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Yesterday I went to a friend D’s funeral. I met D about nine years ago when Emily started kindergarten. His wife and I spent countless hours volunteering on the PTA. I have spent dozens of nights in his home, laughing and talking in their sunroom. The minute you met D, you felt like he had known you for years. He loved deeply, could make friends with anyone, was a protector, was an amazing father of 6, had the most infectious smile, and I could go on. He was a fantastic human, which was made clear by nearly 200 people coming to his funeral. The loss of D is one that words could never do justice to.

Looking at D from the outside, you would never imagine he would be one to take his own life. You would never think he would leave his family. He always appeared happy, not just happy but joyful. If you had put 100 people I know in front of me and asked me to rank them from most to least likely to commit suicide, he would be close to the bottom of that list. And that is why we need to talk about suicide; we need to talk about mental illness and mental health, especially for men. I think men worry they will be seen as weak if they ask for help.

Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in America, 5th for individuals 45-54, and 2nd (only behind accidental injury) for people 10-34. Men are nearly four times more likely to die by suicide than women; however, females attempt suicide 1.5 times more than men. In 2020 1.2 million Americans attempted suicide; 8.9% of high schoolers reported self-harm in 2019. Every 11 minutes, someone dies by suicide in the United States.

Suicide is a public health crisis. Mental illness/health is a public health crisis. We are not doing enough. I could throw a ton more statistics at you about the financial cost of mental illness, from treatment to loss of productivity, incarceration, and homelessness. The number is well over $500 billion in the US. It is time to do something. I’m still figuring out what that “something” is. I have just started working on a fascinating project that will impact how we see and understand mental health.

Today I ask every person reading this to reach out to someone. Tell them you love them and support them. Ask for help if you need it. Start talking about mental health whenever and wherever you can. Heck, make it uncomfortable. Help break the stigma. Be part of the change. We can no longer be silent. Just like I am sure you are, I am tired of watching people I love to suffer or die. So share this everywhere you can. You can help create change, and the change needs to happen now.

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