Suicide Prevention in the FIRE Community

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This blog post is part of the 3rd Annual Suicide Prevention & Awareness Month blog tour. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.

 

Call it First World problems; the minor inconveniences of life: the traffic light turned red at the last moment, you’re surprised by a repair, you discover you have to work past the age of 30. We live in such opportune times it’s easy to forget real difficulties exist. Some right in our own communities.

September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month and Melanie Lockert of Dear Debt is asking personal finance bloggers once again to take up the keyboard to prevent unnecessary tragedy. I participated in the first two Suicide Prevention Blog Tours but intended to sit this one out when I got the email. I had no idea what I wanted to write. I said what I needed to say and had no more to add to the heap of literature on suicide prevention. Then I walked to the mailbox.




A Difficult Weekend

The Suicide Prevention Blog Tour is designed to bring attention debt, depression and suicide. Some bloggers keep it simple, pushing the simple message of hope and encouragement. I prefer a longer emotional story to illustrate my point.

The statistics are damning. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people in their early 20s and the overall rate of suicide increased 28% from 1999 to 20161. Mental health is a serious factor in suicide, but not always a factor. Complicating matters is that most suicide attempts are not the result of one issue only.

September is Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month. Debt is a leading cause of suicide. Debt help is available. Debt free. Debt freedom. #wealthyaccountant #debt #suicide #suicideawareness #suicideprevention #debtsnowball #debtfreeFinancial problems (the focus of the Suicide Prevention Blog Tour) are the fifth leading cause of all suicides1. Relationship problems are the leading cause. And that is where First World problems and a short walk to my mailbox collided.

Melanie’s email had already started sliding down the list of unanswered emails when I took that fateful walk to the roadside. Just in time for the Labor Day weekend, the current issue of National Geographic had arrived.

The cover of the magazine was disturbing, an ominous sign. This is the kind of reading I bury and get back to much later if ever. I normally read National Geographic from beginning to end religiously. This time I put the magazine next to my reading chair with the cover facing down. It was too hard to look at.

But like a Stephen King novel, it kept calling out to me. Slowly I paged through the magazine and gathered information on the disturbing cover. The story was about Katie Stubblefield and the face transplant she received.

I dared to start my routine read of the issue with the letter From the Editor and was in tears before I finished the letter I was so moved. I was vested in the story and the tragedy that brought this young woman into a nightmare I doubted I could ever personally survive.

20 Seconds that Changed a Life Forever

Katie was born to a loving family and grew to be a beautiful and intelligent woman. She was plagued with a perfectionist personality. When her perfect world started to crumble a final piece to the puzzle would put her face before the world.

Katie struggled to be the best at everything. One day she discovered messages on her boyfriend’s phone to another woman. He immediately broke up with her when she confronted him.

Katie went home and locked herself in the bathroom with her father’s rifle and cried. With no history of mental illness, depression or indication of suicidal tendencies, she put the barrel of the rifle under her chin and pulled the trigger.

But Katie did not die.

Her brother found her in a pool of blood, her face blown off from the blast. She was rushed to the hospital and stabilized. When the local medical community could do no more she was sent to the Cleveland Clinic.

I encourage you to read the September 2018 issue of National Geographic. Katie’s story is powerful and moving. Katie does get a face transplant from a woman who died of an overdose. The story cuts a wide wound in here (pointing to my chest). The words that stuck with me the most in the article were uttered by Katie’s mother, Alesia, “It was one moment. One moment, 20 seconds, changed our lives.”




Duty of the FI/RE2 Community

You would think a community of people well on their way toward financial independence would not have money problems so severe they would contemplate suicide. Unfortunately, many people who come to this community have had a traumatic life experience that forced them to reevaluate. These people are at risk of tripping over the cliff. Bloggers, podcasters and YouTubers of the community must always be cognizant of the people they serve lest they discover one day a promising life was ended because we took FI for granted.

September is Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month. Debt is a leading cause of suicide. Debt help is available. Debt free. Debt freedom. Debt snowball. IRS debt. #wealthyaccountant #debt #suicide #suicideawareness #suicideprevention #debtsnowball #debtfree #irsdebtEveryone is carrying a burden! Money can provide comfort and options in life, but it doesn’t change the strain of a serious medical situation. Divorce rips a family apart and the kids suffer most. Money will not salve that wound.

