Two senior citizens once lived in one our little Copper Country towns and traveled together to Houghton every week. One had good eyes but did not drive. Her friend had a car and drivers's license but her eyesight was failing. Although she could not see, every week for several years the licensed driver drove while her friend in the passenger seat gave gentle directions to help the driver know which way to steer and arm-tugs when the driver should apply the brake. It was risky, but they managed to avoid an accident.
Travel is safer today because we manage risk better. However, today in Michigan, suicide is more deadly than motor vehicle accidents. If Michigan's victims of suicide in the last year had lived, they could fill Michigan Technological University's Rozsa Center. Take a moment to think about the victims. Each person had a name, a family who loved them and friends who cared. Each person had a future that suicide robbed. Maybe you knew one of them.
Suicide risk in the Copper Country is real. Several times a week, emergency departments at our local hospitals treat individuals of all ages for emergencies related to suicide risk. Dial Help, a regional crisis call center based in our community, reports increases in crisis calls.
Suicide kills people regardless of race, gender, age, income, years of schooling or how many good deeds or mistakes they made. Suicide is an equal opportunity predator that victimizes city people and Yoopers and even targets kids. Up to 21 percent of Copper Country students participating in MiPHY risk behavior surveys recently reported seriously considered suicide in the prior 12 months. As many as 7 percent reported making suicide plans in the same period. A few even attempted.
Decades of studies, including interviews of persons who lived through otherwise highly lethal attempts, tell us that everybody - regardless of how bad life may seem at the time - has hope after crisis.
Every person who considers ending their own life has unique circumstances but, for most, life stops feeling bearable. Suicide lies to victims. It seductively promises that it will end their pain. By killing the person, though, suicide also brutally attacks the victim's survivors. Suicide pummels loved ones with feelings of guilt, drenches them in sadness and robs them of someone they loved. The tragedy leaves loved ones with emptiness that hurts forever.
When someone's ability to see hope for their future becomes impaired, we must act to help them find it. Tug their arm when they need to brake to avoid danger. Gently encourage them to keep steering toward hope. Do not try this alone. Seek professional guidance from your health care professionals. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) any time.
Those who lost loved ones to this epidemic may find some healing this Saturday when family and friends gather for a healing conference that is being coordinated worldwide. The conference at the City Center in Houghton starts at 12:30 p.m. There is no charge. Contact Dial Help for more information.
Editor's note: Brian D. Rendel, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC, is a professional counselor and training and prevention specialist at the Copper Country Mental Health Services Institute in Houghton.