As many as three-fourths (75%) of people who attempt suicide will tell someone of their intention.
But when they tell us, do we take them seriously?
Do we know what to do?
Or do we tremble at the thought?
Do we remain silent, walk away in their time of need, and “hope for the best”?
The Tom Karlin Foundation’s tagline is Talk Listen ACT.
Very early in the pain and grief of losing Tom when the tagline was first created, “act” simply meant “to act” – to take action.
It turns out that ACT is an acronym in the suicide prevention world standing for “Acknowledge, Care and Concern, and Take to Treatment.” It’s an acronym that gives us the tools to act and get help for those hurting.
It tells us it is not our responsibility to “fix” the struggling person’s problem. “Fixing” someone who is on the verge of suicide is incredibly daunting for the untrained. And that’s not our job. Instead, ACT informs us that our job is to acknowledge the struggle, express our love and concern, and take the person to get professional help.
When we hear, or have a hunch, that someone is hurting and may need of our help, we must ACT.
Since those first moments when I heard those excruciating words that my first-born son had taken his own life, I’ve wondered what I could have done differently to change that outcome. I’ve thought of a thousand little things that I might have done, or I wish would have happened, to save him from that outcome. That would have changed his life. And mine. And his moms, and siblings.
I’ve pondered whether Tom’s suicide was an inevitability, or if something might have changed at some point in his life such that he could be with us yet today. If I could have understood his struggle and got him help, could I have changed his decision?
I found my answer in an article posted April 2017 in the Bay Area Mercury News. The article references a study by the University of California in which they studied 500 people who went to the bridge with the intent to end their life by leaping off the bridge to certain death in the waters below, but whose plans were interrupted and their suicide plans averted.
Now, of those 500 people, what percentage would we expect would still be alive a decade later?
The study reports a staggering 95 percent of those people – people who were steps away from leaping over the bridge railing to death in the icy waters below – were alive (or died of natural causes) ten years later!
Kevin Hines jumped from the Golden Gate bridge in 2000, and was one of just a few to survive. As he tells of his suicide attempt, he shares that the instant his body was over the bridge rail, he regretted his action.
I have no doubt in my mind that, at the moment that Tom’s decision placed him at the point of no return, Tom regretted his decision. I know in my heart that, at that very moment, he regretted his decision and desired with all his being to undo his action. Yet he couldn’t turn back time, and it was done. And Tom was gone.
percent of people tell someone of their intention to commit suicide
percent of those whose plans to take their own life were interrupted and got professional help were alive ten years later.
Applying those same statistics to the 5,000 annual teen suicides, each year we are missing the opportunity to save more than 3,700 teens from making an irreversible decision.
3,700 beautiful lives we can save. 3,700 families we can save from the excruciating pain.
We can make a HUGE difference in teen suicides by acting and intervening. That is, if we know what to look for, and know what to do. That is, if we Talk, Listen, and ACT.
We (Tom’s friends and family, and the Tom Karlin Foundation) are embarking on a significant effort to educate and make it easier to ACT. Our efforts will 1) break the stigma surrounding mental health, 2) educate on mental health and wellness, and 3) provide tools to intervene when a teen sees a friend who may be depressed or suicidal.
Stay Tuned! More to follow very soon!