How Can We Combat Suicide Contagion?

Stop Suicide Contagion!

How Can Coffee Improve Our Mental Health?

The recent suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have left us shocked and saddened. Many, many of us have either experienced thoughts of suicide, or have loved ones who have had thoughts, attempts, or suicide completions, and these recent deaths also remind us of the deep sadness we have felt in the past.

Suicide needs to be on everyone’s radar. Suicide rates are rising rapidly in the United States, where every day more than 121 people, on average, succumb. We need to know what to do when we sense that someone we know or love is having suicidal thoughts, and we need to know where to turn when we ourselves are feeling hopeless.

“Suicide Contagion” is real.

We know that not only are suicide rates at a 30-year high, but also that suicide rates increase in the aftermath of news about celebrity suicides.

One man in Chicago, Jonny Boucher, is determined to make a difference. When his boss and mentor, Mike Scanland, became the ninth person close to Jonny who committed suicide, he decided to take action. He sought to break the stigma about suicide and bring hope to those who had been suffering in silence. In 2010 he founded the charity Hope for the Day, with a mission to foster a conversation, educate the public, and raise money for mental health and suicide prevention.

Good coffee in west LA

Recently, Hope for the Day partnered with coffee company Dark Matter to open a very special coffee shop in Chicago called Sip of Hope.  Workers at Sip of Hope are trained to talk to customers in a way that creates a safe space for them to open up, and they are able to point customers to relevant resources for further help. 100% of the profits of Sip of Hope go to suicide prevention. At Sip of Hope they understand that we can’t always be happy just because we want to, and the motto, “It’s OK not to be OK” adorns the walls and the workers’ T-shirts alike.

How can we be inspired by Jonny Boucher’s example?

1. Be Bold.

Don’t be afraid to talk about suicide.

If you suspect someone you know is contemplating suicide, ask them directly, “I care about you and I am concerned. Can you tell me about what’s going on with you? Are you thinking about hurting yourself?”

2.  1-800-273-8255

Add the Suicide Prevention Hotline number to your contacts so that you can easily share it with anyone who might need it. If you know teenagers, make sure they have it in their phones so they can share it with friends.

3. Have Resources.

Know about the resources available and be ready to share them. National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI), Suicide Prevention Resource Center, The National Council for Suicide Prevention (NCSP), the Jason Foundation (youth), and The JED Foundation (teens and young adults) all are excellent resources.

Women talking in West LA coffee shop

4. Start a Conversation.

Ask people you know if and how they have been affected by the recent deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. Maybe they also were deeply affected, as I was, by the death of Robin Williams almost four years ago.

After the death of Robin Williams, suicides in the US rose 10% for the next four months. That’s almost 2000 additional deaths.

 Right now is a critical time to reach out to anyone you know who is struggling.

It is especially important to be able to talk to teenagers about suicide. Teenager brains are not fully on-line in their executive function until their mid-20’s, or later. They often lack the ability to control their impulses and consistently make good decisions.

This is why suicide is the #2 cause of death for 12 to 24-year-olds.

 If you have a teenager in your life, read about the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why and know how to discuss this controversial show with them.

I know it can be tremendously difficult to bring up the subject of suicide. It’s one thing to talk about Anthony Bourdain, and quite another to ask someone directly if they have thought about killing themselves. Be courageous.

In the end, would you rather be the person who got told to F-off, or the person who got the phone call that a dear friend or loved one was in the hospital, or worse?

Take a risk. Make a difference.

Talking on the Venice Pier

Is it too Overwhelming?

Just make one call. If you need more help, or have more questions about what to do, reach out to me by phone or email and together we will figure out how to get the help you need for your loved one or yourself.