I met Charles in 2015 while out with my friend Jerry in downtown Nashville, TN.
“My father committed suicide in 2007, several months later… my mom committed suicide, I wish I knew why – I want to figure it out, it would help me – I wish I were there, I could have helped her,” he told me as if he were desperate to find answers.
As I continued to speak with Charles he said that he too thinks about suicide. He then rolled up his sleeve to show me a large scar on his wrist where he attempted to kill himself.
“When people kill themselves, they think they're ending the pain, but all they're doing is passing it on to those they leave behind.” ― Jeannette Walls
According to the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, suicide numbers have climbed since 2006, of course our population has also increased, so to get a true idea of the statistics, you would have to look at the percentages, which do indeed show a slight increase.
In 2006, there were 866 suicides in the Volunteer State, which is 14.4% of the population per every 100,000 residents. In 2010, there were 932 suicides or 14.7% per 100,000 residents. In 2015, the Health Department recorded 1,065 suicides or a rate of 16.1% per every 100,000 residents.
People don’t commit suicide because they want to die, they commit suicide because they want to stop the pain, stop the voices they may hear, stop the brokenness in their life… this first has to be understood to simply prevent someone taking their own life.
“Did you really want to die?"
"No one commits suicide because they want to die."
"Then why do they do it?"
"Because they want to stop the pain.”
― Tiffanie DeBartolo, How to Kill a Rock Star
Charles is from Knoxville, Tennessee but moved to Nashville after the death of his parents. He told me, “Someone stole all of my medication, they even took my blood pressure medicine.” He said they also took his medication for his Bi-Polar Disorder, “I have been off of it for 3-weeks,” he said.
Suicide and mental health or mental illness are closely tied together, as realized by medical experts.
In 2016, the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network announced the idea of “Tennessee’s Zero Suicide Initiative.” While the idea of zero suicides sounds great, it is an unrealistic goal to strive for – being realistic and understanding the depths of mental illness could be a better idea? Could be.
To be honest, such an idea of ending suicide may give way to less news stories about suicide and less information on the suicide aftermath that families suffer. It concerns me that looking at stopping the rates will possibly give some residents the false idea that suicide numbers are on the decrease, which will possibly allow a family member in the direct line of helping a loved one to have the thought that “It” won’t happen.
Despite my views on “Ending suicide,” the organization is moving forward with their efforts and in fairness, they are putting out more brochures. But are brochures going to cause an impact? My thought is an overwhelming “No.” Education is needed, but so is more accessible help in the field of mental health. We need experts to hit campsites of those suffering, we need home visits for those too depressed to get out of bed, we need more help and we need more volunteers.
As for Charles, I have not seen him since 2015. I do not know how his current mental state is today, nor do I know where he may be living. I just hope he is… living.