By: Robert Weinroth Special to the Boca Newspaper
In junior high (the precursor to middle school), I vividly recall reading a narrative poem written by Edwin Arlington Robinson, first published in 1897 and later to serve as the basis of a Simon & Garfunkel song, “Richard Cory,”
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
I think of those words each time there’s a report of another famous person with wealth and popularity committing suicide. The deaths of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade are but the most recent, amid a new CDC report showing an uptick in suicides rates in almost every state since 1999.
Coincidentally, Boca Raton’s Promise – The Alliance For Youth was established in 1999, in response to Retired General Colin Powell’s visit naming Boca Raton a Community of Promise. Founding Board Member and Executive Director, Rita Thrasher has focused attention on mental health priorities establishing outreach to cities and County stakeholders. Breaking The Silence would become the project banner for community education and awareness with the objective of removing the stigma of mental illness and starting community conversations.
Most recently, Thrasher has launched I Am 1, a documentary project recognizing that many are affected by metal illness.
The American Association of Suicidology has published a list of Suicide Warning Signs an easy-to-remember mnemonic: (IS PATH WARM):
Suicidal ideation, suicidal thoughts.
Increased Substance (alcohol or drug) use
No reason for living; no sense of Purpose in life
Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all of the time
Feeling Trapped – like there’s no way out
Withdrawal from friends, family and society
Rage, uncontrolled Anger, seeking revenge
Acting Reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
Dramatic Mood changes
If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, you can find help here in Palm Beach County, Okeechobee or the Treasure Coast at the 211 Help Line which can be reached by Calling: 2-1-1; or (561) 383-1112; or (866) 882-2991
211 Helpline can also be reached by Texting, Online Chat, or by Email. To Text: text your zip code to 898211.
The trained specialists at the 211 Crisis Call Center are required to go through an extensive 100-hour training before they take their first call. The Center, located in Lantana answers an average 300 calls a day. Since the recent passing of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, the Center has seen a spike in calls about suicide.
Historically, when a high-profile person dies by suicide, the “celebrity-suicide effect” often leads to copycat deaths. In the four months after Robin Williams took his life in 2014, there was a 10 percent increase (almost 2,000 additional suicides)!
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline gives these suggestions if a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide:
Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
Don’t dare him or her to do it.
Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
Take action. Remove means, like weapons or pills.
Get help from people or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
It can be scary when a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide. It’s hard to know how a suicidal crisis feels and how to act. Call the 211 Helpline or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.TALK (8255) at any time for help if a friend is struggling.