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Finding Hope: Battlng America's Suicide Crisis. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 24, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:19] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Anderson Cooper, welcome to a CNN Special Town Hall, Finding Hope, Battling America's Suicide Crisis. Crisis and hope, those are our two watch words for this hour, and for this moment in time, the crisis came have been home for many people in the space of a week with the deaths of Kate Spade, the brilliant designer, and Anthony Bourdain, chef, storyteller, colleague and friend.
According to new research when the CDC deaths by suicide have gone up by more than 25 percent since 1999, yet with more awareness, more research, better intervention, there is hope and there is help. In one way or another, everyone here tonight in this audience and with me on stage has been touched by suicide, myself included. I lost my brother Carter to it. Glenn Close nearly lost her sister Jessie. She got treatment and both are here with us tonight.
So as David Axelrod whose father died by suicide and Karl Rove, who's mother did, and Zack Williams who lost his father, actor and comedian Robin Williams. We'll hear from mental health professionals to and survivors who proved that there is a way forward, there is hope and there is help.
And for anyone struggling right now or if someone you know needs help, there's a number to call here in the U.S., the National Suicide Protection Lifeline which 1-800-273-8255 or for support around the globe, you can go to the site for the International Association for Suicide Prevention, both of these will be at the bottom of your screen throughout the next hour.
So let's get started. With me for the hour, Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Joining us now is actress Glenn Close, David Axelrod, former senior advisor to President Obama, and Fox News contributor, Karl Rove, former senior adviser of President George W. Bush. Glenn, your sister Jessie is also with us tonight. She was having suicidal thoughts and she talked to you about it. Did you have any idea? Did you know?
GLENN CLOSE, AWARD-WINNING ACTRESS: No, I didn't. She came up to me one summer, we had been visiting my parents and she said I need help, I can't stop thinking about killing myself. And I was taken aback. Her son Calen had been in hospital. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but we still didn't have any idea, we had no language, no vocabulary for that.
COOPER: It's a conversation that terrifies a lot of people, there was the shock. How did you feel?
GLENN: Well, of course, my reaction was yes, of course I'll help. But now that I think back, Jessie had tried to kill herself three times and I didn't go back and say are you OK? The way our life worked, she came out of a very abusive marriage, and my career started, I never went back and said are you OK?
COOOPER: When she made those attempts, you just, what -- it was too much to deal with?
GLENN: Two attempts when she was young, the third attempt just before my mom and I rescued her basically and then my career began, and it was before cell phones, iPhones and we didn't have a tradition in our family of, you know, keeping watch on reach other.
COOPER: What do you want people who are watching tonight, members of families who either have experienced this or may experience this to know tonight?
GLENN: What I think is really important is two things, one is the issue is not how to help somebody, but why don't more of us do it? And the other issue is that words can't kill, that if you say to somebody are you thinking about killing yourself, that is better than not saying anything because that will make them feel alone and will make them feel toxic
And so -- but the fact that you might be afraid, or you might think that somehow it will reflect on you, that's very human. That's OK, that's might be the way you feel. But to not do it is really not an option because we're losing too many lives. And then, you have to keep checking up. And -- a lot of times --
COOPER: It can't be a one-time conversation.
GLENN: No, it can't be a one-time conversation. Even if they say, no I'm OK, and you suspect, you can say, you know, what, I'm really not comfortable with that.
COOPER: And Jessie, I'm so happy you are with us. Thanks very much for being here. How hard was it to reach out to Glenn in that way? That's a hard thing to --
JESSIE CLOSE, CO-FOUNDER, BRING CHANGE TO MIND: It was very hard, in fact my daughter was 13 at the time and we had just visited friends in Colorado. So I was driving up through Wyoming and Glenn was there with our parents in Wyoming and I knew that if I drove off, I would never get another chance. So --
COOPER: If you didn't say something then?
[19:05:04] J. CLOSE: Yes. That if I drove off I would never get another chance.
COOPER: If you didn't say something then?
J. CLOSE: If I didn't say something then -- G. CLOSE: What made you say it?
J. CLOSE: Terror. Because I had a voice in my head literally saying kill yourself, kill yourself, kill yourself. Over and -- the only time it wasn't speaking to me is when I was asleep. And I knew I didn't want to leave my children, I didn't want to leave them with that legacy. And so I reached out to Glenn.
COOPER: For someone watching tonight, around the world, who may be in pain, who may be hearing that voice, what do you want them to know? Frankly, you just being here tonight sends a powerful message, but what do you want them to know?
J. CLOSE: I want them to know that they must ask for help. Because it's their responsibility to ask for help and if they are not getting help, for instance, reach out with the telephone number that you just said, if there's no one in their family that they can speak to, they need to call and find help.
