Can three days of hard rock music in Bangor, Maine change the lives of people considering suicide?

Music tells the stories of our darkness and our divine. Music inspires. Music empowers. But can three days of hard rock music in Bangor, Maine change the lives of people considering suicide? According to the experts, the answer is yes. As the inaugural Waterfront Concerts’ Impact Music Festival gets underway this weekend with three days of some of the biggest names in rock, Music Matters is gearing up to handle the funds raised to benefit local Maine mental health and wellness agencies.

This music is going to make a difference.

The statistics are staggering, but here in Maine we only need to remember one number:

27%.

That is the increase in the number of suicides from 1999 to 2016 according to the CDC.

We can all be part of the solution.

Dr. Dan Reidenberg is the executive director of SAVE.org, and an internationally recognized expert on suicide prevention. SAVE.org is onboard with the Impact Music Festival, a reinvention of the Rise Above Fest. Reidenberg spoke to Maine Music News on July 19th, and stated that

everyone has a role in helping those struggling with mental illness and thoughts of suicide.

This is a serious public health issue, and it will take all of us to change the tide. Here are the highlights of the discussion:

There is no silver bullet. Reidenberg explained that research shows that different resources work for different people at different times so a multi-layered approach is necessary in preventing suicide. While calling a hotline may assist someone in crisis, another person may respond better to group therapy, and someone else may only find solace in speaking with a family member. Options and alternative forms of intervention are key and must be available to get people the help they need when they need it.

Reidenberg wants people to know three things to help in suicide prevention:

  • First, mental illness does not discriminate.

Reidenberg emphasized that mental illness is a universal issue as well as biological. It is perhaps easy to compartmentalize people who die by suicide – celebrities, veterans suffering with PTSD Syndrome, or even young people facing unthinkable cyber bullying – and think they are somehow different from us, from our friends and family. Reidenberg cautions against that belief. The numbers show that all walks of life, all ages, all bank accounts, are susceptible to mental health issues.

  • Next, everyone has a role to play.

“The reality is that about half the time when people make the final decision to take their life it’s within ten minutes,” Reidenberg explained. “There’s not enough time to get to a doctor or get to a hospital. What we need is for people to learn the warning signs of suicide, the risk factors of suicide, things that can help people through a suicide crisis. That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to know how to treat someone who is suicidal, but they need to know how to listen, how to not be judgmental, how to be compassionate and caring. We need to help people understand these things because not everyone can get to help immediately.”

Expanding on Reidenberg’s recommendation, we can all learn more about the warning signs, risk factors, and how to help. SAVE.org is a resource for those facing mental illness or thoughts of suicide as well as for friends and family members wishing to help. Countless other online and local resources also exist. If you need information, just start asking. People will help if you reach out. Further resources are listed at the end of this article.

The warning signs of suicide:

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide, here are the steps to take:

Do not leave the person alone

Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs, or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt

Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)

Take the person to an emergency room to seek help from a medical or mental health professional

  • Finally, community events are vital to creating change.

Reidenberg affirmed that concerts like the Impact Music Festival increase suicide awareness through education and provide resources at the event. While music is therapeutic in its own right, music festivals have the power to break down the stigma associated with talking about mental health and suicide because they create a safe space to ask questions and express experiences. Reidenberg was adamant in his wish that the regional community understand the value of this festival.

This music festival is truly suicide prevention.

Now back to the opening question – can three days of hard rock music in Bangor, Maine change the lives of people considering suicide?

Again, the answer is yes,

but lasting change needs education, action, and cash. This is where Music Matters comes in, the charitable arm of Waterfront Concerts, and led by Chris Rudolph, a member of the Waterfront Concerts team.

While the Rise Above Fest was successful in raising suicide awareness as well as a lot of money, the majority of the funds raised left the state. Now, with Waterfront Concerts organizing the Impact Music Festival, the money generated at this festival will stay close to home through funding provided to local agencies. “When we started the Impact Music Festival we wanted to be responsible with the money raised, keep it local, and be able to choose where it goes,” said Rudolph during a July 20th conversation with Maine Music News.

Rudolph explained that Music Matters’ mission is to help fund Maine organizations focused on wellness and mental health, ultimately supporting suicide prevention. As mental illness and suicide do not discriminate, Music Matters will be inclusive in its reach across Maine.

“I am so excited to see what we can do with this to change the lives of people in our communities.”

More information about the Impact Music Festival, including artists, scheduling, and tickets, can be found at here.

One final thought – over the years, as Maine Music News worked with the Rise Above Fest, and now with the Impact Music Festival, we’ve been able to speak to experts and artists devoted to mental health and suicide awareness and prevention. One word has always been part of the conversation: Listen. Listen to those reaching out and seeking help. Take them seriously and listen. It isn’t as much about knowing what to say as it is about just listening and offering compassion for another’s reality and struggle.

Listen.

About the author

Ann James Joles

Website

You’ll know her when you see her – Ann is probably the only person at a live show scribbling down notes and guarding a camera case. With a long time career in higher education behind her, she is more at home at a rock show with screaming fans than in an office.