This week Lansing was shocked by the news of yet another teenage suicide.  Despite all the support groups, school programs, suicide prevention phone lines, these suicides keep happening, and it is shocking to the rest of us each time such a tragic act is committed.  Suicides may bring relief to those who commit them, but they leave devastation for the people around them.

I think we have all tried to work out our place in the universe.  When we think about how overwhelmed we little specks are in the vastness of the universe, it is hard to understand what ultimate value we must have.  Maybe that's an unwanted side effect of modern science, that we have the means to compare our puny selves to the apparently infinite universe.  But that's a trap.  We don't live in the whole universe. We live here in this small town.  We have meaning here.

And whether we think a lot or a little of ourselves, other people think of us differently than we think of ourselves.  It is easiest for those who have children or close family members -- if you don't live for yourself, live for them.  On my bleakest days I think of my children and how devastating it would be if I chose to check out.  So it's easy to make the call to keep going.  Even on days when I don't care much about myself I certainly care about my kids and my wife and friends and family.

It must be harder for folks who don't have families, but that is not the case in the suicides I know of that have taken place in Lansing.  Still, depression is not something to be taken lightly. Strong, uncontrollable feelings of despair are very real things that can be overwhelming. and it's not always easy to see when a family member or close friend has reached that level of despair.

Some symptoms are excessive sadness, moodiness, trouble sleeping, a sudden calm period that may signify the person's decision to end his or her life has already been made.  Behavior that is harmful to the person, putting his or her affairs in order, and threatening suicide are other symptoms.  Statistics show that up to 75%  of people thinking about committing suicide say something to someone.  Except for that last one, it isn't easy to recognize whether the symptom has gotten to the point where some sort of action is warranted.

Elderly men have the highest suicide rate.  One may rationalize that they are at the end of a long life, so maybe it's OK (it's not).  But when a teenager does the same thing we lament that they had their whole life ahead of them, and try to figure out why they opted out of it.

When you think someone is suicidal, trying to get them to get help is probably going to be more effective, perhaps, than trying to talk them out of it.  You can reason that there is no hurry, and maybe sticking around a little while longer to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or a local equivalent will do no harm, and may do some good.