ESCANABA - Every day, 11 young people from across the nation complete suicide. This equates to a rate of one young person taking their life every two hours and five minutes. The statistics also reflect that approximately 30,000 people complete suicide every year.
"Suicide in our culture is a topic that is not discussed, but even one completed suicide is one too many," said Stephen Buckbee, of BDD Training Associates, during a presentation Thursday for students at Escanaba Area Public High School.
Buckbee, along with Mike Dupont and Dan Moyle, offered the presentation as a means of creating awareness of suicide and to effectively "End the Silence."
"Suicide is something that exists in our society, yet we choose not to discuss it. Suicide is not an impulsive move. Suicide is the result of an erosion process that leaves an individual feeling helpless and hopeless, with suicide being the only option left open to them to deal with the pain," said Buckbee.
He added that the purpose of the program was to empower students and adults alike to end the silence, and to provide resources of places where help can be obtained.
Helping to drive the message home to the students was guest speaker Cindy Bittner, who described how she felt 15 years ago, when her son Bobbie completed suicide at age 13.
Bittner explained how her son felt he had no other option. Adding to the pain of her loss, Bittner's other son, Josh, who was 4 when Bobbie died, completed suicide two days into his senior year of high school.
"It became my mission in life, to try and stop someone else from going through the same pain and guilt we experienced," said Bittner. "All I can ask of you is, if you're feeling hopeless and helpless, talk about it. Either with a close friend, student counselor - just talk about it and end the silence."
Following Bittner's presentation, Buckbee, Moyle and Dupont, led a series of question and answer sessions and sketches that provided insight, resources and tools for students to use in the event they ever feel helpless and hopeless or know of someone close to them who may be contemplating suicide.
"We are also here to bust several myths accorded to suicide," said Buckbee. "One common myth is if you or someone talks about suicide, then the seed is planted - leading to either an attempt or completion of suicide. (This) is untrue. If someone talks about suicide they are reaching out for help and resources (that) are available."
Other myths busted by BDD Training Associates was that people who complete suicide are crazy or weak, or are doing it to gain attention.
"Go ahead, give them the attention. Many times there may be warning signs indicating suicide - or there may not be," said Buckbee.
He said, recently, the suicide rate among military service personnel has increased, especially among those service men and women who are returning stateside after completing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Buckbee added that some of the warning signs that may be indicators of a person contemplating suicide may include:
A change in appetite
Unusually negligent concerning personal appearance
Difficulty in concentrating
Speaking with unusual speed or slowness
Giving away one's possessions
Saying goodbye to family and friends
Involved in an unfriendly, destructive or abusive relationship
Bullying or being bullied by others
"The rhyme we learned as kids: 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,' is not always true. Bullying is not necessarily physical - it can also be verbal," said Moyle.
He added that verbal bullying, demeaning another individual, can make the person doing the bullying feel powerful. However, when the person being bullied comes to believe their self-worth comes from another person, it can lead to suicide if they feel they are being rejected."
Buckbee said that rejection, while unpleasant, does not mean failure. Nor does rejection end a person's worth as a human being.
"It is time to end the silence. If we continue to make rules concerning unpleasant topics and talking about them, how can we end the silence?" asked Dupont.
He also listed several important steps a person can take to reach out to another who may be suicidal. Those steps included:
If you suspect a person is having a problem, ask them if they want to talk about it. However, the most important question not to ask is if they are suicidal.
If they are reluctant, be persistent.
Find an area where you can speak with them alone.
Allow the person to talk freely about what is bothering them.
Give yourself plenty of time and be prepared for the possibility they may be contemplating suicide by having resources ready.
"Almost every effort taken to persuade someone to live instead of attempting suicide are met with agreement. Don't hesitate to get involved or take the lead," said Buckbee.
He added that sometimes, even with intervention, a person who has made a decision to take their own life will complete suicide, and that anyone who made an attempt to intervene should not blame themselves, because it wasn't their fault.
"Suicide is about feeling helpless and hopeless. However, in society today, people don't want to talk about it because it makes them uncomfortable," said Buckbee. "Keeping secrets is how people die, because someone didn't want to talk about it because it made them uncomfortable. Suicide is a subject that needs to be discussed, because only by talking about it can we truly end the silence."