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est. New York | c. Los Angeles
est. New York | c. Los Angeles

Field Reports

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The Suicide Project

Posted January 3rd, 2022 in Field Reports by Billy Jensen

**Trigger warning—#suicideawareness****

 

Still here? Ok. And if you left, that’s ok too.

 

 

I’m starting a new project that is a slight departure—but just as important—as true crime.

 

In the spring of last year, for the first time ever—or at least in a very long time—I had serious suicide ideation. I was in a really dark place. When I was 22, I was diagnosed with depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. Medication has helped since. But it just got really bad last year. Not being able to turn off thoughts. Best I can describe it is darkness. And I had some really, really dark nights. And to be honest, I’m amazed and happy I’m alive.

 

Somehow I pulled myself out of the darkness. For now. It’s a constant struggle. But one of the things that got me through it was this.

 

For 20 years, I’ve chased killers. 15,000 people die by murder in America each year.  50,000 people die by suicide. 800,000 people worldwide. Suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined.

 

One person dies from suicide every 40 seconds. Someone just died by suicide as You’ve been watching this.

 

When I pulled out of that darkness back in the spring, I started doing a lot of research. There are not many books on suicide. I went to a Big bookstore chain and asked the salesperson for books on suicide. After a concerned look at me and a 5 minute search on the computer, I was handed a list of 4 books. There were more books in that store about quidditch—a fictional sport played by wizards—than something that kills 800,000 people a year.

 

So I started talking to a lot of suicidologists.

 

And they all said the same thing—talking about suicide should be done and we should be talking about how people who have had thoughts of suicide were able to survive.

 

We make movies about people who die by suicide. Particularly celebrities. But what about people who got to the very edge but were then able somehow to pull themselves back.

 

Just as much as a completed suicide can trigger other suicide attempts, a story of survival and resilience can create hope and second chances. And maybe even give other tools on how to survive and fight back.

 

You know, One of the best things I ever learned in therapy is “you are not your thoughts.”

 

If you have suicidal ideation—it’s not you. It’s an outsider. An invader. In true crime terms. It’s a  killer entering your head. Then why not tackle the subject like that? A killer who kills 800,000 people a year. If there was someone who survived that killer, you’d want to hear that story, right? Those stories are out there.

 

The last journey of the hero is to bring the boon, the reward, back home and share it with the people.

 

Be it a trophy or knowledge. And people have this knowledge. The knowledge to fight back these thoughts.

 

But virtually no one talks about how they pulled out, because of the stigma attached. There’s also issues of future employment, health insurance.

 

But we need to stop that. If someone fought off an attacker on the street, they would tell you how they did it. The same should be true for fighting off an attacker in your head.

 

This is by no means saying people who died by suicide were lesser. The killers in their heads were incredibly strong and overpowered them. And there is not a one-size-fits-all cure—everyone is different, everyone is going through different things, everyone has different brain chemistry. Everyone is different.

 

But sharing stories will help. The new world health organization guide “suggests that media counteract reports of suicide with stories of successful recovery from mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts.”

 

So today, the first real day of the new year, I’m launching a project to collect these stories — stories from people from all walks of life, from celebrities to your next door neighbor— who have had thoughts of suicide and fought them back.

 

The WHO has a goal— Reduce the suicide rate by 1/3 by 2030. Wouldn’t that be amazing to reach? Saving 250,000 lives a year?

 

Suicide rates are actually down globally—decreasing by 36% in the last 20 years.

 

But in the United States, the suicide rate has risen 17 percent.

 

Why? In the US, it’s much more complicated, and experts point to our relationship with firearms. Going on an anti gun rant here is not going to help anyone because the message will get lost, but The WHO does identify access to means and it will be part of the conversation. There are also the situations of self medication with drugs and alcohol, something that is a constant battle for myself as well. And it’s also worth noting, that more than twice as many males die due to suicide as females. And more than 65,000 US veterans have died by suicide in the last 10 years. That’s more than the number of soldiers who were killed during the Vietnam war. Depending on what state you live in, Suicide is either the second or third leading cause of death for people 15-24.

 

I know I’m throwing a lot out here. But now, I want to hear your story. How were you able to fight back against the killer in your head.

 

And share this message with people. Send it far and wide. It’s time to drag suicide out of the darkness and into the light.

 

If you don’t have a story, there is still a way to contribute. Coupled with this will be something I’m calling Project Reach Out. All I’m asking is every week or two, reach out to someone. Ask them to meet in person. Take a walk, go for coffee. Anything. People in despair often don’t reach out. But sometimes all it takes is someone reaching out to them to give them a tool to survive.

 

This is just the first public step in this project. We want to learn as much as we can from each other. If you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to send them in to bill@billyjensen.com. A book and possibly a podcast will follow. But this is the first step.

 

Suicide ideation is an ongoing struggle. Hell, it was a struggle just to write all this out. Thoughts get in your head. I had to go to a burger place and be around people just to finish it. But I really think we can all move the needle on suicide.

 

And if you are having thoughts of suicide, please call the hotline at

800-273-8255

 

And I know a lot of people don’t like to talk on the phone—so you can text a crisis line 24/7–

Text HOME to 741741 for a confidential response from a crisis counselor.

 

Thank you for listening, thank you for sharing, and thank you for reaching out.