Mental Health Spotlight: Spotlight on Suicide Prevention


Wednesday night was a pretty special night for me. After decades of fandom, I finally saw Peter Frampton. Frampton Comes Alive was one of the first albums that I ever owned, and I listened to it to the point of chiseling grooves into the old 33 RPM. For those younger readers, before digital everything, record players kept our teen years occupied.

Music has always been a safe place for me with my illness in addition to one of my passions. I’ve never given up my love for playing acoustic guitar, albeit rather poorly. Midway through the concert, an amazing thing happened. Mr. Frampton spoke briefly about his instrumental Grammy winning album, “Fingerprints,” more specifically one track, Black Hole Sun.

Any fans of Chris Cornell, Audioslave and/or Soundgarden know who he is, his body of work and untimely suicide. Although when it comes to suicide, is there any such thing as a timely one? It seems more and more entertainment figures have succumbed to this terrible fate from whatever mental health diseases they endure.

It’s difficult imaging why those who are incredibly successful choose this end. They seem to be on top of the world, no financial worries, apparent storybook lives. Perhaps that is the best way to understand this disease called “mental illness.” One in five have it and when it comes to suicide, there is no rhyme or reason, it is the final action. The decision center of the mind is broken. It’s not more complicated than that. These people we look up to, admire and emulate may have the perfect lives to the casual onlooker, which we all are, but inside they are fighting a very difficult struggle. The frequency of this issue has become so severe, a national light has been cast on it. By the time this article goes to print, the time will have passed on a Town Hall Meeting, moderated by Anderson Cooper on suicide on CNN. I am sure that the broadcast can be streamed by the time you read this, and/or a transcript will be available. I will update you in the next issue with any applicable links related to this important program.

I’ve never been enough of a fanboy to place anyone in the public eye on any higher pedestal than anyone else. Sure, I enjoyed the Frampton concert, but if I were to meet him, I’d prefer discussing normal stuff but I don’t know him at all so where would I begin? Conversely, we are surrounded by heroes every day who never get their credit, pay or live that same illusory storybook life. Odds are you know one, have them in your family or talk to them on a consistent basis. If the same fate were to befall them, would it have the same impact as a celebrity you’ve never met?

The reason I ask this is that we all have the opportunity to connect with those who struggle in our friend circle, families and community. Our companionship can make all of the difference when those afflicted hit the wall where that decision-making process is no longer functional. For those who are the one in five who deal with a mental illness, identify a friend or family member who accepts you through the stigma. It may even be a person you know from group therapy. Explain to that person how it feels when you are slipping, the signs that you are having a bad day and may require a little help. Ensure they have emergency numbers like the one below this article in the event you may require help.

We are our own advocates and must proactively take care of ourselves, but some days we need a little help from our friends, as the Beatles remind us. It’s not a backslide, nor are you a failure if help becomes necessary. This is the nature of the illnesses we all suffer. Think about it, if you are a diabetic, have you asked a friend or family member to help with insulin injections or medications in the case of emergency? I would even go so far as creating a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) with realistic expectations and review with that one or two people you have chosen as a wellness partner. Also, prep a mental health first aid kit with things that are uplifting. They might include photographs, memories, or – in my case – music, anything that makes you feel better and grounds you in the here and now.

Remember, you are more important than anyone you may look up to in the entertainment field. You are unique, loved and irreplaceable. Treat yourself this way.

NEED HELP? IN THE U.S., CALL 1-800-273-8255 FOR THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE.*Mental Health Spotlight is an opinion based column. Any resources mentioned are provided for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the specialized training and professional judgment of a health care or mental health care professional.

Mental Health Spotlight is Written by Fred Terling for Pennsylvania Bridges