Like millions of Americans Junior Nicole Hogarty never thought it could happen to her. Suddenly in January of 2001 her life took a traumatic turn never to be the same again.
Hogarty had just returned home from celebrating Christmas with her mom ready to start the spring semester. On the fifth day of classes she found out her mother had committed suicide in a hotel in New Mexico.
In 1996 according to the surgeon general, the year for which the most recent statistics are available, suicide was the eight leading cause of mortality in the United States. Nearly 31,000 deaths occur from suicide. This number is more than 50% higher than the number of homicides in the United States in the same year.
“I didn’t expect it to happen to me, my life was really good,” Hogarty said, who up until then thought her life was perfect.
Hogarty had been trying to reach her mom to settle her car repair payment from when she had gotten into a car accident two months earlier. After repeatedly calling her mother’s hotel room with no response, Hogarty alerted the front desk.
Waiting three states away, she later found out her mother had taken her life. According to Hogarty, she had locked herself in the room and swallowed over 500 pills she had received from her psychiatrist who was treating her for posttraumatic stress.
“People are always trying to sum you up to figure out why this happened to you and your family,” Hogarty said.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 90% of all cases of suicide are associated with mental disorders such as depression and drug abuse.
However suicide results from many complex sociocultural factors. It is more likely to occur during periods of socioeconomic, family and individual crisis.
Through several letters left behind, Hogarty discovered her mom had taken her life because of feelings of isolation and relationship and financial difficulties.
Hogarty 19 at the time, who recalled her parents never talking to her about death before, being sheltered and facing anxiety attacks, had to grow up very fast. With her parents divorced, Hogarty took on the daunting task of arranging for her mom’s funeral, managing her debt and taking care of her mom’s estate.
“I don’t know how I got the courage. I made the phone calls, I got two jobs to support myself and I took time off from school,” Hogarty said.
Dealing with her mother’s suicide has increased Hogarty’s awareness to the lack of resources available for young people with a parent who committed suicide. The difficulty of finding a support group, job discrimination when she mentioned her mother’s suicide has prompted Hogarty to enter the field of psychology.
“I want to be a psychologists, to make sure what happened to my mom doesn’t happen to other people, Hogarty said. “I want to make sure that suicide comes down as such a high level cause of death and that people who are left behind have resources available. I don’t believe that they do right now.”
Hogarty is one millions of people dealing with a loved one who has committed suicide. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services every 42 seconds someone attempts suicide. Every 17 minutes someone dies by suicide.
Approximately 500,000 people in the U.S require emergency room treatment as a result of attempted suicide according to the Surgeon general. For a Mills Undergraduate who once attempted suicide those statistics come too close to home. Suicide for many she said is a permanent way to end feelings of despair and emotional pain.
“I really wanted to die, she said. “If I were gone I just wouldn’t feel pain anymore.”
The World Health Organization reports that in the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide.
It is now among the third leading cause of death among those aged 15-44.