For more than a decade, the D'Andrea Brothers have been pioneering new ways to support the troops
Identify the tools that can disrupt the progression to suicide.
Make these tools available and palatable to people in crisis who are isolated and afraid of sharing their pain.
It’s an epidemic.
And we need new weapons to fight it.
A tool discovered, and the birth of an initiative
I believe one of the most powerful new weapons against suicide isn’t a drug or a therapy. It’s a human being named Jimmy Hatch. When people read or hear his story, triggers are less likely to get pulled. I've witnessed it.
Here's why Jimmy's story has this effect:
Jimmy was a formidable tier-one guy in the Navy's special missions unit. After getting knocked out of that intense life (which he loved), Jimmy admits how broken, ashamed, and depressed he became, 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.
Jimmy's story re-calibrates Resilience. In our culture, the way we're sold Resilience is wrong. The message is that it's mostly a solo enterprise. Get tough. Buck up. Be bulletproof. Rally yourself. It's up to you. Wrong. Saving each other is a group effort. To save yourself, you need others. This solo version of Resilience is dangerous. People who are being bombarded with it sometimes feel they are failing, because they cannot rally themselves, and that adds to their despair.
People who find Jimmy's story realize (before it's too late) that they can talk to someone, without shame and stigma. People who are thinking about killing themselves can break their silence and share their secret. This saves their life, because shame that stays a secret will kill you.
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.
This project is about expanding the power and reach of the Find Your Jimmy concept. We will use technology, community and advocacy to expand the reach of (and replicate) the power of Finding Your Jimmy.
It's also about finding other related tools that have disruptive power equivalent to Find Your Jimmy, and then creating a toolkit of these real tools against suicide that people in distress can easily access, with no fear of shame or stigma. (Jimmy encountered a number of these additional tools in his journey, and some of them might also be added to the Disrupt Suicide toolkit.)
What we will not do
We will not conduct yet another study that leads to the conclusion that more studies are required.
What we will do
We will ensure that our metrics and evaluation of success are based on concrete impact and results, with:
Actual lives saved
We will change the way we think about suicide. I personally 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.
Encountering Jimmy Hatch,
and his story
Jimmy's story is saving lives
(Touching the Dragon is the book that tells his story)
ADOPTED BY PROFESSIONALS
The psychiatrist for the East Coast SEAL teams gives Touching the Dragon to struggling SEALs.
We cannot address every one of the problems and complexities tied to suicide, or deal with every issue that is tied to every moment along that Suicide Trajectory. So we will focus on key areas where we can help—the moments where we can deploy weapons/tools that disrupt the trajectory and prevent it from reaching its conclusion.
The chunk of bandwidth on the Suicide Trajectory where Find Your Jimmy can have an impact (let's call it the Disruption Zone) is 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). That is the window where the Find Your Jimmy project will focus. 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 moment makes people feel that they can talk to someone, and this realization saves lives.
And why does Jimmy's story, in particular, work? Why do people respond to it? Because he's serious, humble, vulnerable, and sincere, yes, but he's also witty and entertaining. And that makes the important message accessible.
Live events are one of the methods whereby people can Find Their Jimmy, by literally experiencing him. I've seen these events allow proud people who are suffering to change, right there, and become OK with the idea of breaking their silence.
Above is an image from a talk Jimmy gave at the Naval Academy that saved a woman's life (that very night). We recount this episode in the book. The woman was thinking of killing herself, and had not told anyone... until she heard Jimmy's story at this event. Afterward, she confided in Jimmy and shared the dark place she was in. He was the first person she'd spoken to about it, because she'd been fearing the stigma and shame of admitting that she was hurting so badly. Hearing Jimmy's story removed that fear.
Finding Your Jimmy helps civilians, too. Not just veterans. We've shared Jimmy's story with varied crowds—ranging from conferences of high-level executives to symposia of caregivers. After such events, it's not uncommon for folks in the audience to feel free (for the first time) to open up about their pain and problems. It's humbling to see those walls come down, and to watch (in real time) as people start to admit the thing that's essentially destroying them.
"This book touched me like no other personal account of battle I've read"
- Lt Gen Mark Hertling