For more than a decade, the D'Andrea Brothers have been pioneering new ways to support the troops
Reduce suicides using new tools.
Make these tools available and palatable to people in crisis who are isolated and afraid to share their pain.
Suicides are on the rise. The CDC says the suicide rate hit its highest number—14 out of 100,000—in 2017 (the most recent year with records). Over 47,000 Americans take their own lives every year. And 17 veterans kill themselves every day.
Some of the existing methods and resources in the fight against suicide (including drugs, therapies, advocacy groups, and treatments) are very helpful. Some are not. We believe new tools and approaches are needed.
A Discovery, and the birth of an initiative
The Discovery: sharing the story of ST6 member Jimmy Hatch has a surprising effect on people who are seriously contemplating suicide. It can make them not do it.
We have testimonials from people who were going to kill themselves but didn’t because they encountered Jimmy or his story.
A brief description of how The Jimmy Effect works:
Jimmy was a formidable tier-one guy in the Navy's special missions unit, and then he got knocked out of that intense life (which he loved) when he got shot. When he shares this story (in speeches and the book), Jimmy admits how broken and depressed he became, and how ashamed he was of his depression, and how he ended up with a gun in his mouth. The candor with which he admits all of this gives people permission to admit their own brokenness, too, because they think, If that high-achieving guy bottomed out and needed help, then maybe it's OK for me to admit I need help, too... maybe there is no shame in it. And that realization saves lives, because it makes the suffering person more comfortable with the idea of asking for help. People who are thinking about killing themselves can break their silence and share their secret.
He disrupts a trajectory.
Encountering Jimmy Hatch (or his story) can stop people on their path to suicide:
(Touching the Dragon is the book
that tells his story)
Based on the folks I know who've nearly committed it, I think of suicide as a downward trajectory—the Suicide Trajectory. This Suicide Trajectory starts with a trauma or crisis (or the accumulation of pain that reaches a critical mass) that sets the person on the steadily downward path. At the end of that path is death.
We cannot address every one of the complexities tied to suicide, or deal with every issue that is tied to every moment along that Suicide Trajectory. So we will focus on a key area where we can help. The space where we can deploy tools that disrupt the trajectory and prevent it from reaching its conclusion. The chunk of bandwidth on the Suicide Trajectory where I've seen The Jimmy Effect have an impact (let's call it the Disruption Zone). It's a window that begins just after the moment when you've started to think seriously about killing yourself, when you have no one to talk to (or are too ashamed to talk to anyone). We'll reach people who are in that extremely dangerous zone: contemplating suicide, unable and unwilling to talk to anyone, alone. Encountering Jimmy (or someone like him) in that zone makes people feel that they can talk to someone, and this realization saves lives.
ADOPTED BY PROFESSIONALS
The psychiatrist for the East Coast SEAL teams gives Touching the Dragon to struggling SEALs.
We will work to understand why Jimmy and his story have this effect.
What is it about Jimmy that makes him better able to reach people and disrupt their trajectory to suicide? Here are some initial insights:
He makes them feel safe talking about their problems and crisis. He gives them a safe place to be vulnerable. It’s more than that, too. It’s not just that he makes them feel there is safety in vulnerability. He makes them feel there is strength in vulnerability. This is a profound shift in outlook.
He makes them feel they have entered into a real human relationship. They are not just being given some pre-fab treatment or drug, which is one-size-fits-all. They are being treated as individuals, and there is dignity in that. They are not being treated as their diagnosis, which is how the current system often makes them feel (you are your diagnosis). Jimmy makes them believe it’s possible for someone to view them as a human being, not as a diagnosis.
Jimmy is inspiring. In him, people see that you can be deeply broken, but that doesn’t make you a disgrace. And you can emerge on the other end. He gives people a believable and achievable picture of what a Recovering Person looks like.
Jimmy represents an authentic approach to facing their problem, not a patronizing one, or one that makes the sufferer feel tricked.
The sufferers have been told by websites and experts that they should not feel ashamed, but it does not resonate and they do not trust it. They have been told there is no stigma, but then the process makes them feel stigmatized. So they feel lied to. They feel the system is sometimes just marketing solutions and mantras to them, selling them. Jimmy is different; he engages with them in a way where they feel and believe the authenticity. They trust Jimmy when he says there is no stigma, because they can see that he views them with truly no stigma. He lets them actually experience what “no stigma” looks and feels like, for the first time. They did not believe it was possible to not feel shame. Jimmy changes their mind.
They are surprised to feel an esprit de corps. Instead of being ashamed, they actually feel they are in good company. This feeling of esprit de corps surprises them, because they thought the group they were now a part of was a shameful group, but it turns out it is not. There is actually some pride attached: “We are the broken who have decided to try to heal.”
What if we could re-calibrate the perception, and build on this nascent pride dimension? “Cancer survivor” is a badge of honor. “Suicide survivor” is a badge of shame. Let’s change this. Flip the shame to a kind of pride. Jimmy provides insight into how this might be possible. I've seen people who feel this kind of pride once they feel they're fellow travelers with Jimmy. “This is another battle we’re in. We are warriors.”
We need to help people find either Jimmy himself, or someone like him—that person who can unlock them, help them break their silence, and give them permission to feel it's OK to ask for (and get) help. But, the things is, Jimmy cannot be in a thousand places at once, so...
What we will do
We will build a system, platform, or program that expands the accessibility and multiplies the power of The Jimmy Effect so more lives can be saved. We can use community, advocacy, and technology, and we will always ensure that whatever we build has the human dimension at its core (which is the strength of The Jimmy Effect). It will be for civilians, too. Not just military.
We will be respectful of best practices and the hard-won knowledge of the Mental Health community. We will also be open to new ideas.
"This book touched me like no other personal account of battle I've read"
- Lt Gen Mark Hertling