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Smash the Stigma to Help Prevent Suicides



As I write this just a few days after the funeral of a friend, mentor, and overall incredible man whom I had the pleasure of knowing and working it, it is still difficult to believe he is gone. The part that hurts me the most is that he took his own life. As a person who has a lot of life experience and goes out of his way to help people, I almost feel like maybe I could have done something to stop it. Even just the smallest conversation to check on him could have possibly helped. But I have to remember that no one really knew what he was dealing with, so we can't blame ourselves. We just have to celebrate his life and knowing him throughout our journey. We should also try to understand why suicide happens so frequently in society today, especially in career fields with high amounts of stress. What can we do to try to prevent suicides from occurring so frequently?



Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. According to the CDC, suicide rates increased 30% between 2000 - 2018. Suicide is a leading cause of death with almost 46,000 deaths in 2020 alone, which was a very stressful year for many due to COVID. That number roughly equates to one death every 11 minutes. In 2020, an estimated 12.2 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.2 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.2 million attempted suicide. Now that we know some of the alarming statistics of suicide in general, lets take a look at the statistics amongst veterans and law enforcement.



Between 2008 - 2017, almost 60,000 U.S. soldiers have taken their own life. This number is higher than the amount of soldiers killed during the Vietnam War. Every year approximately 6,000 veterans commit suicide with the number increasing. It is a stark reminder that the veterans who come home from war need to be helped more than ever. The Department of Veteran Affairs needs to do a better job of providing assistance to veterans, whether it be financial, medical, or emotional support. I know many veterans who have had issues with the VA and their lack of support.


There are obviously many cases where individuals require a medical solution to preventing suicide, such as biological issues or chemical imbalances. However, a major way to help prevent it is through therapy or talking to people about your struggles. Teenage suicides are very high for a vast majority of reasons, but that is not the primary purpose of this blog post. There is this stigma, especially with men in different job fields, that you have to hide your emotions. If you cry, then you're soft or you're weak! This needs to stop because many times those men are struggling deep down inside. The men who cry or show emotion really display true strength. It is healthy to cry from time to time as it is an mental release.



There are many factors that contribute to thoughts of suicide, such as stress, family problems, or financial problems just to list a few. Veterans have been in the most stressful environments where they lost their brothers on the battlefield or had to take lives. However, it is important to also highlight that in 2019 a record number of police officers in the United States commit suicide. Law enforcement, more than ever, is one of the most stressful jobs someone can have. There is a tremendous amount of responsibility required to be a police officer, along with having to be trained properly, and detach emotions from the atrocities they see on a daily basis. All of this while being under constant scrutiny from the media. They also work irregular hours and holidays, while not being paid enough in many cities. These are just some of the reasons the suicide rate is so high amongst law enforcement.



With all the information I have shared in this blog post, it ties into the loss of my friend. He was a proud veteran having served four years in the United States Marines. He was a high-ranking official in the United States Border Patrol, which is federal law enforcement. Two very stressful work environments, along with whatever personal struggles he may have been facing. From the outside and from what I've heard from people closest to him, they never saw any red flags. That is why we were shocked to hear he commit suicide. He was easily one of the hardest workers anyone has ever known. He was also the person to tell people to talk to him if they had any problems. As a matter of fact, I heard from one of his co-workers who spoke with him the week before that he had told him, "If you're every feeling down or struggling, you come talk to me".






It hurts to lose friends or family members to suicide when it is preventable. We need to help people who are struggling by being proactive and checking in on them before its too late. Don't make a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Besides education and bringing awareness to suicide, I also wanted to try to contribute to the cause. That is why I have shirts being made to honor my friend JC who commit suicide. I am going to sell them and donate 100% of the proceeds to the Blue H.E.L.P. charity foundation. The primary mission of Blue H.E.L.P. is as follows:


It is the mission of Blue H.E.L.P. to reduce mental health stigma through education, advocate for benefits for those suffering from post-traumatic stress, acknowledge the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers we lost to suicide, assist officers in their search for healing, and to bring awareness to suicide and mental health issues.



This is just a step to trying to help bring awareness and prevent suicides in society and especially amongst veterans and law enforcement. I am going to strive to do what I can while honoring those who were lost too early. For more information on the charity, please check out https://bluehelp.org/.



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