A Silent Epidemic

A Silent Epidemic

April 1, 2020 ◊ By Jackie Simmons

A Silent Epidemic

My life took a dramatic turn in August when one of my students delivered a 7-minute talk that rocked my world.

I'm still trying to grasp the magnitude of the "startling statistic" she shared.

Did you know that teens are attempting to take their own lives at the rate of over 3,000 a day?

. . . and that's just in the US.

I was so shocked that I partnered with her to launch a mission to reduce that number by 50% in the next five years.

Over the next few weeks, over 20 authors came together, we wrote and published a book, and we're using it to get teens talking because we know that if we can get them talking, we can get them healing.

I get a lot of questions, including: "Why only teens when suicide is a bigger issue? Why are you not looking at the causes? Aren't you being a bit too narrow?"

Here are my answers, if you’re curious. . .

Dear Curious,

Good points, and I appreciate the asking.

Yes, sadly, suicide is not a problem reserved for anyone age group or demographic. There are many causes and many organizations addressing them. We chose the one area that we have the most understanding of and could create the clearest vision for.

Our mission is simple: Stem The Tide Of Teen Suicide

Our goal: Reduce the number of teen suicide attempts by 50% by the year 2025.

Our method: Remove some of the social blocks to sharing and talking about the thoughts and feelings, that when are not shared and talked about, sometimes get stuck and grow into feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

We know from our own experiences, and conversations with other suicide attempt survivors, that suicide is a silent killer. So we’re out to make it easier to break the silence, starting with teens and their parents because that's the story we lived.

The 7-minute speaker was my daughter, a multiple suicide attempt survivor, and I am the parent of suicidal children. I lived in that invisible jail of chronic uncertainty that only a parent of suicidal children knows.

This clarity of focus is what allowed us to move forward so quickly.

Our task: get the Make It A Great Day: The Choice Is Yours book into the hands of 100,000 teens, for free, this year.

(500,000 next year, and 500,000 the next year, and 500,000 the next year, until we’ve met our goal.)

The book is specifically designed to get teens talking.

We know that there will be a tipping point. We think it will be somewhere around the 1 million mark, that being the number of teens who are attempting to take their own lives, each year, in just the US, right now.

We kept it simple with a buy-one-give-two program to fund the books.

The simplicity of how we are going about our mission makes it easy for people to join in and support the movement.

We’ve beta-tested the book idea with a group of teens at a local high school and discovered something really startling, the problem is even bigger than we thought.

After sharing my story, why I was there, what we’re trying to accomplish and how, I asked the teens for their stories.

“Do you have a friend who tried or died?”

They went around the room, one after the other, telling the stories of their friends who tried, and the stories of their friends who died.

One young lady lost her first friend to suicide, in elementary school, and a second friend just last year.

The stories kept coming.

As they spoke, an amazing thing started happening. The teens started snapping pictures of the back of the book and posting them on SnapChat. And when the group was ending, every teen took a book for themselves, and every teen took a second book to give to a friend.

When I left the school, it dawned on me that it wasn’t just some of the teens in the room who shared stories. It wasn’t even most of the teens who shared stories, it was every single one of them.

100% of the teens in the room had a suicide story.

We’re losing a whole generation to an epidemic of suicide.

That’s why we’re focused on what we can do to help this generation.

What we can do:

We can start the conversations.

We can write more books.

We can give more talks.

We can stem the tide.

Please share the mission page with your friends, your list, and your tribe.

Be prepared and willing to listen.

Once someone hears about the book and the mission, it’s becoming the norm that they open up and share their story, sometimes for the first time.

The stories I’m hearing are not all related to teens; they are all related to suicide: their own attempts, their friends, and family members who’ve tried and died. All ages, all walks of life, all unique, and all touch my heart and keep me moving on the mission.

Thank you for asking.

Jackie Simmons,

Stem The Tide Of Teen Suicide Speaker and Co-Founder of the Make It A Great Day Movement





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