Monday, October 31, 2016

DRAFT: Concerning Suicide

Over Labor Day weekend, our regional car community lost one of its own.

Joseph Steindl was a Chippewa Valley area car enthusiast that loved to see the coolest and great rides around. He was in the right place, since the money from tech firms, the local university and general automotive interest fueled a scene that stirred Steindl’s imagination. He was also drawn to the Twin Cities’ car scene, including attending the meets of one of V&R’s partners at Minnesota Nissan Infiniti.

This story would be just an obituary. It was not how Steindl lived his life, but how he ended it.

Steindl was one of tens of thousands of Americans that committed suicide this year. There were many others have attempted, but survive and many, many more who had either contemplated or threatened to do so without executing it. This is a cycle of death that goes unspoken in society, yet so prevalent that it truly needs to be discussed.

Let us start with some hard facts. The National Center for Health Statistics tells us that there had been an increase in suicides from 1999 to 2014. The 24% rise over that period showed that now 13 out of 100,000 Americans have taken their own lives. For males, that number is actually 20.7 out of 100,000 Americans. It is the tenth-ranked cause of death of Americans.

Take these numbers however you wish. They continue to rise, as we speak.

The causes towards suicide is varied. I recall during the 2008 Presidential campaign how “Bullycides” – suicides that were a result of bullying at educational institutions due to various reasons – had taken over the national discussion. Most of these “bullycides” were directed at young LGBT people, driven by hate over identity and orientation by others. This had been a persistent situation that had been pushed aside for years, but surfaced as a nation faced its own anger over whom should have rights or not as citizens.

In recent years, we are learning more about suicides of former members of our Armed Forces, because of their suffering through Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. When these men and women returned from war zones suffering from the battlefield experience while adjusting to life at home. While the Veteran’s Administration and other veteran’s groups said that PTSD can be treated and worked out, there are a number of veterans who do not say anything about how they feeling and coping.

These are just a couple of major themes that have popped up within the context of suicide. But, there is a lot more to understand. There is also some concern about how our society should deal with suicide – even for people we may not know about who are suffering from the causes leading to it.

Sometimes, we will never know who is suffering. Suicide can be a silent run down the rabbit hole of life. It could also be played on the most public of forums – social media, in particular. The responses are varied – you will know who that true friend is when they respond to your call for help. You will also know who are welcomed by your side when they refuse or abuse your call for help.

How can we heed the cry for help if there is one to call on? The answers have been repeated many time: Suicide hotlines, calling 911, gathering friends and family for assistance and so forth.

However, there is a missing component – prevention. A lot of these issues could be under control if the behavioral health system is more accessible, fluid and a lot more caring. Beyond just access to the behavioral health programs themselves is simply connecting with the right professional (or para-professional) who can listen, understand, guide and find solutions towards a healthy life. If it takes medication, allow proper and affordable access to do so. This society must make sake suicide prevention a priority within behavioral health communities and enable the silent to speak.

All wonderful and good, right? It is not that easy. But, we must be emboldened to push for better access to behavioral health, suicide prevention programs and better families and friend networks. We must not turn away when someone is suffering with depression, anxiety, Bipolar Disorder or any of the many behavioral health issues that can cause someone to even contemplate suicide.

Why talk about this subject on this website? Because Steindl was not alone in the automotive realm. I had various people in this car community tell me that they had been through various stages of suicide. I had my bouts with this, also.

We are all not alone in this. Yet, we do not know who else we can reach when we need to. Or, do you? If you do, then you have better leverage than most people dealing with thoughts of suicide and beyond.

Are we different than anyone else? There are those who say “yes.” I beg to differ.

Because you want to be a “bruh” does not mean you are immune from the stresses of today’s society. You are definitely not immune from the constant personal, familial and social pressures that attempt to keep you on an even keel day-to-day. We fall, we snap and we try to recoup. If we solid self-control, we can rise through everything.

It does not work out that way. No one has perfect coping skills. Moreover, no one is perfect.

As a collective – a community of enthusiasts and friends – we can be there for our fellow humans. This is not a statement specifically for the car community. This is for everyone – no matter who you are and what you do.

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