This is an unusual post for this blog, in that it’s not going to have anything you can learn directly from it (I TRY to have something informative in most posts). And it’s fairly personal.
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week in the US, and around the world, September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. I’m hoping you’ll read this post and that you’ll contribute to the Team Jacob fundraiser mentioned at the end. So please keep reading.
There’s a great deal that I love about this world, and I don’t really want to leave it anytime soon. Although if a bus hits me tomorrow, so it goes. But that’s not the case for many, many people. One of the people who decided to leave was my brother, around this time of year, 34 years ago. He was 19. I was 13. The loss of a sibling, of someone young, is always devastating. And our family was devastated by the loss of my brother. At that place and time, suicide and mental health were deeply stigmatized. And so there were generous helpings of shame and guilt and concealment to be shared among me, my parents, and my surviving brother. I think the stigma of suicide has been slightly reduced since then, but it’s still there.
The loss of my brother was — for better and for worse — a formative experience in my life. I was shaped in the same way as if you put wet sand into a bucket. When the bucket’s removed, the sand remains formed. And many of my brother’s friends were deeply affected — maybe scarred is the right word — by it. Flowers still show up on his grave, all these years since, anonymously. Perhaps my parents were the most affected. The loss of a child is a breaking of a natural order. The loss of a child by suicide can leave feelings of failure and guilt that can change everything after.
Suicide is an IED. There may be just a crater left, but there’s shrapnel everywhere. One of the saddest, most tragic parts of suicide is that while the undeniable pain and suffering of one person ends, loved ones and friends are plunged into anguish and grief. And while healing is possible, and, for that matter, eventual, it is among the worst of pains that can be imagined. The cliche of suicide being a “permanent solution to a temporary problem” is true, for the person who dies. But for the survivors, it is a permanent problem with only temporary solutions.
So, here’s the thing. We all know that for most people, the circumstances that cause suicidal feelings can and will change. So it’s crucial that there are ways of helping people past their moments of crisis, their dark hour. And that’s what this blog post is really about. The Kristin Brooks Hope Centre, a US-based not-for-profit, operates a unique and powerful service called IMAlive. You’re probably familiar with the idea of a crisis line. Well, IMAlive offers a virtual crisis line. For those in crisis who find it more convenient to communicate via a keyboard, they can be connected with a trained volunteer who can help them get through the darkness.
This isn’t therapy. It’s not a one-time magic solution. It’s a step. A crucial first step.
Suicide takes thousands of lives each year in the US, including more than 4,000 young people. This year, a friend, Anne Weiskopf, suffered the loss of her son Jacob. Jacob was struggling with acute depression, and in a moment of darkness, was gone. She, her husband Douglas, and Jacob’s brother Jared, and a multitude of friends and relations are now working through the grieving process.
So when I heard that the Kristin Brooks centre was doing a fundraiser called the 24-7 Giving Challenge, I wanted to get involved. If the fundraiser meets its goal of raising $50,000, the IMAlive chat service will be able to operate around the clock for a year. That means that whenever someone’s in need, there can be someone there for them. That is amazing. So another mutual friend of Anne’s, Anne Marie van den Hurk, agreed to head up “Team Jacob” to honour his memory and to help see this happen.
If you believe in this cause, if you’ve lost someone to suicide, if you’ve found yourself in that dark place and been helped out by someone — please find it in your heart to give. The amount doesn’t matter. You know what you can give. There are chances at some prizes for donations at various levels, so if that’s a motivator, use that. Pass the word, too. If you donate between September 8 and 14, your donation will get counted as part of the challenge and part of Team Jacob’s total.
What else can you do? You can visit the Team Jacob page. You can learn more about IMAlive or the Kristin Brooks Hope Centre. You could reach out to someone you know needs that support. And if you’re in that dark place, reach out and ask for that support. People care about you.
Suicide is not an answer, no matter what you’re facing.
Thanks for reading this far.