The weekend before Labor Day, 2011, was a beautiful weekend in Northeast Ohio. Since my birthday was coming up I spent a lot of time with my parents. We hiked around one of our favorite parks, and just had a great time. When I got home, I checked into Twitter as I often do, and saw the news sail by. Trey Pennington had passed away, apparently by suicide.
It seemed like a really cruel, stupid hoax. I did not know Trey well personally but he was one of those people who seemed bigger than life. He seemed to know everybody I knew, he was everywhere that mattered, and what’s more, I never heard anyone say a bad thing about him. In the online world, that’s pretty amazing.
As it became clear that the news was not a hoax, my thoughts immediately traveled to my many friends who had known and adored Trey. I felt like I had been punched in the gut, and I didn’t even know him. How do you deal with such things if you’re a friend or a family member? I can’t imagine it. As a friend of friends, I felt completely powerless, shocked, angry, stupefied, and many other things that are hard to name.
The number of people whose lives are touched by suicide is shocking. A second online acquaintance of mine took his own life just a month after Trey passed. Many other online friends have lost loved ones, and each time that sickening, stomach-lurching sensation washes over me. How can you withstand such pain? Most importantly, how can we prevent these suicides from happening in the first place?
I do not have any answers to these questions. I wish I did. But there are organizations out there that are trying to help. One such organization is a group called ImAlive. The organization offers live chat for several hours every day, so people in their hour of desperation can reach out and call without feeling the pressure of wondering if they are burdening a loved one. What they would really like to do, however, is offer chat support 24/7 through August of 2014.
I am honored to say that Geoff Livingston has invited me to work with him and Olivier Blanchard on an effort to raise funds so that ImAlive can do just that. Through Mightycause, we will be raising funds September 8-14 with a giving day on the 10th. You can read more about how that works and you can donate right here. I hope you check out the effort, check out the links that Geoff has posted, and help us spread the word. This is an important cause, and one that may be hard for a lot of people to talk about or even think about. But I really believe that maybe, through this effort, we can make a little dent for the better. I hope you’ll join us!