Last week, I interviewed Eric Marcus for my radio show called “The 7-Day Challenge.” Every week on the show, I explore a public health issue, and challenge listeners to something they can do over the next seven days to improve their health. As you might guess, we cover a variety of public health problems – obesity, emergency preparedness, food policy, infectious diseases and bioterrorism, and everything else under the sun. Or so I thought.
Back in September, I was on the CDC website and found the schedule of national health observances – Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, National Hand Washing Awareness Week, and so forth. One of the observances was International Survivors of Suicide Day, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Intrigued, I contacted them, and they put me in touch with Eric.
It was there that I got “schooled.” See, I like to think (hope?) that I know a lot about public health. I’m no expert, but I’m hungry to learn. I read a lot, and I hope I know more next week than I did this week.
So with that in mind, I began to realize my woeful ignorance on a major public health issue – suicide. I read Eric’s book, perused the AFSP website, and practically lived on the National Institute of Mental Health website trying to develop a body of knowledge that had been embarrassingly skipped in my previous learning.
Had it not been for Eric, AFSP, and the interview (which you can hear beginning November 18), I would have continued my ignorance about suicide.
I could list statistics – the tenth leading cause of death in America, 90% of suicides involve a mental or substance abuse disorder, the third leading cause of death for people between 15 and 24 – but knowing you read Eric’s work, the numbers aren’t new to you.
The story, from my vantage point, is awareness.
This past Saturday, we celebrated International Survivors of Suicide Day. I use the word “celebrate” a little uncomfortably, but when I think about it, it is a celebration in a way.
See, I can celebrate that I now know (and am sensitive about) a major mental and public health issue. I am now, in some minor way, an advocate for suicide prevention, AFSP, and mental health awareness.
I’m not on Eric’s level, and I’m not saying what I’m doing is anything amazing – it’s not. But it is significant, and it’s awareness. Consider me a convert, if you will, from ignorance to understanding. From apathy to knowledge. And that is something worth celebrating.
So now that you’ve observed International Survivors of Suicide Day, take a minute to introduce the issue to somebody previously unaffected by suicide. Involve us in your advocacy. We may be more open than you think – and we are surely sensitive to your stories and experiences.
About This Blog
Welcome to my blog, which grew out of my experience as a suicide survivor and my experience writing Why Suicide? (see below). On occasion I’ll be posting an essay based on something I’ve read, someone I’ve met, an experience I’ve had, or just a memory of someone in my life who took his or her life. If you have a thought on something I’ve written, I hope you won’t hesitate to join the conversation by leaving a comment.
About Eric Marcus
Eric Marcus is the author of several books, including Why Suicide?, Is It A Choice?, and Making Gay History. He is also co-author of Breaking the Surface, the #1 New York Times bestselling autobiography of Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis. And he currently serves on the national board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (Photo Credit: Dixie Sheridan.)