By Amanda R. Curtis,
“One death by suicide is one too many,” said Scott Ridgeway, Executive Director of the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, “and the recent increase only inspires us to double our efforts.”
The increase Mr. Ridgeway speaks of has been well documented by the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. According to statistics, there were 142 youth deaths by suicide in 2017 alone. These numbers are for ages 10-24, and 51 of those deaths were younger than 17.
Overall, in Tennessee, there were 1163 suicides across all ages. Those aged 10-19 typically attract the attention of the media. However, Tennesseans 45-64 are three times more likely to die by suicide.
A recent interview with Lewis County Veterans gives a little insight into some of the reasoning behind suicides in the older generations.
“When you’re scared of killing or being killed, it makes you hard-hearted,” said Jack Cothran who served in Vietnam.
“To be honest with you,” added Bill Sharp, “sometimes we did things we shouldn’t have done. We had to do things we didn’t want to do. That’s where we get our PTSD. You can’t explain why you did it. It was just a natural reaction at the time. As far as war goes, I’ve learned a lot about Veterans. Don’t push them too far.”
“That why you have so many homeless veterans,” he continued. “They become hopeless, they get depressed, they see no way out. They live on the streets, because for the most part, society doesn’t give a crap about them, because they don’t understand.”
“A lot of vets, when they come home, never come home in their minds. They drink just to be able to talk about it,” he concluded.
What caught my attention in his statement was the word, ‘hopeless.’ These are men and women who sacrificed their way of life, put their physical lives on the line to ensure Americans are not only secure, but also feel that way. Their main mission was to protect and ensure the American people are instilled with a sense of hope for the future of our country. And then they come back feeling hopeless? That’s a bigger issue that needs to be addressed so as to take care of the root problem.
Keeping this local focus, Lewis County’s suicide numbers have averaged out. In 2012, there were three people in this county that decided to take their own life, six in 2013, 2014 saw four while 2015 dropped down to two. In 2016, Lewis County saw eight people take their own life while six more committed suicide in 2017.
That’s right here in our own backyards, folks. Across the creek, over the fence, on this side of the tracks people are losing hope that there is more to life than the desperation they are feeling at the time.
And, with access and extensive training, firearms are the easy way out. Between 2012 and 2017, almost two-thirds of suicides involved firearms, with poisoning and suffocations also common.
Death shows no mercy. No one is immune to it. As a fact of life, death is inevitable. However, dying by suicide is absolutely preventable.
One of the ways Lewis County has committed to combating suicide is by incorporating programs into local school systems and community. Teen-Safe Night, Anti-Bullying events, Petals and Pearls and the Eddie Eagle Program are all programs aimed at addressing issues young people face in today’s world. Self-confidence, peer pressure, bullying and gun safety are just a few of these.
Instilling hope in the hearts of people is the best and possibly most important way to combat suicide. Having something to live for keeps thoughts of death at bay.
As U.S. Veteran Bill Sharp said, “The only real hope is when you change your heart and realize that God is the only answer. Find peace with God.”
If you or someone you know has been thinking of harming yourself/themselves, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or send a Text to 74174 to speak with someone who can help.