Breaking the silence to prevent suicide
A luminaria display in honor and remembrance of those lost to suicide at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo: Leidos
Note: If you are in crisis, please call, text or chat with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
Leidos employees across the U.S. will participate this month in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Out of Darkness Walks to raise awareness and support for suicide prevention.
It’s part of the company’s Mission for the Mind campaign to address the country’s ongoing mental health crisis.
Scope of the problem: Suicide and self-harm are a leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming more than 48,000 lives every year, according to the CDC.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 800,000 people die from suicide around the world with millions more surviving suicide attempts each year. While this is the most accurate data available, numbers are estimated to be higher due to underreporting.
Close to home: Steve Cook, Leidos Dynetics Group President, said surging suicide rates among teenagers and young adults in particular are alarming.
- “We live in one of the greatest countries in the world, yet all around us we’ve got this incredibly important issue that doesn’t get talked about,” says Cook. “It’s time for that to change.”
Cook, who is the executive champion for the company’s partnership with AFSP, has experienced the negative effects of the suicide stigma in a very personal way.
When a loved one confided in him that they were experiencing suicidal thoughts, Cook said he had no idea how to respond. It was a wake-up call that helped him realize just how close to home the issue was all along.
- “I’ve learned that with mental health issues, and suicide in particular, the conversation gets buried,” he said. “People don’t want to talk about it or admit they’re having issues, and that just makes it worse. But it’s okay to talk about these things, and we should talk about them. These conversations are as relevant as discussions about physical diseases, if not more.”
We live in one of the greatest countries in the world, yet all around us we’ve got this incredibly important issue that doesn’t get talked about. It’s time for that to change.
Steve CookPresident, Leidos Dynetics Group
Out of Darkness: Cook said when he participated in his first Out of Darkness Walk last year, he noticed many colleagues he’d been around for years but had no idea what they were dealing with, further affirming his passion to speak out and take action.
- “These walks provide an opportunity for people to come together and share a common bond,” he said. “Each event has stations that hand out beaded necklaces color-coded to signify how each walker has been affected. There’s a color for people who’ve experienced suicidal thoughts, a color for people who’ve lost a loved one, and so on. When you see which color someone is wearing, you immediately know what that person is going through, and it fosters some very real and powerful connections. It’s a great way for us to recognize we’re not alone. More than anything, it’s a great opportunity to share resources and lift each other up, things that don’t happen when you remain silent.”
Cook praised AFSP for its leadership and investments in events like the Out of Darkness Walks as well as life-saving research, education, advocacy and support in the communities they serve.
- “AFSP is one of the few organizations out there focused on getting the word out,” he said. “There are all sorts of groups involved with mental health issues, but AFSP is laser-focused on tools and techniques specifically to address this preventable leading cause of death. Their mission is to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide, and every bit of support will help.”
More than anything, Cook said that suicide prevention starts with everyday heroes, which could be any of us. He wants to prevent others from being in his shoes, not knowing how to respond when a loved one asks for help.
He said the most important thing he would say to someone struggling with suicidal thoughts is that they’re not alone.
- “There are people who want to help you,” he said. “You can speak with someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline today by dialing or texting 988. You can find help from the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. If you’re a veteran, you can contact the Veterans Crisis Line.”
Last year, more than ten Leidos teams participated in the Out of Darkness Walks, helping to raise more than $100,000.
To register to walk, or to donate to AFSP, please click here.
Please contact the Leidos media relations team for more information.