I hope this email finds you well and enjoy this slow transition into fall.
First a few updates for the week:
September is Suicide Prevention Month and September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day. More than 47,500 die by suicide each year, and suicide is the 4th leading cause of death for people between the ages of 34 and 54 in this nation and the twelfth leading cause of death across all ages.
Suicide prevention starts when we accept that life is an act of courage.
Part of the challenge in preventing suicide is the stigma that surrounds it. Every day, 130 people die by suicide. For every life that ends through suicide, twenty-five more suicides are stopped. In 2020, over 70% of those who died were white males of all ages. By comparison, only 39 people die in accidents with impaired drivers in this nation each day.
When I was a little girl, one of my playmates and friends was a girl named Amy Lopez. Her parents joined mine in Jaycee activities, and we grew up together.
Like my own, Amy’s entire family was gifted and connected through music. My aunt and her mother played in a band that toured the western states. In adulthood, Amy and her brother Matt founded different bands and released albums. Amy married Derrick Ross, moved to Bisbee, Arizona and created their band - Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl. For over thirteen years, they wrote and created music and a life together.
In October of 2013, Amy died from an infection related to lupus. Derrick seemed okay, told friends and family he was fine. On the way home from the hospital, he stopped, bought a gun, and went home, where he died by suicide that night. Amy was 40. Derrick was 39.
Often the world floods us with messages on how to care for our physical bodies, but to prevent suicide, we must put the same intent and care into helping people care for their mental health. Wounds to our hearts, our minds, our deepest center need treatment just as failing physical bodies do. Physical bodies do not always survive these life-saving methods, and neither will treatment save all from suicide.
We all have times when life is hard. Belonging means doing our best to care for each other during those times, to sit in the grief and trauma and be a presence in another person’s worst moments. Belonging is easy when it involves parties and awards. It is harder when to belong we must help carry a grief that seems impossible to bear.
For those of us left behind, we mourn, but we also carry another burden – could we have done one more thing, taken one more step, to prevent this loss?
A surgeon who loses a patient does not stop performing life-saving surgery to save others, and the fight to prevent suicide must keep pressing toward the creation of a world where all people know they belong, and through their belonging find resiliency even when life seems hard and overwhelming.
130 people dying is 130 families, friends, and circles of connection missing a spoke to their wheel. Each day, at least 9,125 people become survivors of a suicide attempt. When we finally can recognize and celebrate their recovery in the same way we celebrate survivors of other life-threatening diseases, then we are one step closer to a world where suicide can be prevented.
A documentary will be released this year about Amy Lopez Ross and Derrick Ross, their life, their love story, their music, and their deaths.
“If only I could stop one heart from breaking, I would not have lived in vain
If I could ease one life the aching, or cool one pain” – Amy and Derrick Ross
IF YOU NEED HELP, The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 200+ crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
If you are part of the circle of someone who is struggling, the Lifeline also recommends six steps.
1. ASK. Research shows people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks after them in a caring way. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation.
2. BE THERE. Individuals are more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful by after speaking to someone who listens without judgment.
3. KEEP THEM SAFE. A number of studies have indicated that when lethal means are made less available or less deadly, suicide rates by that method decline, and frequently suicide rates overall decline.
4. HELP THEM STAY CONNECTED. Studies indicate that helping someone at risk create a network of resources and individuals for support and safety can help them take positive action and reduce feelings of hopelessness.
5. FOLLOW UP. Studies have also shown that brief, low cost intervention and supportive, ongoing contact may be an important part of suicide prevention, especially for individuals after they have been discharged from hospitals or care services.
6. PROMOTE. Get message kits, resources, events and more at the official website, and post them or promote them in your networks and circles.