As I sit here and stare at the keyboard, trying to figure out what I want to write about, my brain is a bit overwhelmed. It is June 13, and Trinity and I have been to 40 states, ridden over 58,000 miles, met some amazing people, and heard some painful stories. I’m almost halfway through the year and over halfway through the mileage goal, but it feels like there is so much more that can be done.
Just a few short days ago I awoke to multiple messages on my phone about how Anthony Bourdain had decided to take his own life. Days before that, the same had just happened with Kate Spade. About a month and a half before that, Verne Troyer, a.k.a. Mini Me, took his life as well.
While all three of these people had fame and fortune, they were not immune from their demons taking control. It’s solid proof that no matter who you are, if you do not communicate about your issues, they will consume you.
Because of fame and fortune, we all get to hear about a celebrity who chose to end their life. What we do not get to hear is that on those same three days there were also, on average, 122 other people who sadly decided to do the same thing.
Let’s think about that number for a second. 123 people per day ends up being two standard school busses full and one just over half full disappearing permanently. Every. Single. Day.
Today is the 164th day of the year, which means that statistically, an average of 20,172 people have taken their lives so far. But if we factor in that suicide rates are highest in the springtime, and that from 2015 to 2016 suicides rose 1.6 percent and the preliminary data from 2017 is showing an increase as well… I think that you get the idea. We can indeed do better!
Actually, we really have to do better. Our next generation depends on it, which means that we depend on it.
So, aside from, “If you have issues, talk to someone about them!” what can we do? There is no blanket answer for the problem. But my personal opinion is simple: Get involved and get connected.
All too often I hear things like. “I wish my dealership would have a Ride to End Suicide too!” or, “What you are doing is great. I wish I could do the same thing. Awareness is important.” You can. All you have to do it to start talking to people. If you want an event at your dealership, or your local firehouse, Veterans of Foreign Wars post, or wherever, then go talk to someone. Start with the location where you want to have the event and see if they can help teach you what else needs to happen. Then get onto the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website at AFSP.org and contact them as well.
You just have to do it instead of talking about it. You don’t need to be able to leave your family and work for a long period of time. You don’t need a ton of money, or even a ton of time. Start small, work your way up, and adjust accordingly as you go. We all have the ability to make a positive difference, and together we can make the impact even larger.
A perfect example of this is Doug and Lisa Brattain. Doug and Lisa lost their son to suicide in 2007. Lisa said, “I started out as a mom who lost a son and I was pissed! I was pissed that depression got into my home and messed with my children and I did not know that that could happen! I wanted to get my hands around the illness that came after my kid. I can’t do that physically, so how else was I going to do that?” After realizing that there are thousands of folks living in silence and not talking about their mental health challenges, Lisa found her voice and she hasn’t stopped using it since.
Now, as the recently-promoted American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Division director, Lisa and her husband just held the eighth annual Indianapolis Ride to Fight Suicide hosted by Indianapolis Southside Harley-Davidson and American Legion Post #230.
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for a ride that has so much meaning for the 208 bikes that showed up to ride the 70-plus miles of back roads leaving the dealership and finishing at the Legion for a meal.
It was estimated that over $5,000 was raised for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention from this event alone. Over 83 percent of that will go straight to fighting suicide through research, advocacy, building awareness, and supporting those who have been impacted by suicide.
Through events like the Indianapolis Ride to Fight Suicide, the Community Out of the Darkness Walks, and the Overnight Walks, we can reconnect with one another and build a stronger future generation. Communication is the foundation for awareness, and then action. Together, we can stop suicide!
Please remember that you are loved, you have value, and you have a purpose. Thank you for reading again this month, and I hope that you will check back next month as well.
Ride smart, and I’ll see you in Sturgis!