by Robert Kenneth Jones

This is the truth. We are experiencing a dramatic rise in suicide in The United States.

While other causes of death are on the decline, suicide is climbing…and it’s doing so for every age group under 75. Suicide is the second-highest cause of death for 15 to 34 year-olds with the phenomenon of ‘suicide contagion’ or copycat suicide ever-increasing among teens.  The suicide rate in the United States has grown by 24 percent over the last 15 years. Don’t you wish this was fake news?  But it’s not.

Music and Youth Culture Raise Suicide Awareness

Logic, the American rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer has released a track on his most recent and third studio album called Everybody with the title, “1-800-273-8255” featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid in an effort to increase awareness and put a personal face on suicide.  The song offers up the 800 number to guide people, especially his young audience, to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The hit song turned out to have incredible impact in 2017. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) says they received a 50 percent surge in calls last year after the April release of his new track.  Logic performed the record at the 2018 Grammys.  The NSPL revealed that in the two hours following Logic’s performance of the track counselors received three times the amount of calls they usually receive in that time period.

It Feels Like it’s My Fault

I am no stranger to suicide.  My work as a human services provider has all too often brought me to the broken hearts of those who are contemplating suicide as well as those that have loved a person who ended their own life. It’s hard to find anyone who is untouched by this.  My own family has suffered through several. Each one has left us in a state of confusion and self-blame. I can never forget the awful notifications.  I can never forget having to then break the news to loved ones. The memories are so vivid.  I can never forget.

Along with the fact that suicide is devastating and painful, it is also highly stigmatized. Its illusion of shame elicits a code of silence creating an even deeper misery.  By ending this code of silence and destigmatizing suicide (and other mental health issues) the desolation they cause will be diminished. John Nieuwenburg is an award winning business coach who addresses the way that we might move beyond silence and shame. His TEDx Talk is a must see for those who suffer, family members, friends, human service providers and Chaplains.

New Trends in Suicide Prevention: Brain Science and ACES

Prevention is possible.  It is important to understand the risk and to know the facts. We are beginning to better understand the suicidal brain through new scanning techniques.  Studying differences in the brains of suicide attempters and depressed individuals who never attempt suicide may help in developing better treatments. The incredible work being done with adverse childhood experiences (ACES) is leading us to believe that cumulative trauma in children increases suicide ideation in adults.  A whole new treatment protocol is being established in communities like Memphis where schools, parents, hospitals, physicians, and other human service providers are being trained to recognize, screen for, and deal with trauma with its long term consequences. We have learned that 50 percent of lifetime mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, personality disorders, suicide ideation and PTSD begin by age 14. Do you want to be the one to help?  Here is a useful hashtag tool that might lead you in the right direction. #BeThe1To

The Startling Truth of Blue Suicide

There is an alarming increase in police officer suicide that escapes national attention.  ‘Blue Lives Matter’ is more than a slogan. These men and women who bravely serve and protect us face trauma or the threat of trauma every day they go to work.  Like veterans of war, they are likely to think about suicide and act on those thoughts much more frequently than the average adult.  Dr. David J. Fair, President and C.E.O. Homeland Crisis Institute Crisis Intervention, Training, Consulting and Response wrote recently that; “Police officers must deal with  Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) daily. With officers being killed on almost a daily basis PTSD is raging. Not just for the officers where the shooting happened but on a national basis with something called Secondary PTSD. You can’t work in law enforcement and not be affected by a police officer being injured or killed.”  The Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention has created a study guide for Chaplains and other counselors.  We are told that more law enforcement officers in The United States die by their own hand than are killed by felons. We must help break the silence and elevate suicide prevention efforts for the sake of our dedicated public servants, their families and communities.

Creating Suicide Programs and Ending the Silence

There is so much more to be said.  Worldwide, 350 million people (that’s 5 percent of the population) struggling with depression every day. They are suffering and sometimes dying in silence because we can’t seem to talk openly about it. We must push the conversation forward. Middle and high school health classes would be a perfect place to begin the dialogue. But precious few programs exist. Instead remain silent or we continue to put most of our efforts into post-vention.

Let’s get out of our cycle of denial by admitting openly that these issues are real and lethal.  Perhaps then, a Power Greater Than Ourselves can restore us to sanity.