by Matt Mabe, SSS Director of Communications
A deejay. An Army sergeant. A former voice actor. An attorney with a crown.
Men and women. Young and old. Black and white. Veterans and civilians.
All have made national news in recent days, not just because of their family connections to well known celebrities or because they achieved public notoriety in their own right, but because every one of them died by suicide.
Ian Alexander, Jr., was the beloved only child of actress Regina King, with whom, by all accounts, he shared a deep and abiding love. Hudson Madsen, the son of actor Michael Madsen, was a 26-year-old soldier stationed in Hawaii and had just supported his wife through a scary medical procedure. Peter Robbins, the 65-year-old one-time voice of Peanuts character Charlie Brown, battled mental illness his whole life and had recently served time in prison. Cheslie Kryst, was an attorney, a TV personality, and a former Miss USA.
These tragic deaths remind us of our duty to remain vigilant of those who might be at risk of suicide. Because for every suicide death that makes the front page, hundreds of our fellow Americans take their lives – quietly, anonymously – making it difficult for the rest of us to get our heads around the sheer scale of the loss of life.
And make no mistake, that toll is tremendous. Some 48,000 Americans a year die by suicide, including almost 6,400 veterans, the latter of which have a 53 percent greater chance of dying by suicide than their nonveteran fellow citizens. That means unless we act now, suicide will claim the lives of another 55,000 veterans by 2030.
At Stop Soldier Suicide, we refuse to stand by and let that happen. Our work every day is devoted to the goal we set in 2020 of reducing military and veteran suicide rates by 40% before the end of this decade. And we are on track to make that happen. In 2021, Stop Soldier Suicide saved almost 150 lives – the equivalent of an Army infantry company – and to this day we are the only national nonprofit focused solely on reducing the military and veteran suicide rate. We believe this is a battle that can and will be won.
Stop Soldier Suicide is engaged in this fight all year round. We have to be. Still, we should all recognize that certain times of year are more concerning than others and demand an extra degree of alertness toward those we love or care about.
Winter is a tough season. The music, cheer, and bonhomie of the holidays are behind us. In most areas of the country, the bleak mid-winter stillness can seem interminable. This feeling is especially acute for people struggling with depression and suicidal ideation.
So if you or someone you know is struggling right now – or if they just seem off – ask them about it. You could save a life. If there is a veteran or service member in your life who needs help, or if you are that person, then come to us. Stop Soldier Suicide will give you the help you need.