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We need to talk about suicide.

“I lost my son," Perry told reporters after the speech. "We need to talk about suicide out loud to try to work against the stigma and silence around suicide because the best prevention for suicide is awareness and discussion and not trying to sweep it under the rug."

While accepting the Oscar for best documentary short subject, producer Dana Perry said suicide should be talked about "out loud," dedicating the award to her son. During her acceptance speech on behalf of "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1," the music abruptly cut off when Perry mentioned her son, Evan Scott Perry, died by suicide at age 15 in 2005.

This acceptance speech came before writer Graham Moore talked about his suicide attempt as a teen. When Dana and Graham spoke and used the word, suicide, I bolted out of my chair. Really? Think of the millions of people who heard that. “Stay weird, stay different, said Graham.

During all the years I have worked in the world of suicide prevention, most survivors say they weren’t aware of suicide “before” and they want to make a difference to “spare others what I’m going through”. I never hesitated to talk about mom and how she died. I used the word “suicide” from the very beginning. Most of you do as well. It’s a conversation stopper, though, isn’t it?

Sometimes the sayings that are used in this newsletter are about survivors (us) wanting those out there (them) to treat us as normal people. Don’t look down or away; look into my eyes. We want to have normal conversation, yet we need people to know that we are, truly, different. We will never be the same. Can that be part of the conversation? Can we say that out loud?

Recently someone told me that close friends of theirs had a teenage son die by suicide. It was about 3 months after the death and the 4 friends were out to dinner together. Someone who recognized the mom of the deceased son, walked over to the table as the 4 were chatting, looked the mom in the eye, lowered her eyes and her voice tone and said, “Oh…I heard…about….well you know….” She offered her condolences and walked away. The dinner was over at that point. The foursome got up and left the restaurant.

These things happen and the resilience or quippy comeback we may need evades us IF we can even speak after that. What do we do? How do we handle it?

A few days later, the mom called this woman and tried to start a conversation. She tried to “talk out loud” about the death of her son by suicide. While both women were ill at ease, the recipient of the phone call got off the phone as quickly as possible. The mom, however, said she at least felt good having tried to help this acquaintance understand. While survivor work and survivor groups have been meeting for many decades and survivors of attempt groups are springing up all around the country, Dana and Graham brought to millions in a few minutes what many have been trying to do for years. I am so pleased that they used that forum, during the 45 seconds they each had, to make a difference. Believe me, they’ve made a difference.

People all over our country are talking about it out loud. Each one of you has spoken of your loved one. You have “talked out loud”, used the word, suicide, and tried to make sense out of the senseless. Yes, it’s easier to talk with and to other survivors. Our group works because we share a common loss.. Yet, each story is unique and our own. Andy Weiss will tell us not to use “commit” but rather, “ died by. ” Blythe will talk of Quincee and her goofy, funny, endearing ways. Each one of us teaches others how we want to be treated and we teach people that the memories never die. We will love them to our last breath. …. I think of Dana and Evan. At our proudest moments, we remember them and speak of them. We wish they were there with us in person, I mean. We think of them in our weakest times; we think of them all the time.

In fact:

We Remember Them In the rising of the sun and its going down; We Remember Them. In the bowing of the wind and in the chill of winter; We Remember Them. In the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring; We Remember Them. In the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer; We Remember Them. In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn; We Remember Them. In the beginning of the year and when it ends; We Remember Them. When we are weary and in need of strength; We Remember Them. When we are lost and sick of heart; We Remember Them. When we have joys and special celebrations we yearn to share; We Remember Them. So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are part of us; We Remember Them. ~From the Jewish Book of Prayer~

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