An uncomfortable but needed discussion about suicide


Photo Courtesy: Martyn Whittaker via Flickr Creative Commons

Close-up of a British suicide prevention hotline number on the ledge of Itchen Bridge in Southampton, Hampshire

Travis Hairgrove, Editor

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely that of the writer, who is not a licensed professional counselor, and therefore should not be considered qualified psychological advice.

The rumor had been spreading since his death in late April, that A&M-Commerce’s beloved leader, President Dan Jones had taken his own life. Two weeks ago on Wednesday, July 6, police reports were released and The Dallas Morning News reported that that was, sadly and in fact, true.

Then, early last week, former managing editor for The East Texan (and current copy editor at the Bryan-College Station Eagle) Patrica Dodson called to give us the heartbreaking news that suicide had also claimed one of our own alumni, Chance Mills (class of 2011), who worked with Dodson at the The Eagle.

Depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and difficulties coping with guilt and shame are all complicated, deeply personal struggles for which no single remedy exists, making these illnesses, symptoms and behaviors a serious public health concern.

I can only imagine how many times Dr. Jones’ mind must have entered that dark place. How many thousands of times did his love for his wife, daughters, and his A&M-Commerce family give him the strength he needed to promise himself, “just one more day,” until he finally imploded?

I never knew Chance, but after reading the memories his friends and loved ones posted on his Facebook timeline, it appears he had a wicked sense of humor as well as a delightfully “geeky” fondness for DC Comics and was extremely gifted at using these traits to lift the spirits of others when they were feeling down. Was he simply helping people the only way he knew how? Did he constantly have to “self-medicate” with humor and escapism to distract himself from the inner enemies tearing him apart from the inside?

The sad and scary truth is that no one will ever know what pushed these two or the estimated 117 other Americans who die by suicide each and every day (according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention),  because any single case can be a deadly web of factors – ranging from chemical or biological to traumatic experiences or identity crises. Whatever the cause of this self-hatred and/or malignant, all-consuming sadness, one thing’s evident. It makes life a living Hell.

It’s well known that suicide tears massive holes in the lives of all who cared about that individual, but in these challenging times; with the escalation of violence between law enforcement and our country’s black communities, the frequent acts of terrorism hitting closer to home (i.e., The West), the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq still dragging on (scarring 11-20 percent of our military personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) and a U.S. presidential election in which both sides are doing their best to demonize one another in light of all this horror – the loss of these sensitive-hearted people through suicide is doubly tragic.

Now, and possibly more than ever, our country and our world need people who feel extra deeply and have the ability to empathize and communicate across ideological and historically entrenched boundaries. At the same time, it’s not hard to understand why some hyper-empathetic people might feel overwhelmed by all these challenges and deadly threats, and for that to be a factor in their decision to “opt out.”

So please, if you’re struggling with depression or the temptation to kill yourself, or you’re going through extreme sorrow, guilt or anger as you grieve for a loved one that you lost to suicide…break the silence. Reach out to people you love and/or trust, and speak with a counseling professional.

We need you more than you know!


If you need help, you can contact any of the helplines below.

Students, faculty and staff of Texas A&M University-Commerce

Texas A&M University-Commerce Counseling Center, located in Room 204 inside the Halliday Student Services Building: 903-886-5145 (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.)


If you need counseling after hours, you are encouraged to contact the University Police Department, who can put you in contact with a counselor: 903-886-5868

Residents of Commerce, TX

Balance for Life Counseling, located at 100 King Plaza inside Suite A: 972-865-7891

Greenville/Hunt County residents

Glen Oaks Hospital in Greenville, TX, located at 301 E. Division St: 904-454-6000

Some nationwide helplines

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK


Crisis Text Line: 741741