COOPER: David, I mean you were in college when you got the knock on your door from a police officer telling you that your dad had died from suicide. You dad was a psychologist. Your father helped people his entire career, and yet he couldn't reach out for help himself.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's hard to fathom, in fact at his funeral, you know, only some family members knew the circumstances. And at his funeral there were dozens and dozens and dozens of his patients one after the other who came up and said, you know, your dad saved my life. And it was so heart breaking to think that he could do that for others, but he couldn't reach out for himself. And I ask myself all the time why.
COOPER: You still ask that question?
AXELROD: Oh, yeah. I mean -- you know, I think people who are -- who are survivors of suicide, you know, you go through this question of what didn't I see? What should I have known? My father called me two weeks before he died and he said out of the blue, you know, I know you and your sister, you're going to have great lives and I'm really proud of you and it was very random. And I said, well, thanks, dad, that's really nice and I didn't realize he was calling to say goodbye.
COOPER: And Karl, you lost your mom to suicide when she was 51. For loved ones left behind, can you just talk about some of what you went through and probably, I mean as David was saying still go through?
KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, well, David mentioned that there's a sense of guilt no matter how irrational it is. This is my fault, what did I fail to do? Why didn't I know this was coming I coming? Why didn't I do anything? And, you know, that's a terrible burden for any person to wear, my siblings, particularly my sister was very close, I mean the -- my mother was going through a very dark period in her life, but she, it sounded like, she was coming out of it. There was the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
So for my siblings that were closer to her, who lived near her, I was across county from her, they were devastated by it because they thought things were going in the right direction, and in fact the day before, she seemed very upbeat about where her life was going, so huge impact.
If I could say something, David wrote a beautiful tribute to his father, it's -- you can find it online, it's unbelievably powerful. And one of the points that David makes and so it's important and why I commend you for doing this, and why I commend the close sisters for being so open is that we, people when they're depressed and people when they need help, they take it as a character flaw that they need help.
And David's point is, it's an illness, and if you were ill and the doctor said we've caught it in time and you can take care of it and you will live, who would refuse to get that kind of assistance? And yet, that's what so many people who face this terrible solitary decision from which there is no return say to themselves, there's no help for me and we've got to remove the stigma of people recognizing that the things that give rise to suicide in many cases are just an illness that can be dealt with.
AXELROD: To my great regret, I never talked about this for 30 years after my father's death, I never talked about it. And I realize, and the reason I wrote the piece that I wrote was, I didn't talk about it because I was impacted by this sense of stigma that somehow this was a blight on his character.
[19:10:12] and I realized that may -- maybe that's why, even as he understood it intellectually as a professional, maybe he's one of the reasons he didn't get help, and maybe when I wrote that story of my experiencing and his experience, there was this outpouring from people who said thank you for saying it, for talking about it. I just think we have to, as Karl says, defeat this notion that this is a character defect. It's an illness. And we have to treat it as such.
COOPER: I didn't speak about to a lot of people in my life, for years, I don't -- I don't know for me, if it was stigma, or more a sense of fear and terror, and frankly still I don't know exactly what happened exactly to my brother, that question of why is still a question I ask myself every day. But, Dr. Moutier, I mean do we have any idea what's behind this rise in the numbers of deaths by suicide?
DR. CHRISTINE MOUTIER, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, AMERICAN FOUNDAION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION: Well, suicide is obviously a complex behavior and a complex phenomenon, and so there are always multiple risk factors that converge at a moment in time in a person's life to create that culmination of acute risk.
And so when we're talking about a rise in the population's rate of suicide, it is equally complex. But when you think about over the last 17 years, we've had several things happen as a society. We've had the opioid epidemic, which is affecting suicide and suicide risk for us as a nation in several different ways, but one of them is simply through an infusion of access to a very lethal means being much more readily available to a larger portion of the population changes in the economy can affect population suicide rates as well. But I think about the culture, the culture around self-sufficiency. The can key thing is to really learn how to have more deep authentic conversations with one another, throughout, like you said it's not a one time thing.
COOPER: As you were saying here.
G. CLOSE: I really agree. I also think that it's not just people who need help stigmatizing themselves, it's those of s who can give are afraid in stigmatizing themselves.
MOUTIER: I think you're so right. I look at it as a responsibility on all of us. So, while the person who is suffering and in a really severe level of distress, that's a really hard onus of responsibility to put on that someone in that moment because this is happening in the brain, it distorts your perceptions, the way you're thinking about yourself others around you. So, I do like to think about it as we as a whole society need to learn the skills about how to have conversations.
