The first virtual
Survivor Cadre Roundtable
Suicie survivors defeating stigma and empowering oter sufferers by sharing their stories and their struggles andwhat worked.
In that moment where the reprimanding officer was giving him the standard "chin up" and "attaboy," it would have made all the difference if, instead, he'd said, "Tell me about the relationship with your wife?"
By rallying around each other, Survivors give hope to the silent sufferers who are out there... and provide meaningful insight into what can actually work in the fight against suicide. Because they've lived through it.
When Survivors talk candidly (and, in the Roundtables, publicly) about their struggles and breakthroughs:
other silent sufferers get empowered and become willing to talk
hope and trust are kindled
stigma is crushed
actionable insights into what worked get shared
the door to healing is opened
Mission: rally sufferers
Since he left the military, he's had "pretty much a 16-year transition." And "I'm still in it."
What's the cause of his brokenness? "I've been broken since six and a half... was I broken? Yeah. Am I fixed? Not quite."
The game changer: becoming a Special Olympics ski instructor.
Once you join a group like a Survivor Cadre, "it's literally going to feel like a weight off your back."
When you walk in and join that group, "instantaneously there is trust."
It'll help you realize that "You can change."
"Survivors" are those who've contemplated or attempted suicide, and also those who've lost loved ones to it, like Carol.
The first Survivor Cadre roundtable
- the Survivors who'll be there -
These are people who are on board to make up the first Survivor Cadre Roundtable.
They're willing to share insights in a high-profile setting.
Former SEAL. Well-known for his comeback after being shot
in the face. Author of TRIDENT etc. (We wrote about him in
TOUCHING THE DRAGON.)
What’s less well known is that he struggled seriously with suicide.
He felt he was a failure (as a leader) and almost shot himself in
Afghanistan. And now he's working on codifying how to take
those “end moments” and turn them into a new beginning.
What’s the alchemy that can take that absolute darkness and
begin to convert it into fuel for something better. “Life ambushes us… how do we drive forward.”
There is another dimension he focuses on: TBI, and its role in suicide...
He's had many friends commit suicide. Like Ryan Larkin, a SEAL, who killed himself in 2017.
Jay says: “Family members, of those who kill themselves, often talk about how they really lost themselves at the end, and couldn’t explain what was wrong with them. With Ryan Larkin, doctors couldn’t diagnose anything, and the Navy put him out of the Navy, because he was self-medicating, and they just said you’re a problem child, you’re not following regulations in the Navy. And he killed himself. He left a note saying ‘Autopsy my brain.’ It turns out he had sever blast-related CTE.”
Note: Ryan's dad (Frank) has met with President Trump at the WH re. TBI.
Wife of Ron Condrey, an EOD tech who killed himself in 2018. He killed himself right in front of her. She is now mayor of Middletown, OH. She is focused on veteran TBI.
Former SEAL (at a high level...from Jimmy’s same command). Grapples with suicidal ideation (SI), a lot. Has tried many remedies. He is currently getting MeRT (magnetic resonance therapy). Also feels there are medications that might prove beneficial, but you have to go to Mexico to get them.
Loves the idea of hearing from Survivors and gathering their insights in Survivor Cadres.
Side note: he personally believes President Trump cares about this issue (suicide).
Former Coast Guard (did search and rescue, which caused the PTSD) and Army Natl. Guard.
Stress/emotions/PTSD etc. caused drinking, which resulted in DUIs. Those DUIs ruined his career, and that cascaded, ruining his marriage “and my life." As part of the mil/federal workforce and culture, he saw no way out. So he decided to hang himself. "I snapped out of it just before I did."
What worked: “Boxing saved me. I found a team there. I found the brotherhood that I’d lost. I found that in the gym."
He feels there are many dangerous misconceptions re. veteran suicide. And while it's not all the DoD’s fault, there are indeed broken mechanisms in the DoD...
The DoD system for processing bad behavior (like DUIs) is a paperwork vortex that can dehumanize, worsen things, and lead folks to suicide.
Need to hear from more Survivors. To understand the underlying issues that lead to drinking/drug abuse, and suicide. Need to add more understanding to the DoD processing of bad behavior, and have these efforts at understanding occur alongside the efforts to prosecute and punish.
He has identified “8 reasons why we take our lives.” Much of it has to do with being misunderstood. And it’s not just the active-duty person or the vet that’s misunderstood, and at-risk. It's the spouses, too. “We have a real problem with spouses getting on anti-depressants when guys deploy.”
He is advocating concrete steps. Examples:
Each unit should have a suicide officer. In order to gather data on determining factors. He notices that often times one determining factor is identified (Oh, his spouse had an affair, that’s what did it) and then they leave it at that. When, in fact, there are many factors.
There should be finance counselors that help soldiers fix bad credit.
There should also be more support for divorce, which leads many vets to dark places.
"I worked with JSOC, and that model needs to be applied to fighting suicide... coordinating big groups, you can get amazing things done."
I asked him, “Surviving… it’s a fight every day, right?"
He replied: “It’s a fight every hour."
He’s lost multiple friends to suicide recently.
Parents of Air Force son who killed himself (I'm still confirming that they're a go)
The son was stationed in Alaska. They did not know how serious it was. And that haunts them to this day. They can talk about the factors that mask the seriousness of the crisis from loved ones... what makes loved ones think that the sufferer's crisis is not as serious as it is. What can trick you. And how to live with the guilt of feeling like you should have done more.
Now, after four years, they want answers to certain questions, but can't get them. It would be valuable to have them explain these gaps.... so we can focus our efforts. Here are the three things we still don’t know. Three areas where there is not good data or inquiry.
A Survivor Cadre roundtable is different because the key resources are the people who’ve almost committed suicide and the families of people who’ve died by suicide. They are the ones leading and sharing. They are center stage. The valued experts are listening. We are flipping the standard dynamic.
• There will be meaningful learning. What does the Survivor Cadre think about tools, techniques, the problem, and resources that work? What do they think healing is? What do they think doesn’t work?
• Our core idea (that the Survivor can be a resource to others and can help others, that the Survivor can be an asset) will be on display and validated.
• NOTE: In assembling the participants for this first cadre, we have already had some powerful encounters, just over Skype. Some of these encounters (and the resulting insights) are being assembled into a first virtual Survivor Cadre.
STEP 2 - Create Survivor Cadres in the ten states with the highest suicide rates
We will start in the states with the largest total numbers of suicides, so as to hit concentrated areas. California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Illinois, Michigan, Georgia. Eventually we will organize Survivor Cadres in all 50 states. A key facet of Survivor Cadre gatherings is that folks can attend anonymously, and just listen, if they want. We will ensure that, for sufferers, the barriers to entry are low.
STEP 3 - Create and distribute digital versions of Survivor Cadre events (and a comprehensive documentary) to expand the reach of the Jimmy Effect and widen the invitation to get involved in Survivor Cadres
Experiencing the work (and insights) of Survivor Cadres in a compelling film or video can be a first step to get sufferers to break their silence and ask for help.