The national statistics on suicide are alarming – and getting worse.
- On average, someone completes suicide every 12 minutes in the United States.
- There are usually twice as many suicides as homicides.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds and the second leading cause of death for 24- to 35-year-olds.
- Since 2005, the suicide rate in the U.S. has increased every year but one, growing from 10.9 people per 100,000 to 13.0 per 100,000 in 2014.
Thinker Ventures is based in Rockford, Ill., a strong manufacturing town that has been hit hard by globalization and automation. In the Great Recession, when the national unemployment rate jumped to 10 percent in October 2009, in Rockford it soared all the way to 17.8 percent in July of that year.
Not surprisingly, beginning in 2009 and every year since, the suicide rate in Winnebago County has been higher than the nation as a whole. In 2014, the suicide rate in our home county hit 17 per 100,000 people.
In the social media era, the population that has seen the highest increase is 15- to 24-year-olds. In the days before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, at least the stress of being bullied at school or getting into a dispute would end with the final bell. Now, those issues follow you on your phone or personal computer.
Kevin Polky, a licensed clinical social worker and founder of kp Counseling in Rockford, has been called into school districts several times the past few years to help staff and students recover from the sudden loss of a student through suicide. It’s a job he would like to do far less so he formed a nonprofit group called Shatter Our Silence to change the conversation about suicide and to eliminate the stigma surrounding it. Polky has developed a curriculum to teach teachers, parents, coaches, mentors – really anyone connected to children and young adults – how to identify the warning signs of depression and suicide and what to do when they spot those signs.
In Rockford, this Thursday Gateway Performing Arts Studio is putting on a one-night only performance of Next To Normal at Rockford
University’s Maddox Theater as a fundraiser for Shatter Our Silence. Next to Normal is a rock musical about a family with a mother struggling with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, and suicidal thoughts. After the play, Polky and the cast members will talk to the audience about depression and suicide and what we can do to stem the rising tide.
Thinker Ventures is proud to be helping Polky and Shatter Our Silence and urge everyone in their community – including the business community – to get involved both here and wherever you are based.
Thursday night begins with a reception at 5 p.m. in the Maddox Theater lobby. The show beings at 6 p.m. The costs are $15 per ticket with all proceeds going to Shatter Our Silence. You can order tickets online at www.ticketor.com/gatewayperformingartsstudio.