By Gus Bouchard
I almost never use this space to promote charity events and groups. All the truly good causes in this world are not very funny.
Take human trafficking. Yes, I’d love to do what I can to help prevent 11-year-old girls from being sold into sex slavery in a seedy Haitian warehouse full of mangy rats and hypodermic needles and copies of the 2012 Red Sox Yearbook. But this topic does not provide quality soil from which to sprout the immature jokes and awkward metaphors that have made me famous.
You see, this publication pays me millions of pesos a week to heave its readers into side-splitting fits of mirth interspersed with the kind of social and political insight you could expect to access only at the feet of a Himalayan guru.
Such a function does not mesh well with cheering on the world’s do-gooders.
But, occasionally, I find myself wrapped up in a cause that I believe in too strongly to ignore the potential to reach out to my dozen or so readers for support.
On September 23, I’ll be walking to prevent suicide, and I’d appreciate your support.
There are six “Out of the Darkness” suicide prevention walks scheduled around the state this fall. Mine is in Orono. You can go to outofthedarkness.org to register for one or to donate.
Suicide is the #1 public health menace in the United States that never gets talked about.
It kills about 35,000 people per year in this country – more than prostate cancer, melanoma, and AIDS, and just about as many as breast cancer.
But people think about suicide differently, which is unfair. Suicide attempts result from some form of mental illness or debilitation. Often it’s depression, which, in its most severe form, can lead to psychosis and delusions. While mental illness can be overcome differently than other afflictions, it deserves no less compassion.
When your mind starts telling you that you are worthless and the world would be better off without you, it’s hard to see hope, particularly if you’ve been drinking. Others can see how important, necessary, and valuable you are, but somehow that file didn’t get downloaded into the person who is walking in those depressed shoes.
For some reason, a suicide attempt is still seen as a blemish on someone’s moral character. For those left behind, it feels selfish. We talk about those who “commit” suicide, which is a pejorative term. One “commits” a crime or “commits” adultery. Suicide is a desperate act by someone who is suffering and who is not, at least momentarily, capable of seeing reality or thinking clearly.
Each suicide deeply impacts, on average, about six people. Suicide attempts account for untold millions of dollars spent in emergency medical and psychiatric services. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention supports research into mental illness and suicidality so that people can get help before their case becomes too serious.
AFSP also provides outreach and support for those who have been impacted by suicide – people who bear a unique and terrible sense of guilt and shame even though though they’ve done nothing wrong.
So, I’ll make a deal with you. If you go to my fundraising page and give money for the Out of the Darkness walk, next week I’ll go back to making silly jokes about finding boogers in between couch cushions, and John Kerry traveling back in time to give the speech he should have given in 2004, and all that good stuff.
I promise. Cross my heart and hope to… uh, never mind.