When someone commits suicide, the first question is usually, “Why?” It’s never easy to grapple with the death of a loved one, but an intentional death can be especially devastating, especially for the victims’ families and friends who are often left with many unanswered questions.

Those who take their lives sometimes try to explain themselves through notes they leave behind. In an attempt to understand why so many people kill themselves, Cheryl Meyer, a psychology professor at Wright State University, studies suicide notes. Her findings are published in “Explaining Suicide: Patterns, Motivations and What Notes Reveal,” which Meyer co-wrote, along with three other authors.

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The book details findings concluded from over 1,200 suicide victims’ notes and files, obtained from the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office in Ohio, according to Medical Xpress. Fourteen percent of the victims wrote notes.

Although the types of notes and ways the victims choose to end their lives varied greatly, there was some common themes among the letters. They were usually addressed to a specific person and the writer most often said they committed suicide to escape difficult life circumstances, like physical or mental illness. Other notes mentioned conflict in interpersonal relationships, as well as prior events that drove them to their death.

“We looked at the connection between legal issue and suicide,” said Meyer. “There is a really strong tie between things like DUIs and killing yourself.”

Additionally, a third of writers mentioned faith, religion, or God in their notes. Other findings revealed that the greatest number of people killed themselves on the first day of the month, and the majority of those who wrote notes were women.

Meyer’s book also goes into detail about the history of suicide, content of the notes, and factors that lead to lives cut short. She concludes the book by providing recommendations for the national agenda on suicide prevention. As of 2016, suicide rates in the United States surged to the highest they've been in 3 decades. About 44,200 Americans die by suicide every year. The rate is highest among middle-aged, white men, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

See also: Suicide In America: Rate Reaches All-Time High, Especially Among Teen Girls​

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