And mental health is a serious medical issue that money does not magically fix. Yes, wealth allows for most, if not all, medical options. Still, the depression can strike anyone at any time. Instead of shaking our heads and wondering why when we hear a person with financial independence and enjoying and early retirement puts a gun to their head, we should remember money didn’t make them sick; a medical condition did.

Maybe you’re lucky and don’t have depression. As a member of this community you are morally bound to help others who do suffer. Your wealth is not an invitation to unrestrained hedonism. When we see a fallen soul we are duty-bound to help. Like the military, we don’t leave one of our own on the battlefield.

Watchful Eyes

Nobody saw it coming when Katie Stubblefield snapped. There were signs in afterthought, but nothing anybody could have recognized. And that can happen. A singular event can trigger a massive negative response. It is hard to understand what can make us feel helpless and unwilling to continue on.

Fortunately, most people tell us they are walking into the dark. We must keep our eyes and ears open for the warning signs. Significant loss is a leading reason people tumble into the darkness. Depression can rear its ugly head for the first time after the loss of a loved one. Being shunned by people you love and respect can wreck devastation on the psyche.

I’ve been around this crowd long enough to know a few struggle with a heavy burden. Even our kind-hearted and fearless leader, Melanie, has struggled. She put debt behind her and discovered how deep the despair many feel with insurmountable financial problems. Melanie also suffered the loss of a loved one after a relatively long relationship. He decided to go his own way. I can’t imagine her pain. Still, I listen from a distance (mostly her online comments) for hints of trouble. Those closest to her should be even more vigilant.

As a community we are very fortunate. Even if we are deep in debt and taking our first steps toward freedom we are incredibly blessed! No matter how difficult the road ahead may seem, we know we don’t walk alone. There are numerous souls who have gone before willing to help, willing to lend a hand, to pull you up, to help you stand tall and straight.




Luck has Nothing to do with It

Katie did not get lucky. If she were lucky she would never have put the gun to her head. She will get a new lease on life. It will be anything but easy. The medical challenges ahead will never cease. After four years she finally has a face. The surgeries and pain and struggle will be relentless and unending. Building FI is similar in many ways. We work hard, save, invest and care deeply.

September is Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month. Debt is a leading cause of suicide. Debt help is available. Debt free. Debt freedom. Debt snowball. IRS debt. Depression and mental health. #wealthyaccountant #debt #suicide #suicideawareness #suicideprevention #debtsnowball #debtfree #irsdebt #depressionPeople suffer for many reasons. Usually we can keep the demons under control. But everyone has a breaking point. Push hard enough far enough and the darkness wins. You can’t step back from the darkness alone. It is like a black hole with infinite power to draw you in.  If you ever reach that point, pray someone with the courage and the heart grabs you from behind and pulls you to safety.  No matter how much money you have or don’t have will make no difference.

The gun in Katie’s hands didn’t ask about her financial situation. The one bout of depression she had took control and changed her life forever. It is nothing short of a miracle she didn’t die that fateful day. Her family never left her side as she fought and still fights for life. The doctors worked miracles and have never stopped working to give Katie the life she deserves.

The only way any of us are safe from the darkness is if we all are committed to helping anyone at the brink. It is the only thing that makes us human; the true meaning of wealth; what it means to truly be financially independent.

 

Please, if you are suffering depression or suicidal thoughts, call either a local crisis hot line or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7, is confidential and free.

 

You are not in this alone.

 

1 National Geographic Magazine, September 2018, Page 89

2 Financial Independence/Early Retirement

 

Resources

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line — Text HOME to 741741

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Project Semicolon

CNQR

Open Path Collective — affordable therapy. You can also check your local college to see if their graduate program in counseling offers discounted sessions.

