Letter to the Editor by Switchboard’s CEO in the Miami Herald

Suicide does not discriminate


There is one death by suicide in the United States every 13 minutes.

We have all heard about the high profile suicides. Beloved actor/comedian Robin Williams. Visionary Soul Train creator Don Cornelius. All-Pro New England Patriots’ Junior Seau. Celebrity dermatologist Fredric Brandt. And sadly, so many more.

Just this week, Robert Parker, a 33-year law enforcement veteran who rose to police chief in 2004, spent the day with his family and then went outside and seemingly took his own life. We may never know why, but we will always wonder what we could have done.

Beyond the headlines, there are the men, women and even children whose names we don’t know but who leave us all the same. Their absence creates an incredible void in the lives, homes and communities across our country. In the aftermath, family members blame each other or themselves or even the person they have lost.

People are hesitant to share that suicide took their loved one and this secrecy creates more sadness and questions for those who remain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 41,149 deaths by suicide in the United States in 2013 alone. Statistics prove that suicide doesn’t discriminate by gender, age, race or socioeconomic status.

But, there is help and it is available 24 hours a day, every day.

Switchboard staff and volunteers counsel, connect and empower people in need. Through our suicide prevention programs, information and referral contact center, and crisis counseling and wellness services, Switchboard serves as both a first point of assistance and a last resource for people in need. This year, we will answer over 200,000 calls from people contemplating suicide, lending our hearts and ears to those who need them most. Of those calls, more than 18,000 will be from South Floridians seeking help.

The demand for our services is on the rise. In a community with finite resources, the need is great and we need your help. If you are a compassionate person who is willing to just listen, we can welcome you as a volunteer. Our Switchboard team will train you and guide you through every call or text, every step of the way. Call 305.358.1640 ext. 1107 or visit www.switchboardmiami.org to learn more about getting started.

Very few volunteer roles offer the opportunity to save a life. At Switchboard, you will have that precious chance.

Of course, if you or a loved one is experiencing a crisis, call us now at 2-1-1 or 305-358-HELP or text 741741. We do not charge for our services nor do we judge anyone or their situation. All calls/texts are confidential.