Riding for a Reason: One Entrepreneur's Mission to Raise Awareness for Suicide Prevention
About six years ago, I was sitting at my computer doing something unimportant when my daughter walked in in tears and told me one of her dearest friends killed himself. He was only 18 and he jumped from a building in downtown Fairfax, ending his life. It was one of those moments when a parent never knows what to say to their child and your heart breaks into a million pieces for the parents who were mourning the loss of their son.
He was an extremely talented young musician with a scholarship to a prestigious music school. He once told my daughter “to play the music – the notes will come” when she was frustrated learning the notes to a new piece of music. Wise words from a young man.
That one tragic loss devastated the lives of so many. His parents. His sister. His girlfriend. His teachers. His friends. So many more. There were flowers on the chair where he should have been sitting at his high school graduation.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 42,773 Americans die every year by suicide. For every suicide, there are 25 suicide attempts. I did the math on that. It means the number of suicide attempts could be as high as 1,069,325 each year in the US alone. (There is no complete count of suicide attempts, but the Centers for Disease Control does collect data from hospitals on injuries from self-harm.)
I’m not sure I want to know the numbers worldwide. They have got to be staggering.
Yet, as so often happens, you can find inspiration in the midst of horrifying news. Not too long ago, an update showed up in my LinkedIn newsfeed about a young man who was attempting to cycle around the world. Ambitious. Impressive. Then I read why he was attempting to cycle around the world. He is a suicide survivor.
When Josh Quigley was not much older than my daughter’s friend, he attempted suicide by driving his car into a wall at 80 mph. Thankfully, he survived. He too was smart and successful. Impressively successful – he was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 by Forth Valley Chamber of Commerce in Scotland and had a thriving, expanding business. He was also terribly depressed and nearly became one of the almost 700 people who commit suicide in Scotland each year.
Now, having survived, he is attempting to raise awareness for mental health issues and suicide prevention by cycling around the world. He started from his home in Scotland and is now in Finland. He’s traversed England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway thus far.
His route will ultimately take him across Asia, Australia, Africa, South America, and North America before he returns home.
There is crowdfunding in place to support the Tartan Explorer and he’s received some sponsorships. He’s also encountered true kindness in his journey, whether it’s a ride to the nearest bike shop to repair a tire or a place to camp. Most nights he wild camps, which is probably pretty chilly in Finland right now, but on occasion, a generous donor will get him a hotel or hostel room for the night.
Josh reminds me quite a bit of my daughter’s friend, so I started to follow his journey on LinkedIn. He’s on all the social media, so you can follow him on any platform. (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn - The Tartan Explorer and Josh Quigley)
I strongly encourage everyone to follow Josh. His journey is an arduous one – not just the cycling aspect – and he is facing it head on and helping others in the process. He's struggled once or twice on the road, but he perseveres and is stronger every day he does. If even one person changes their mind and doesn’t take their own life, all of his efforts are worth it.
October 10 is World Mental Health Day. Mental health and suicide prevention is one of those topics that no one really likes to have a protracted conversation about. It is uncomfortable. It is sad. It is difficult to comprehend. Because of that, we are not close to solving the problem. It’s time that these issues weren’t swept aside or hidden behind the more “popular” social issues of the day. We lose far too many bright, talented individuals to suicide.
So today, consider this: globally, more than 800,000 commit suicide each year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds. While you're considering, ask yourself, what can I do to make at least one life better?
It’s Your Turn…
Normally, I close my posts with a question or two to generate discussion. Instead, I’m asking you to give Josh Quigley a shout out. A word of encouragement, a like on one of his photos (all the photos in this post are his), or even a donation. Here’s one of his latest updates to make it easy to find him. He looks a bit cold. Now might be a good time to fund a hot chocolate. When he makes it to the DC-area, I’ve already promised him a huge, home cooked meal.
If you need help…
Please don’t become a suicide statistic. In the US, there are organizations that can provide assistance if you are considering suicide. Internationally, please find your local suicide prevention hotline. Please contact one of them. I promise, the world will NOT be better off without you in it.
If you are a veteran, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and press 1. That's 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1. You can also text them at 838255.
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All thoughts and opinions are my own. They do not represent those of any current or former employers or clients.