A year ago, my husband’s good friend happened to be in town from New York for Christmas break. She’s a fiercely loyal friend and a bubbly woman — the kind of person you can’t help but like because she has such passion for everything she does, and especially for the people she loves (I hadn’t even met her yet and I already liked her).
She exudes energy and makes a friend out of everyone she meets. There’s even a saying about her in her wide group of friends: “If you’ve met Blakely, then you’re her friend.” She’s the one in our group of mutual friends who can get everybody to drop everything and come together just by saying, “Hey, we should go skiing!” or, “Let’s go climb this big rock six hours away in Kentucky!”
And then, because she’s also chaotic and disorganized (but in an apparently endearing way), she inevitably makes everybody late to whatever she suggests they go do. But nobody cares because they are in her presence.
Were in her presence.
Blakely took her own life a year ago. She had struggled with depression in the past, but nobody saw it coming. She had asked us to go for drinks just days before, and we enthusiastically said yes, but it never happened. Instead, my husband found out via Facebook that one of his best friends — whom he was so excited to introduce to his new wife — had left this world behind.
The fallout was tremendous, and her memorial was epic. Her light had shone brighter than most while she was alive, and when it was snuffed out, the darkness was expansive. Her friends and family still struggle with it every day.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for all Americans — each year, more than 36,000 people take their own lives, according to the CDC. In addition, more than 374,000 are treated in emergency departments for self-inflicted injuries. While the belief that suicides peak in December is a myth, that does not make it any less of an issue this month and all year long.
And it is an issue that affects this industry more than most.
In 2016, the CDC released a list of occupational groups most prone to suicide. The second and third occupational groups most prone to suicide are “construction and extraction” and “installation, maintenance and repair” workers, respectively. These two categories represent the vast majority of this magazine’s audience. This is your coworkers. This is your employees. This is you.
I’m not in a position to speculate why the suicide rate is higher in this industry, but I can at least bring attention to it. And perhaps the holidays are not the jolliest of times to bring attention to suicide prevention and awareness, but suicide doesn’t discriminate. I say that from experience.
However, there are resources out there that can help.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), www.afsp.org, is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. It offers educational information and support, and for those in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 by calling 800-273-TALK (8255). Additionally, the Crisis Text Line is available by texting TALK to 741741. AFSP also has chapters in all 50 states, and there are many additional resources at the state and local levels.
I’ve learned over the years that this industry is family. It takes care of its own. So if you think you know someone who may be at risk, or if you yourself are struggling, please reach out. We can all help prevent suicide.