September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

I had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. I spent time with great friends, ate great food, and Auburn won its season opener against Washington State. It wasn’t pretty, but after last season, a win is a win.

Jordan-Hare Stadium, Aug 31, 2013, Auburn vs Washington State

Jordan-Hare Stadium, Aug 31, 2013, Auburn vs Washington State

My friend, Tony from Shreveport, was in town and it was my pleasure to show him around Opelika and Auburn. One of my lifelong friends generously provided two tickets for us to attend the game. Tony, an LSU fan, had never been to an Auburn game but he enjoyed every minute of it while wearing one of my Auburn shirts no less.

He was in town for a reason. Better yet, he was not in Shreveport for a reason.

Two years ago, over Labor Day weekend, Tori, Tony’s daughter, took her own life. She was just 27 years old.

My heart still aches for my friend.

My mom’s co-worker committed suicide when I was a kid. One of my friends committed suicide in high school. A cousin I never met committed suicide last year.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

World Suicide Prevention Day is observed on September 10 each year to promote worldwide action to prevent suicides. Various events and activities are held during this occasion to raise awareness that suicide is a preventable cause of premature death.

World Suicide Prevention Day gives organizations, government agencies and individuals a chance to promote awareness about suicide, mental illnesses associated with suicide, as well as suicide prevention.

I’ve been in Birmingham this week teaching Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) to a group of my fellow soldiers from the Alabama National Guard.

Per the Living Works website, ASIST is a two-day interactive workshop in suicide first-aid. It is suitable for all types of caregivers including health workers, teachers, community workers, youth workers, volunteers, and people responding to family, friends and co-workers.

Most people thinking about suicide signal and share their pain and offer us opportunities to respond.

Suicide intervention training can help all of us see, hear and respond to these invitations. It can also increase our confidence to ask about suicide when someone’s safety may be in the balance.

If someone is at risk, suicide first aid prepares us to work with them to increase their immediate safety and get further help.

If suicide is a problem among the general population, then it is an epidemic among our current military and veterans.

In 2010, with respect to the general US population, 13 per 100K people committed suicide. During that same time period, with respect to those in the US Army, 28 per 100K did the same, which is clearly more than double the rate of their civilian counterparts.

My old boss, Major General (Ret.) Mark Graham, lost a son to suicide and is now a strong advocate for suicide prevention.

My old boss, Major General (Ret.) Mark Graham, lost a son to suicide and is now a strong advocate for suicide prevention.

These numbers do not take into account unreported suicides which might include drug overdoses, single vehicle accidents, and other reported accidents.

A member of the Alabama National Guard committed suicide Monday night.

Another guy I served with took his own life last week.

On my first tour in Iraq, a young soldier from my brigade walked into a portalet with his M16 and never walked out.

On my second tour, a sergeant from my battalion did the deed on the porch of his company’s headquarters.

On my 3rd tour, a fellow captain and company commander attempted suicide but failed to complete the act. He has permanent brain damage and will never be the same.

Even more alarming, veterans, spanning all generations, commit suicide every 80 minutes.

Faced with the stigma of post-traumatic stress disorder, unemployment, and a loss of military camaraderie, many veterans feel they have no purpose upon returning home and feel a real sense of hopelessness.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has made great strides in countering this epidemic, but, sadly, it’s too late for many.

September is a time for us to shine a light on suicide prevention and awareness but keeping our eyes and ears open for our friends, families, and co-workers should be a year-round obligation.

Though the warning signs can be subtle, they are there. By recognizing these signs, knowing how to start a conversation and where to turn for help, you have the power to make a difference – the power to save a life.

Suicide_prevention-DOD

Suicide Risk Factors

Suicide Risk Factors

Suicide Lifeline

Writer’s note: I do not claim to be an expert on anything related to suicide. I just care.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He continues to serve in the Alabama National Guard and is a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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12 thoughts on “September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

  1. I have been fighting depression for going on twelve years now, and can tell you it is no easy battle.I daily hurt myself emotionally and deprive my own family the love and understanding they deserve. after years of this battle I now know, it’s not me, but a illness that I struggle with daily.I hit an all time low recently, suicide is all I could think of. thankfully I had others there to help. keep strong is all I can say. there is so much to live for,I have to keep telling myself this very thing. Day by day, struggle by struggle, it will get better. just keep the faith and remember those who would dearly miss you. stay strong, there is better days to come.

    • Thanks for your openness, Sarah. It can happen to any of us; we just have to remember, as you say, that we have so much to live for and there is a better way to deal with “it.” If you ever need to talk, I am here. Always just a FB message away from a phone call or face to face.

    • Sarah, I am so sad to hear this. I wouldn’t wish depression upon anyone, but I am so glad you have the support you need. One day at a time, right? Anytime I read about a suicide, I usually cry. I’ve had loved ones and colleagues commit suicide. I know they had to be in incredible pain to do this. And it’s so painful for those left behind, who constantly blame themselves for the suicide. I understand that having depression cannot be easy at all, and it changes your life. God bless you, Sarah.

  2. Thank you for your service to the nation and your service to all the veterans. Life is tough and for many it can be unbearable when faced with the horrors of a war. Breaks my heart anytime I hear of a veteran taking their own life.

    On a much happier note for me, I am looking forward to Arkansas State giving you guys all you want tomorrow evening. Sorry but I do not have much respect for the gus bus. Go Red Wolves. I wish all of us have problems like who was going to win a football game.

    • Thanks, robakers. It can be rough and a tough transition for many. I have been blessed personally.

      I think the ASU game will be tough for Auburn, but we should come out on top. I understand your frustration with Gus. I get it, but most coaches use small schools like that as a stepping stone for bigger/better (relative to each) opportunities. War Eagle!

      • Jody,

        Again, I am so blessed to have the biggest issue in my life is a man who I have never met coaching for your college football team. Life is truly GREAT!

        Okay, my issue with gus isn’t that he left ASU for Auburn. That is cool, just as Hugh Freeze left ASU a year earlier for Ole Miss. I would never blame a coach for taking a SEC job or any better job. My deal is that he took almost all of the coaching staff with him to Auburn. And that he did not allow any of his new Auburn assistants coach the ASU team that helped him find a new job.

        When Freeze left for Ole Miss, he left most of the coaches in place to coach the Bowl game before they joined him in Oxford.

        gus could have very easily done the same thing, but he didn’t. He took all but 4 of his coaches with him and left his former players in a bind. ASU asked for help from the local high school coaches and with some graduate assistants they team found a way to win their Bowl game.

        Tomorrow night he will face many of those players he left in a bind. Auburn should win, but the motivation factor is on the side of ASU. Either way it should be fun to watch because neither team knows what a huddle looks like. I have installed a seat belt on the couch.

        My prediction is ASU 48 Auburn 45. I will check back with you tomorrow night after Auburn wins
        69-0.

      • Jody,

        I was wrong. ASU took the beat down like a sorry Div II school. I was totally wrong and overestimated my team. I also underestimated Auburn.

        I really hope you ride the Gus Bus, beat Bama and go to the SEC Championship. You are a good sport to put up with my loser mouth.

    • Sorry, I never replied. I got the notifications at at time when I was unable to reply and then just forgot. Sucks getting old. I really am surprised with the score of the ASU game. I thought it’d be closer. Now the Miss St game was one I’ll remember for a long time but not sure I can take many more of those. It is nice knowing that in 3 games we have as many wins as we had last year. I don’t see us in the SECCG this year….maybe next. Best of luck to you guys!

  3. Pingback: NetNewsledger.com - First Nations Move on Youth Suicide

  4. Thank you for caring, Jody Fuller!!!

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