AP NEWS

Silent suffering

December 15, 2018

STAMFORD — The apparent suicides of two men last week were tragic evidence of a reality some might find shocking: Middle-aged men are at far more at risk of suicide in Connecticut than women or men of other ages.

Stamford police on Friday identified the man who shot himself in a parking lot on Harvard Avenue sometime Wednesday morning as 49-year-old Steven Fockens of Greenwich. Police have not yet released the name of the 50-year-old man who they said ran onto the tracks and was struck and killed by a Metro-North train in Darien Thursday night.

Circumstances of their lives surely differed, but each of those lives appear to have ended as part of a grim trend dating back at least 25 years: Men in the state kill themselves at an alarming rate. Last year, it was close to one per day.

In 2017, 304 men killed themselves, to 98 women, according to statistics from the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Last year, 72 men between the ages of 50 and 59 killed themselves — the most of any age range. That was followed by the 45 men between ages 40 and 49 who killed themselves, the medical examiner’s statistics show.

“Unfortunately, during the holiday season, historically we have seen an increase of suicides and suicide attempts,” Stamford police Capt. Richard Conklin said. Anyone having suicidal thoughts should call a hotline or find someone to talk to even if that means a police officer, who will help, he said.

“Any loved ones, associates, fellow workers hearing about someone going through tough times should not disregard this,” Conklin said. “Give us a call and we can interact with this person and hopefully get them the help they need.”

Andrew Gerber, president and medical director at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, said the holidays can “stir up a lot of negative feelings for a lot of people.”

During the holidays, people can be exposed to family members who bring back painful experiences, he added.

“As a professional, it’s not unusual for patients that I’m dealing with to speak about who they are going to see,” Gerber said. “In an extreme version, that can lead to suicidal situations.”

Though Gerber said he isn’t aware of a percentage increase of suicides during the holidays, the winter season itself can also contribute to depression.

“It’s been long known as the days get shorter and there’s less light, certain people are affected by the amount of light available,” Gerber said.

Regardless of the cause, those suffering from negative emotions need to deal with them like any other physical ailment.

“It’s very valuable to work with professionals to anticipate any situation,” Gerber said. “Then you can plan in advance how to deal with it.”

For those struggling with mental health issues or contemplating suicide, there are resources that can offer support.

Young people in distress can call Mobile Crisis Intervention Services at 211 or 800-203-1234. Anyone can phone the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.

If someone prefers written communication, Lifeline Crisis Chat is available 24/7 at  chat.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx .

jnickerson@stamfordadvocate.com

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