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Unread 12-27-2017, 09:59 AM
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[FRC Blog] Suicide Hits Home

https://www.firstinspires.org/roboti...cide-hits-home

Suicide Hits Home
Written by Frank Merrick


Martha Dickey is the Stewardship Manager in the FIRST Development Department. The Development Department is the group within FIRST that works hard to ensure we have the sponsorships we need to continue meeting our mission. Martha and the rest of the Development group are the kind of behind-the-scenes folks our teams are unlikely ever to meet, or even hear about. But their work is critical in powering the FIRST engine in delivering life-changing programs to thousands of young people.

On September 14th, Jason, Martha’s 19-year-old son, took his own life. The full story is here. The article is difficult to read because it is so packed with emotion. Personally, I struggled through the text to the end, but scrolled back up to the top to look through the photos, and then my tears flowed. But I recommend this article to everyone, even though it’s uncomfortable. This topic is so important.

When FIRST Robotics Competition hears of the death of a team member, we send a letter of condolence, signed by me and Don Bossi, President of FIRST. It’s hard to sign any condolence letter, but when we need to sign one for a student who has taken his or her own life, it’s especially painful. It’s just so tragic.

The good news is that there are resources available to help prevent these tragedies. If you are struggling with thoughts of killing yourself, please reach out. I guarantee you that while it may not seem so, there are people in your life that love you. And the world will be worse off without you around.

If you are in the United States, and you need someone to talk to, call 1-800-273-8255. En Espanol, 1-888-628-9454. If you prefer to chat online rather than speak, the website National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a chat function you may use. You can even just text TALK to 741741 to start a conversation. The ‘help yourself’ section of the website includes information on creating a safety plan that can help you if you are having suicidal thoughts.

Another wonderful resource is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Their website has a wealth of resources you can use to help yourself or help others.

In Canada, the number to call is 1-833-456-4566. Their website also has a chat function.

If you live outside the United States or Canada, see this website to find help.

If you have concerns about someone else in your life having thoughts of suicide, this website has resources for you. Click on the ‘resources’ tab to find them. Especially helpful is the list of warning signs to clue you in there may be a problem.

Some of you may wonder why we decided to blog on this topic. As a youth-serving organization, we at FIRST know how hard the teenage years can be, and we meet many parents and students whose lives are scarred by suicide, suicide attempts, or thoughts of suicide. The FIRST community is a family. This is one of the things that makes us so much more than just a robotics competition. We want to be there for each other, and we want you to know there are resources available to help. Please never give up, never abandon hope---please reach out to somebody---anybody—if you need help or support. Your life is worth at least a phone call, a chat, or a text.

Frank
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Unread 12-27-2017, 10:06 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Suicide Hits Home

One death is one too many. Sadly I know of a few that have happened in my time in FIRST. I would be ecstatic if it never happened again.
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Unread 12-27-2017, 10:17 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Suicide Hits Home

Not too long ago, I lost a co-worker to suicide. I think about him all the time and the impact he had on me as a person as well as the huge loss felt by his friends and family. It tears me up that depression and anxiety cause people to take their own lives and my thoughts go out to those impacted.
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Unread 12-27-2017, 01:58 PM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Suicide Hits Home

Another great blog. I truly appreciate that Frank and the FRC staff are willing to use their blog to bring awareness to such an important topic.
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Unread 12-27-2017, 05:39 PM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Suicide Hits Home

Thank you Frank for posting this. I am proud to be a part of an organization that vociferously advocates for the youth.
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Unread 12-27-2017, 07:14 PM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Suicide Hits Home

This is a difficult topic. Thanks for posting.

To anyone reading this - You are loved and you are needed. You matter. Your life is not your own, you cannot imagine how much you mean to other people.

It's important to remind others of this, especially since we cannot know what they're going through. Who knows, you may save a life.
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Unread 12-27-2017, 07:38 PM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Suicide Hits Home

This is always great to talk about in a candid and healthy way. It is especially important as we head into the build season.

It's vital to talk about mental health and how FRC teams and FIRST can create a positive space for students to explore and express themselves in a nurturing and safe environment. Creating and sustaining a team culture that values mental health of students in this program above all else is integral to everything we do here and it is something I personally want to talk about more in the future.
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Unread 12-27-2017, 08:24 PM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Suicide Hits Home

This is near and dear to my heart. No one knows what the answer is, but I think communication and education is great place to focus our efforts. Thanks for bringing this to the front of our conversations FIRST.
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Unread 12-28-2017, 10:49 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Suicide Hits Home

Forgive me if I'm oversharing, but this really resonated with me. Please keep in mind that I'm in a MUCH better place mentally, and that this is super student-centric. I don't think I'm qualified to speak on the mentor side of things quite yet.

