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Tue, March 02

Haddad: Halting suicides may start with sharing a sandwich

A number of years ago there was a man who worked at my office that everyone loved. For this story I’ll call him James.

James was a kind and caring man, always helping others. He was also an extremely talented artist.

As often is the case with artists, James had a great capacity to love and feel emotion. But with the ability to love so deeply also comes the danger of acute heartache, which James had experienced when his first wife left him for another man.

After years of timid recovery, it was with great excitement and joy that the staff welcomed James’ announcement that he had bravely opened his heart once more to a woman and would be wed.

Just a few short weeks after the wedding the unspeakable happened. James came home one day to discover his new wife in bed with another man. Our hearts all ached for this man who was willing to love others so deeply.

The next day James did not show up for work.

Fearing the worst, a few employees went to his home where they found all of James’ belongings packed into his car. His home was empty except for a note that the police retrieved shortly after we reported his disappearance. In the note, James said he had lost all hope, and that he was going into the forest to take his own life.

Police officers, coworkers and friends immediately spread out among the many mountain roads and trails in search of James, hoping to find him in time.

Two sisters who worked together at the office with James felt impressed to travel down a control road where they found him walking in the direction of a range of large cliffs. They pulled over but did not know exactly what to do. James looked at them as if he were in a trance, dazed and not thinking clearly but seemingly determined to end his life.

The only thing the sisters could think to do was offer him a sandwich. They said, “Won’t you come with us to our house and let us make you a sandwich?” James turned and said, “I am hungry, and that sounds nice.”

So, he agreed to get in their car and the sisters brought him home to their table and made him a sandwich.

This simple act may have saved his life.

LOCAL STATISTICS ALARMING

In 2019, 98 people died by suicide in Yavapai County, an increase of 17% from the 84-suicides in 2018. At that time, MatForce Director Merilee Fowler said suicides were predominantly occurring among the senior population, the average age being 62. Seventy-five of the people were 50-years of age or older.

In 2020 the county saw a reduction in suicide deaths, down to 71, but there was an increase in the number of teens and young people taking their own lives.

In our Jan. 17 story by Daily Courier reporter Nanci Hutson, Fowler said she is alarmed by recent teen suicide statistics. Between May and December 2020, Fowler said there were four suicide deaths of teenagers under age 18 and one who was 19. The year before there was one suicide death of an 18-year-old and two 19-year-olds. In 2020, there were eight other suicide deaths in the 20-29 age category; the year before there were two.

“This is a significant increase,” Fowler said of deaths in the younger age range. “We need to be waving the flag and thinking about what we are doing.”

But what does “waving the flag” look like? It can look like many things depending on the person hungering for hope. It might look like inviting someone over for a sandwich.

It is my prayer that we will share our sandwiches, time and love with those who need them most. We all have something to give, and the simplest acts of kindness are often our best way of staying connected.

Please don’t withhold your sandwiches, especially from our young people who need to feel loved and know their lives have meaning and purpose.

“Neither do men [make a sandwich] and put it under a bushel...”

LOCAL HELP IS AVAILABLE

• West Yavapai Guidance Clinic offers a variety of mental health programs for youth and adults, and their Crisis Stabilization Unit in Prescott Valley is open 24-hours-a-day to anyone who needs assistance, with or without insurance.

• Spectrum Health Care, 877-634-7333, spectrumhealthcare-group.com

• Terros Health Care offers mobile crisis care, 877-756-4090, terroshealth.org/mobile-crisis

• The Launch Pad Teen Center, 928-227-0758, thelaunchpadteencenter.org

• MatForce, 928-708-0100, matforce.org

• Southwest Behavioral Health Services, sbhservices.org/get-help

• Yavapai Justice and Mental Health Coalition, justicementalhealth.com

• Yavapai County Suicide Prevention Coalition, 928-708-0100

• Arizona Teen Lifeline Hotline, 800-248-8336

• Crisis Response Network Hotline, 877-756-4090

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