During the spring semester of 2002, while I was teaching my creative-writing class at Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn, a student finally shared and read aloud a poem that he had just written. And after he read, our jaws dropped with amazement, our eyes widened with shock, our brows curled with concern, our hearts stopped with empathy, and our bodies froze with fear.
It was a remarkable transformation to witness, and I have had the pleasure of seeing this kind of magic happen again and again because of Jake and the work he has done tirelessly, with much help, for the next group of returning Veterans who come and give us what is literally a last chance at saving their lives, in Malibu.
A critical component in reducing military suicides lies in understanding the second derivative of the problem: the underlying reason for the suicidal thought. When someone reaches out to us for help, we not only connect that client to a mental healthcare provider, but we ask pointed questions to try and identify the catalyst or trigger for that suicidal ideation.
Part of the problem is that men, even relatively successful ones like my grandfather, who ran a cafeteria, and one of my cousins, who was a well-to-do doctor and businessman, often have a problem with openly discussing their depression and other mental illnesses, to say nothing of suicidal feelings.