Confronting suicide

Published 9:06 pm Sunday, April 22, 2018

Jason Swindle
Senior partner, criminal defense attorney at Swindle Law Group

Brandon was a good friend.  He was my high school roommate, football teammate and co-worker at the Sir Shop in Statesboro, Georgia. At Georgia Southern, after I became a KA, he became a pledge. We did all the things that many college guys did in the early and mid-90s. He liked his drink. At the time, I did too. We hunted, dated nice ladies, and did some practice shooting with friends. 

I will never forget that his favorite handgun was a .357 Smith & Wesson revolver. He would always shoot .38 rounds out of it. It lessened the “kick,” and he believed it made the gun more accurate. 

Yet, I sensed something about Brandon that he was able to hide from almost everyone else — a deep fear I did not understand. 

During the summer going into my senior year, I received a phone call from his mother. It was the first, but not last time, I dropped to my knees in shock and disbelief. Brandon Jackson had taken his life. He was 21 years old. 

Brandon was my first friend to take his own life. But, he would not be the last. 

Earlier this year marked the 20th time that a friend, close acquaintance or client has taken his or her life. While each person was going through different circumstances, there has been a common question. Why?

There are other questions that we all ask when someone takes their life. What could I have done to help? How did this happen, he or she seemed so happy? Who or what made them do this? I don’t believe that these questions are ever truly answered. 

But, there are answers to suicide prevention. The answers and solutions are difficult and will take time to implement. If or when we decide to step up and really look into the eyes of suicide, these two issues must be addressed.

One is stigma. Ignorance and intolerance play a huge role in suicide rates. Our society understands and applauds our fellow citizens who overcome physical health problems. Yet, the person with even the slightest mental health problem is considered by many to be weak, “crazy,” or somehow unfit. This high level of ignorance and intolerance must be eradicated. 

The other is education and awareness. Because these tools work best when used together, I have combined them. Just like absolute perfect physical health, no one has perfect mental health. Yet, unlike seeing a doctor for reoccurring chest pains, it takes great courage to seek medical advice for depression, anxiety, or other conditions affecting our mental health. 

Based on history, Americans have always had what it takes to conquer what we set our sights on. My prayer today is that you will take the difficult steps to confront suicide with courage and strength. 

If you do, you will see me right beside you.