"We just never know why people make the choices they do.”
These words were spoken to me on Friday afternoon by Fruitland Police Chief JD Huff while he was telling me about a Fruitland man’s death that is believed to be suicide. My heart felt heavy for Sean Gerdau’s family, as I knew they and local police had asked the community for help in finding him, after he’d gone missing early Monday morning.
In our newsroom and many others across the nation, we have a pretty standard policy that if a self-inflicted death happens out of the public eye, we don’t talk about it. Although national media will often report on suicides of those people often in the spotlight. That was the case when well-known actor and comedian Robin Williams took his own life just over five years ago, but the conversations did get many people thinking about how easily it is to mask the hurt going on underneath the surface.
Chief Huff is absolutely right — we sometimes never know why. And he is furthermore accurate in stating comfort and support is needed from the community by those who are left behind. Compassion is integral, as often these people left behind never find the answers, which could further impact grief and the ability to cope.
Because of this, it is time as a community to start picking up the frequency of sometimes difficult conversations about what can be done within our society to prevent these tragedies from happening.
National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month kicks off a week from today. According to the National Alliance for Mental Health, 41,000 individuals die by suicide each year. And although I do not have local statistics, I can say that I’ve seen firsthand countless reports of “suicidal subjects” on call logs from our local law enforcement agencies.
NAMI states that family members and friends left behind often never know why. In addition, the stigma attached to suicide often prevents them from talking openly about the loss.
NAMI and other organizations geared toward preventing suicide, which can affect anyone, are urging people to start the conversation and keep it going. Conversations should be open and honest, and should aim to raise awareness, ensuring more people know about the resources needed to discuss suicide prevention.
As my coworker stated, “We all need to be equipped to deal with this.”
I agree. This means being as prepared as possible for a crisis, which includes everything from recognizing warning signs and risks, having knowledge about available resources and continuing meaningful open dialogue about solutions.