-8336; 954-390-0485
- Phone a Friend (for kids up to the age of 13): 954-390-0486
- First Call for Seniors: 954-537-0211
- Teen Talk Line Miami-Dade: 305-377-8255
- Children and Youth Behavioral Hotline: 305-358-4357