Singing for Suicide Prevention and Awareness

Reflections on a recent choral concert and the message of hope and belonging…

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I am a member of Festival Singers, a chamber choir that’s a part of Carolina Voices. We had our fall concert last night at Northwest School of the Arts. We joined their middle school choir and high school chamber choir to present a concert on the theme of hope, perseverance, belonging, and love. As a group, Festival Singers normally performs in a church that’s near uptown (downtown is uptown in Charlotte, NC). Getting out of our regular performance space and joining with these youth choirs was a great experience.

One of the songs we sang was entitled Please Stay by Jake Runestad. Being the pragmatist that I am, I honestly didn’t connect to this song. Maybe I was intentionally closed off to this message. Here’s the story behind the song:

In 2013, suicide took the lives of 41,149 people in the USA alone. Depression affects about 20 million people in the USA, 350 million worldwide. Mental health disorders are serious issues in our culture and it is important that we have open conversation about their existence and that we show support to those who are battling them.

To Write Love On Her Arms is a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. Their 2016 campaign for World Suicide Prevention Day was titled “And So I Kept Living.” Using the hashtag #IKeptLiving, thousands of individuals who battle depression shared their stories on Twitter as to why they chose to life over death. I read through and collected hundreds of the tweets and used them to inspire the text for this work.

“Please Stay” is an anthem for hope — an attempt to destigmatize mental illness and challenge all of us to support those who are battling depression and thoughts of suicide. You are not alone. We can make a difference. We can be the support system that saves a life.

Give voice to hope: Share your #ReasonsToStay on Twitter. #PleaseStay

But last night when  singers from the mixed choirs went to the front of the stage to share spoken statements to encourage others, it was a powerful moment. After that, the song drifts off into a echo the lyric, “Please stay,” At the conclusion of the song, the audience gave a standing ovation. It was really powerful. I’d like to think that they were not only applauding the performance but applauding in support of themselves and encouraging us all to please, stay.

For some people, depression may lead to thoughts of suicide. Try to remember that you don’t have to act on these thoughts, no matter how overwhelming they might be. If you’re considering ending your life, it’s important that you talk to someone right away. If you’re in a crisis, you can also call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK to get immediate help. As the song says, don’t let your worst day be your last.

Here’s a beautiful recording of the song.

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