Debtors Anonymous

 

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Keith Taxguy

9 Comments

  1. slay on September 6, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Atlantic Monthly recently had a long form article on the (possible) disaster that smart phones/social media have been for the mental health of young people. Depression and suicidality is way up for that cohort. The article admits that while it may be nearly impossible to show causation, this deterioration should cause some serious pause and special attention to your child’s smart phone/social media use. Maybe put off getting your child a smart phone as long as possible. If they have one, and if you can still regulate it, keep them off of it as much as possible.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/

    • Keith Taxguy on September 6, 2018 at 2:16 pm

      Excellent resource, Slay.

  2. Mark on September 6, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    For suicide prevention month, I will post an updated version of a post I did on my old blog on the suicide of my brother. He was 29. I might use your blog as a backlink for some of the stats.

    • Keith Taxguy on September 6, 2018 at 2:18 pm

      My stats came directly from National Geographic so I’m confident in the numbers. I am also sorry for your loss, Mark. If we can prevent one tragedy like this all our work would be worth it.

  3. Michael on September 7, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    My cousin killed himself Tuesday:

    https://www.free-times.com/music/with-adam-cullum-s-death-columbia-loses-one-of-its/article_0b85604a-b219-11e8-a37a-0bd559566480.html

    I don’t live in the same city as he did, and it had been a few years since I crossed paths with him. But 400 people packed in and around a church that only held 150 for his service yesterday, and the most common thread on FB by those who knew him well was that they “just…didn’t…know” the pain he obviously must have been going through, and wished they had said something before this happened.

    Many thanks for bringing attention to this, Keith

    • Keith Taxguy on September 7, 2018 at 9:48 pm

      I am so sorry for your loss, Michael. So sorry.

  4. Anonymous on September 8, 2018 at 1:25 am

    I have a disability, am a single parent along with a problem getting out of debt. Debt has been a major sentence in my life since I was young, not to mention I grew up in poverty. I have a solid plan in place and try to follow it. But Murphy always happens. I am extremely tired of carrying debt. I dream, I work to follow a path, have worked extra hard to climb the career ladder and every time my efforts for debt freedom get knocked down. I have little faith now in the results I want to achieve and I am majorly tired. End of life, no. But something in the way I approach the equation is missing and I can’t figure it out (but really need to).

    I guess its to say, I understand where someone might be coming from. If linked to debt, the problem is bigger than debt. The debt is a compounding secondary. And help – I hope this doesn’t come out wrong – but most help from an arms reach away. Like a pat on the back. Very rarely do you find someone to offer an actual helping hand. And this might be due to a person not knowing how to help but are able to offer an encouraging word. Or it might be due to the depressed person’s isolated nature refusing help.

    I appreciate Melanie and the community’s efforts. Its a good way to bring awareness and communication to the subject.

    • Keith Taxguy on September 8, 2018 at 7:24 am

      Anonymous, you are carrying a heavy load. Medical issues and disability are tremendous burdens. Raising children on your own only adds to the demands.

      Dave Ramsey said it best years ago when a caller asked about debt when there was a family medical issue. “Family is more important,” he said. The kids and health are more important than more money or debt-free living. It is a hard choice when we read about eliminating debt. Sometimes the best choice is to go into debt. I’d rather be debt and debt and broke with my family than rich and sick and without my family.

      That is all easy for me to say. Debt adds to the problems no matter how important the required spending was. You can’t let debt get to you if more important issues thread your life. Too many people feel depressed when they read news stories of people digging out of debt fast and retiring early. I work hard on this blog to allay those emotions. Those stories create a false sense of value and not everyone can do what the news releases show. And it is sensationalism at best, lazy reporting and worst.

      I consult with readers most of the year. Many express angst over not retiring at a younger age. It is the new “keeping up with the Jones” with all the accompanying stress.

      Anon, your child/children and you come first. Work at debt using the stuff we teach in the FIRE community and on this blog. But never feel down because it didn’t happen as it does in the blogs. Some of it is bogus. I work with many bloggers and know there is a bit of literary license used to sell copy. It’s unfair to people like you.

      Be happy with who you are, and, as the Stoics said, wish for things to be as they are. Once you internalize that message you will find happiness and contentment regardless the situation.

      Yes, Melanie is an awesome lady with an incredible mission. Never forget, Anon, you are special too.

  5. Debt is a Temporary Problem - Less Debt, More Wine on September 24, 2018 at 4:46 am

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