People have asked me why I quit the team I was on, seeing as though I could still participate as a student for one more year. I've given a variety of answers of varying honesty in the past, but I've recently dedicated myself to answering this as honestly as possible.

I chose to leave for mental health. With the team I was previously on, I had harbored suicidal thoughts for multiple years. I would find myself quite close to self harm, with only the weight of ambition keeping me away. Team culture didn't help, neither did interactions with the members (or lack of thereof).

The team I was on was isolating to me, in what felt like a thankless job. It felt as though my worth on the team was measured by how much of myself I gave. There was one time at a regional with scaffolding bleachers where I genuinely considered jumping off. My mind would scream at me, "It's so easy. So easy." Yet I'd force myself to resist.

Once I was given the opportunity to leave by my mom pushing for me to take a break upon the arrival of an unexpected, unwanted(at least by me), and undisclosed government agency(Read as Child Protective Services), the time away from the team made me realize how unhealthy, and maybe abusive the team was for me. I still feel extremely uncomfortable around the head coach of the team I was on, to the point where whenever he enters the room, I instinctively go to the nearest adult and hide. It's quite sad.

I wasn't the only one to quit that year. A lot of people on that team didn't feel useful or appreciated. Many of the ones who didn't leave stepped back, and that's okay.

I feel like we've kinda frowned upon those kids who quit, the ones that aren't putting in every waking hour of the day into the program. Before I got myself to leave, I saw the inability to quit as a mark of pride.

Allowing students to use this as a measure of how much they're worth is not fair to them.
Shaming students for not attending as much or leaving is not fair to them.

What is fair to them?
Pushing a culture of mental health awareness:
  • Build a support system within your team and subteams.
  • Check in with members that aren't in that core group more often. These are the members most likely to get ignored.
  • Show that the students matter to the team, and that they're doing something useful. Even the kids that you might not think want to be useful, they want to be useful.
  • Make an end goal visible. Having direction helps so much.
  • Remind students that it's okay to take breaks, or even quit the team if they have to. Tell them you won't be disappointed, or upset. Even if students don't end up leaving the team, just knowing that option is available is such a weight off of one's shoulder.
The head coach of the team I was on would use doing things for the team as a bargaining token for former members, and when told "No," would have students keep asking.

PLEASE DO NOT DO THAT.

Sure, we can't stop all instances of FIRST-related mental health pressures, as FRC is a very condensed and high-pressure time of life, but every bit of effort helps.
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Unread 12-28-2017, 12:12 PM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Suicide Hits Home

If this post convinces one person considering suicide to seek help, it is a tremendous success. Thank you, Frank, for using the blog to make a difference.
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Unread 12-28-2017, 03:03 PM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Suicide Hits Home

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vale View Post
...
This resonates deeply with me; I've had similar experiences as a student that I won't go into detail about... and I've spoken with many students from different teams that do as well. People tend to be quiet about this, but it's more prevalent here in FIRST than you may think.

As for the blog post, thank you so much for posting about this, Frank. It speaks volumes that this organization is willing to face and discuss this topic. A small gesture of kindness can go a long way.
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Unread 12-30-2017, 09:42 PM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Suicide Hits Home

This is considered a difficult and sensitive topic. To me I have this topic near and dear to me. Thank you Frank for posting this. I'm glad to know I belong to an organization that brings awareness to this topic.
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Unread 12-30-2017, 10:17 PM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Suicide Hits Home

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Maher View Post
If this post convinces one person considering suicide to seek help, it is a tremendous success. Thank you, Frank, for using the blog to make a difference.
^^ THIS. One of my own children attempted suicide less than two years ago. A scary episode that still makes my heart race from time to time, especially when woken by the phone between midnight and dawn. I was relieved and joyous a few months ago when such a phone call informed me that the car was destroyed but both occupants walked away from it.
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Unread 12-31-2017, 06:28 AM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Suicide Hits Home

Thanks to FIRST for addressing this.

In competitive environments, where people tend to determine their value by contribution and perception of those contributions, one takes the risk of negative mental impact.

The important thing to do is try.
Yes you may fail and your may fail very visibly.

However please never let a failure or discouragement you percieve get to your self worth so much that you feel like you are trapped and self harm is a way out.

People can be very callous. Don't feel bad if circumstances start to exceed your capacity for well being and you need to cut back. Great efforts should be a positive growth experience not all costs marches to darkness.
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Unread 01-01-2018, 03:54 PM
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Re: [FRC Blog] Suicide Hits Home

Just saw this link on my Facebook feed.

https://www.snopes.com/crisis-text-line-741741/

In short, if you are in a crisis mode and live in the US, you can text 741741 24/7 and a counselor will get back to you quickly.

If you are in Ontario, Canada, you can use this same number between 2pm and 2am.

There are people that want to help, keep fighting!
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