Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than twice as many people as homicides, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And yet the topic of suicide receives less media attention because it is deeply personal and often stigmatized. The Spokesman-Review typically does not report on individual suicide deaths.
But in the rare instance when a bereaved father speaks publicly about his son’s suicide, just days after it happens, there is opportunity to shed light on an important issue and connect readers with information that could save lives.
That’s why the S-R reported the story of Phil Tyler, who promised to advocate for mental health care reform after his son, Devon, died by suicide on Nov. 28 at age 22.
Studies show that certain types of reporting on suicides can provoke others, a phenomenon known as “suicide contagion” or “copycat suicide.”
But Marny Lombard, a former S-R journalist who now works with the Seattle suicide-prevention group Forefront, said it’s important to raise awareness and speak openly about suicide. Her son, Samuel Henderson Lombard, took his own life in 2013. Like Devon Tyler, he was 22.
The simplest way to approach someone who appears to be dealing with depression, Lombard said, is to ask questions like “How are you?” or “What’s going on?”
“The real point is to establish yourself as a safe place for your child to come and tell hard things, and we all know that that’s very difficult for some kids to do in some families,” she said. “But that’s really what you want, that open trust.”
Lombard urged anyone who is seriously planning suicide, or even simply thinking about it, to seek out local resources, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or send a text to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
“Non-emergency calls are welcome,” she said.
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