Big Red Car here on a lovely sunny Sunday morning to discuss a somber subject. Suicide.
We never really know what demons another person is wrestling with. I have come to realize that everybody has their demons. Nobody is demon free.
What can we do, Big Red Car?
On a day-to-day basis, it feels like there are only four things we can do:
1. Be aware that people have demons. Almost every recent suicide has been short on warning signals. Crank your demon detector up, y’all.
2. Smile at people. Sounds goofy, trite, shallow, but, sometimes, all a person needs to stay connected to life is a connection. Smile and chat with people. Be that connection?
3. Pump sunshine. Be positive. Be optimistic. It is contagious. Suicide is almost always connected to depression and darkness. Throw a bit of light on the darkness. Light always wins.
4. When you see something, when you get the call — come running. It is a call to action. Do not be afraid to react. There has to be someone there to talk someone off the ledge. Somebody has to do the talking.
Mental illness professionals (note I am not calling them mental “health” professionals for a reason) suggest that people contemplate suicide, reject it, and then make a split second decision to act. [No idea how they obtain that data given the circumstances.]
Understand this. Somebody left alone in an instant of darkness can act in a second. Be vigilant. Be aware.
A doctor in the Army once said to me, “Mental illness is just like having a serious physical illness, like bronchitis or the flu. Would you tell someone to “think” their way out of bronchitis? Would you tell them the flu is just in their head?”
That perspective has stuck with me.
When someone is mentally ill, they need to get outside medical assistance.
We tend to be embarrassed about mental illness, but are we equally embarrassed about bronchitis or getting the flu?
Act on it. Now. If you see it in others, try to nudge them in the direction of getting professional help.
As a veteran, I have come into contact with soldiers suffering from PTSD. You can feel it. You can see it. You can smell it. The problem is it feels like something which will cure itself. It will not.
We have lost more men to suicide than we did to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hello, America!
The suicide numbers on veteran suicides are staggering. [The numbers on youth suicide are also staggering. Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst youth 15-24!]
The Veterans Admin (The US Department of Veterans Affairs) released a study in 2013 which was based on VA hospital info from 1999-2010 (3,000,000 records, 20 states) which showed the rate of veteran suicides to be 22/day – one veteran killing himself/herself every 65 minutes.
This study was supplemented by another study released in 2016 which used a broader sample from 1974 to 2014 on a state-by-state basis which concluded that veterans were killing themselves at the rate of 20/day.
Women are disproportionately impacted by military service. The rate for women suicides of those who never served (2000-2010) is 5.8/100,000 while amongst female vets it is 28.7/100,000.
I could ramble on for a few thousand pages about the statistics, but I won’t.
Today, take a second to think about the people in your life, yourself. If they or you need help. Get it. Screw being reticent or embarrassed. Stop trying to self-medicate. I want you to be here tomorrow and for a lot of tomorrows.
One by one. A single action by all of us.