The Binghamton Senators were hosting ‘Power to the Purple’ Night at the arena, as they will again this Friday, February 14th. The event was created in honor of Daron Richardson, their 14-year-old daughter who lost her life to suicide in November 2010. Her favorite color was purple so fans were encouraged to wear purple in support of raising mental health awareness. About a week prior to the event the Richardsons graciously agreed to be interviewed about the importance of having tough conversations about youth mental health- a topic of conversation that is too often neglected in our society because of the stigma associated with it.
So when I got the press release announcing this year’s ‘Power to the Purple’ night, I went back in the Newschannel 34 archives and re-watched the interview. Every time I watch it I am reminded of their inspiring strength and courage in the face of such a heartbreaking tragedy.
But it also reminded me of the epidemic that society faces. The National Alliance on Mental Health reports that suicide is the 3rd leading cause of cause of death between ages 15-24. To put that in perspective: More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease combined. And youth aren’t the only demographic affected. A bullet point on the Center for Disease Control’s mental health surveillance fact sheet reads: “about 25% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness and that nearly 50% of U. S adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime.”
Those alarming statistics are one of the reasons Stephanie Richardson says, in the interview, that this is an issue that needs to be discussed openly. “It is hugely important. And it’s something that we can make a difference very easily. It’s just about being open to the conversation about the awareness. And to be honest, yeah, it is staggering. We didn’t know. Our community didn’t know. Our daughter’s teachers did not know. Her GP did not know. Her hockey coaches did not know. Nobody knew those stats. Nobody had even fathomed. It was something I think that had happened in the past that people would whisper about. And you know what? It can’t be whispered about.”
Her comment forced me to ask myself two questions. The first was ‘How often do I just assume people are okay because they ‘look fine?’ The second, ‘When was that last time I talked openly with someone about mental illness?’
In a world where pictures of smiling faces are plastered all over social media, it’s easy to fail to look past that wallpaper. But the truth is, you never know what private battles people are fighting on a daily basis. And you never know if one conversation, to let a person know they are not alone and that someone cares, can end up saving a life. It is this exact message, the importance of sparking conversation, that the Richardsons have courageously devoted themselves to sharing. “Daron would be proud too because she was someone that was always involved and helping other people. So I think that’s something that we can take comfort in. And we’re just moving forward day by day and that’s the way it is for us. So I think we just want to put all of our efforts into kind of cracking that egg and breaking that silence and making it better and better for young people.”
For more information about Power to the Purple Night with the Binghamton Senators, visit binghamtonsenators.com.
For more information about D.I.F.D., visit www.difd.com.
For more information on Mental Health in the Southern Tier, visit yourmha.com.
If you or someone you know is experiencing emotional distress and in need of crisis counseling call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK or in an emergency dial 911.
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