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People Places Perspectives

Lean On Me- A Note on Suicide Awareness

Written by: Melissa Blinn, Licensing Supervisor

Occasionally, usually in the quiet evening hours (and unfortunately sometimes in the middle of a sleepless night), a simple lyric or song repeats in play mode in my mind. Often, the songs are from the 70’s or 80’s, taking me back to a sweet childhood memory. For the most part, I acknowledge the tune and brush the music aside to move on to other thoughts or tasks that need my attention. Other times, I engage the tune, focus on the words and find deeper meaning in the endless chatter going on upstairs.

Recently, an oldie but goodie started skipping through my brain: “Lean on Me”, by Bill Withers, American singer-song writer (April 1972). It was his first and only number one single. He wrote the song after he moved from West Virginia to California, when he was missing the “strong community ethic” of his hometown.(

Most of us know the song and can easily sing the chorus:
Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on…..”

It took me back to childhood and teenage years when I often needed someone to lean on. Most times for me someone was there – and it wasn’t always a parent. Sometimes it was a friend, a neighbor, or a teacher. Sometimes it was just listening to a really good song, full of thoughtful words, knowing that other people out there might struggle at times too. I never felt alone. I always knew I had someone to turn to. Not everyone has that type of support, and now I know how lucky I was to be surrounded by people I could lean on.

When I was a teenager, I became aware of suicide as it affected my high school experience through several classmates taking their own lives. I think almost everyone has been touched by suicide directly or indirectly. I remember distinctly how I felt the day I heard that comedian and actor Robin Williams ended his life. I didn’t know him, but he impacted my life and… I grieved for him.  

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. There is a month, a week, and a day (September 10th) specifically dedicated to raising awareness and preventing suicide. Take a moment to let that sink in. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. In 2015, alone, it was the 10th leading overall cause of death, the third leading cause of death for children age 10-14, and the second leading cause of death for individuals age 15-34. (

Research shows that having significant relationships with others can make a positive difference; family and friends should not be scared to address concerns regarding a friend or loved one. Thoughts of self harm need to be discussed as openly, directly, and empathetically as possible. Professional help should always be a first step. When a person is struggling with suicidal ideation, acknowledging and talking about the thoughts and plans may reduce the risk of suicide. (

Be the person that others can lean on, and lean on others when you need a hand. No one should feel alone. There are 7.4 billion people on this planet for goodness sake! We ALL need somebody to lean on.

#BeThe1To is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s message to spread the word about actions we can all take to prevent suicide: ASK, KEEP THEM SAFE, BE THERE, HELP THEM STAY CONNECTED, FOLLOW UP.

If you or someone you know is in crisis please call 1800-273-TALK (8255) for 24/7 free and confidential support.