First things first. I want to admit right off that I was “one of the ones”. I was “one of the ones” that wondered 15 months ago how this new, scary, taboo subject of Suicide Prevention fit within our association’s goal to be the source and resource to the construction industry. I was “one of the ones” that thought that suicide’s impact, though profound on those directly impacted, related to too few of our members to be relevant. I was “one of the ones” that thought bringing this to the forefront had to be the responsibility of some OTHER group; surely it could not fall to a group of accountants. And I write this now today to say I was, at the end of the day, “one of the ones” who was SO profoundly wrong that I find it incredibly humbling and in truth, somewhat shameful to admit. You see, I thought all of that, and then the last 15 months of my life happened and I am no longer and never again will be “one of the ones”.
December 9, 2015: I flew to Austin, Texas for a CFMA Executive Committee meeting. I landed and like many parents, took my phone off Airplane Mode as quickly as allowed to let my children know I had landed safely. Instead of me getting to send quick texts of assurance that day though, I had an urgent text from my oldest daughter. “Mom – Please call me as soon as you can. One of my friends took his life last night. I just found out. I don’t know what to do! HELP!” I attest it took several minutes just to gather my thoughts and to call my then 22-year-old daughter to try to help her. I attest there are few words known to me to help explain why a vibrant young man, a young man whose passion had led him to work alongside her providing summer camp experiences to terminally ill kids and kids with severe medical conditions, how that young man had reached such a level of despair that he had not cried out. That they, his friends, did not and would not now ever get the chance to try to help. How such vibrancy and compassion for others ended in his death by suicide.
Also December, 2015: Death by suicide tragically strikes a long-time friend of mine here in the Central Indiana Chapter of CFMA. I have had the pleasure of serving alongside this peer on the chapter’s Education Committee (which he led with absolute dedication for 10+ years). He is a peer who is in part responsible for where I am today in leadership in CFMA as he was part of the group that first approached me about serving as a Chapter Officer. But now this hard-working dedicated friend learns that his brother, a husband and father of three children, a Controller for a large hotel chain, has gone missing after unexpectedly losing his employment. Tragically, my dear CFMA friend and his family would learn days later that his brother had died by suicide. I pause again and try, pretty unsuccessfully, to process how a middle-age, professional, married, father of three children has died by suicide and how to even try to help my friend in his time of loss.
June 27, 2016: I attend an Executive Committee meeting at the CFMA Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas where I have the pleasure of hearing Cal Beyer and Sally Spencer-Thomas speak to the Committee about not just all that they are accomplishing and the momentum building, but also how CFMA’s involvement is helping make this happen. I regret I was not able to attend any of Cal and Sally’s sessions at the Conference, but I can tell you that they so moved me that upon landing back in Indianapolis, I reached out to my local chapter peer whose brother died by suicide just six months prior to start the wheels of a Suicide Prevention Summit for Indianapolis.
And that all brings me to when I was forever changed. I had the opportunity to and privilege of attending the CFMA Chicago Chapter’s Suicide Prevention Summit. I attended in hopes of seeing how they developed their program. I attended to get tips and advice. I attended to get additional connections who can provide valuable assistance to our Indy team. I attended because from a geographical standpoint and a timing standpoint it made sense to see this with my own eyes. I got all of that… and an awakening. There I DID get to see Sally Spencer-Thomas present. I learned in vivid clarity that we are losing far, far too many shining stars to death by suicide. I learned I am no longer happy to be rescuing downstream if I can have anything to do with helping upstream (thank you Sally). I learned it will no longer be a North Mechanical safety motto to just get our employees home safe every night; we will do all we can to have them safely back with us each morning (thank you Cal). And I learned my casseroles will never again be just for my friends facing physical mountains; I will step in the gap and provide the same compassion for any of my friends who find their lives impacted by mental illness (thank you David Sauerman).
Am I ashamed to admit I was “one of the ones”? Absolutely! But that person is no longer! Instead, she would love to see you at the Indianapolis Suicide Prevention Summit (watch here for the date and details: CFMA Central Indiana Chapter Home). If not Indianapolis, then I would love to have you attend any CFMA Chapter Suicide Prevention Summit coming up in the next few months (see here for dates and locations Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention Upcoming Events and please watch for frequent updates as I know of many more in the works). I would love to see as many of you as can attend the Suicide Prevention sessions coming June 3rd – 7th at CFMA’s 2017 Annual Conference in Phoenix, Arizona (CFMA's 2017 Annual Conference). Get informed. Be prepared. When called upon, let us help you be ready to make a difference.
So, in closing, I was wrong. Suicide Prevention is absolutely, positively, in line with our association’s goal to be the source and resource to our industry. Suicide Prevention touches, I now understand, all of our members. Some more profoundly than others, yes; but we can and should stand 7800 members strong (and growing) in any way that we can to stop this tragedy! And we, CFMA, “just” a group of accountants, are absolutely the group to bring this to the forefront! We now stand alongside 24 (and also growing) other construction industry associations taking a stand to do whatever it takes to protect our most valuable asset, our people, all day, every day. Because through this, we will take our industry far, far from the number 2 spot on the suicide-by-industry list. We will save lives! And we all will reap the benefits of continuing to see shining stars shine!!!