Thoughts on this week’s suicides and how you can help

Help is just a call awaySuicide and mental health get the public’s attention when you have notable deaths like those this week. But there are thousands that go unnoticed every week.

One of the dirty little secrets of Silicon Valley is the high percentage of entrepreneurs who have mental health issues, which is 3-4x the U.S. average. Constantly hearing about people with exits in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars doesn’t help; even people who are millionaires can feel like failures in the bubble that is Silicon Valley.

Here are some things that you can do if you feel someone you know* at risk.

  • CALL or SKYPE or do something other than posting a status message or email.
  • Don’t worry about whether you’re “close enough.” It doesn’t matter how close you are.
  • Don’t assume someone else is doing something. (Unless you are talking with them and coordinating.)
  • If you say you are going to be there, be there. This is NOT the time for hollow promises. 
  • If you aren’t local, find a mutual friend who is local and express your concern to them. If you don’t have a mutual friend, look through their friend list and find someone who is. If things look urgent, call the local police and ask for a “welfare check.”
  • Your friend might need professional help, including medication. Help them find it. Sometimes talking isn’t enough. If you don’t know where to turn, contact me.
  • Don’t publicly comment on the topic, especially with names or pictures. No blog posts, no tweets, etc. Google is forever. Unfortunately, most people aren’t enlightened on the topic and it can have negative consequences down the road.
  • Don’t go away after you think something has subsided. Keep in touch.

* I specifically did not say “if a friend is at risk.” If you know someone is at risk, you should take action.

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About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. His personal blog is at http://blog.agrawals.org and tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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