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Suicide Prevention: Understanding The Facts And Finding Support
We may never know why some of our generations' brightest creative minds choose to take their own lives, but we do know that suicidal thoughts affect a wide range of people, not just those dealing with the pressures of stardom. For the sake of anyone who has succumbed to the most insurmountable mental anguish, we must look at suicide as what it is: a preventable outcome of a treatable illness.
Mental health issues leading to suicidal thoughts can be very complex to understand from both internal and external perspectives. After all, the mind is such a personal territory. But even in the shadow of darkness suicide casts on our culture, we can make a difference by shining a light on tangible resources to overcome depression and suicidality.
First, it is important to understand the types of mental illnesses that can potentially lead to suicide deaths.
"Some of the most commons mental health diagnosis associated with suicide deaths are mood disorders like depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic disorder, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and substance abuse disorders," says Becky Stoll, LCSW, vice president of crisis & disaster management at Centerstone, a MusiCares partner. "Another common issue associated with suicide is having chronic physical pain."
Unfortunately, suicide is a global issue. A 2015 study showed suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. alone, the third leading cause of death for people aged 10–14 and the second leading cause of death for people aged 15–24. In the state of Tennessee alone, one person between the ages of 10–24 is lost to suicide every four days, according to statistics provided by Scott Ridgway, executive director of the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. The Tennessee Department of Health's Office of Health Statistics reported there were 1,110 recorded suicide deaths in Tennessee in 2016, a 4 percent increase from the prior year.
These numbers are, and should be, shocking. We've seen some of our music heroes' names in the news — Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Avicii — and these statistics prove the problem reaches far beyond the headlines.
While there is no universal solution for mental health issues, there are many options for finding support. It all starts with talking.
"The more we talk about it, everyone can do something. If you have had a mental health problem, talk about it," says clinical psychologist Dr. Joanne Barron. "Help take the stigma away from it."
Speaking of talking, there is a big misconception that people who speak about contemplating suicide are only seeking attention, which is not at all accurate.
"In fact, we know people who end up dying by suicide have often spoken about it with others and given other warning signs," says Stoll. " If someone you know feels comfortable enough to broach the subject of their suicidal thoughts with you then you must take them seriously."
As far as warning signs, being able to spot one could make the difference in saving someone's life.
"Knowing the warning signs of suicidal behavior is key to helping those around us get the assistance they need," says Stoll. "These include talking about wanting to die or not be around anymore — sometimes this can be vague so it is important to ask clarifying questions — making plans for how to kill one's self, securing the means to carry out this plan, giving away possessions, expressing feelings of being a burden to others, withdrawing and being isolative, and expressing hopelessness."
But where can one turn? Where can they start? One option is to confide in friends or family members to ask for help and support. For many people suffering from depression, this first step can be the hardest, but it can also be the most beneficial.
"Some of the loneliest times in my life have been in rooms full of thousands of people because not one of them knew what was going on inside me," says guitarist Dave Navarro. "Rarely do we pick up the phone at 3 a.m. after a gig and ask for help. … The real challenge is letting people know that it is a great strength to reach out for support,"
Of course, not everyone has a support system in his or her life to turn to. Another valuable option for seeking support can be found in a recent popular song. The GRAMMY-nominated "1-800-273-8255" was released in 2017 by rapper Logic. Featuring Khalid and Alessia Cara, the song addresses head on the struggles of depression and the importance of reaching out for support, which was not an easy topic for Logic to broach in his writing because he himself has suffered from anxiety and depression.
"I was so scared for so long to say that because society has lead me to believe that my anxiety is stupid and shouldn't be talked about, or that suicide, 'Who cares, who's weak enough to kill themselves?' Which is the most terrible, disgusting, ugly thing somebody can say," says Logic. "That's why I decided to write about these topics."
"None of us are alone," said GRAMMY-nominated artist Kesha, who introduced the performance. "It takes great courage to show the vulnerable side of being human and we all have that vulnerable side. Whatever you are going through, however dark it may seem, there is an undeniable truth and strength in the fact that you are not alone."
Kesha's words ring true.
"There are very effective treatments today for mental health disorders," says Stoll. "If someone is feeling suicidal they can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline from anywhere in the country. Someone is always there to assist. They can also text the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741."
Finally, music people in need of support can turn to MusiCares. Whether dealing with substance abuse, addiction recovery, financial hardship, or mental health issues, MusiCares is here to help. From online resources such as this recent list of tips for free or low-cost mental health care to over-the-phone support, MusiCares is a safety net for musicians, providing mental health assistance and referrals.
If you are part of the music community and you require assistance for a mental health-related issue, contact MusiCares toll-free at 1.800.687.4227 (West), 1.877.626.2748 (South) or 1.877.303.6962 (East).