COOPER: And what to look for too which is something we want to talk about. Glenn, thank you so much. Jessie, thank you so much for being with us. David and Karl as well, thank you for speaking out. Coming up next, how to tell if someone you love needs help and what you can do about it.
COOPER: Welcome back to our Town Hall, "Finding Hope: Battling America's Suicide Crisis," and a reminder if you're struggling right now or you know, someone who may need help please reach out to any of the organizations that we're showing you on the bottom of the screen throughout this hour. You're not alone, reach out.
Family and friends often wonder about the warning signs of suicide, sometimes there may be no indication but many times there are things to look for if you know how to identify them.
Joining me again is Dr. Moutier and with me now also is Talinda Bennington who lost her husband Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park to suicide. Also, with us is Kirsten Powers who recently wrote about her own experience during a difficult time in her life when she was coping with thoughts of suicide, she's a "USA Today" Columnist, a CNN Political Analyst & Co-Host of "The Faith Angle" Podcast.
Talinda, first of all, I'm so sorry for your loss and I appreciate you being here.
I think when somebody well-known dies by suicide there's such shock, so many people wonder how somebody at the pinnacle of their career, how this could happen to them and obviously in a family there's always shock. Were there warning signs that you saw at the time or that now in retrospect stand out to you? BENNINGTON: Absolutely. Absolutely there were. I am now more educated about those signs, but they were definitely there, the hopelessness, the change of -- the change of behavior, isolation, that was all part of our daily life. It's sometimes -- some signs were there more than others, sometimes they weren't there at all, as the case right before he passed.
He was at his best before he passed. We were on a family vacation, he decided to go back home to do a television commercial and we -- I was going to seem the next day, it was just -- the timing of it. You know, he had been in the -- states of depression before and he had past attempts. This was not a time where we -- any of our family...
BENNINGTON: ... suspect this to happen which is terrifying you know, because it could happen...
BENNINGTON: ... at any moment, those thoughts.
COOPER: Kirsten, you wrote just recently in you know, just an incredibly powerful way and that I think really impacted a lot of people about a depression that you were going through and that -- impulses you started to feel toward suicide. Had you felt it before and what...
POWERS: No. I had never felt it before now. I had definitely -- I've struggled with anxiety my whole life so I had had sort of episodes of feeling very anxious. I'd never had any I -- feeling of actually thinking through how I might kill myself. And this was after my father had died, I'd just left my job and I was freelancing. I had a relationship breakup and so I had a whole bunch of things kind of...
COOPER: All of...
POWERS: ... piling...
COOPER: ... those are huge factors.
POWERS: ... right, piling on each other, I had a lot of changes and I started to have these feelings and thoughts and really imagining and even at one point like open the oven and put my head in and kind of pulled back when I thought about my younger brothers.
And so, if -- and the thing is you know, so to your point, I mean people knew that I was certainly having a hard time, my father had died but most people even when I wrote my columns said, "We had no idea."
COOPER: You lost a huge amount of weight...
COOPER: ... and people kept saying to you, "Oh wow, you look... POWERS: Yes.
COOPER: ... fantastic."
POWERS: Yes, I lost like 20 pounds in six weeks and you know, I probably lost most of in the first three weeks and people would be like, "Oh you look -- you look amazing," and you know, "You're -- you're living the dream," and you have -- and even when I would say you know, "I'm having these crazy thoughts," and people just be like, "Oh, you're so strong, you're so," you know, and I think one of the things I wanted to get through in my column was, it only lasted a couple months and I barely made it.
You know, it was so hard, every day was so hard like when you see somebody like a Kate Spade who they say was struggling for five years with depression, I just -- I can't imagine.
COOPER: It's so interesting because you know, people have -- people feel the blues in their life...
COOPER: ... this is -- depression is far more than just the blues and if you haven't experienced it, it may be hard to understand what somebody is going through and the seriousness of it because people say, "Oh, you can pull yourself out of that," you know.
BENNINGTON: Sure. And I don't suffer from depression, I never have and watching my husband go through it I had no idea, I could not relate.
And over the years I learned, I educated myself to...
... the best of my ability however I did not understand the severity of his thoughts. He shared them with me, we got him help and it -- everything happened at a time, I can't stress enough when we thought everything was OK...
BENNINGTON: ... it was -- it took us by surprise.
COOPER: One of the things that for me I -- it took me a long time to kind of understand is that it -- oftentimes it's not a rational thought that somebody's having but I mean Kirsten wrote about it as an impulse, as a...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
COOPER: ... you know, Jessie Close was talking about this voice that it's -- and that can be very hard I think -- for -- in terms of warning signs what do you tell people to watch out for, recommend people watch out for? MOUTIER: Right, well I think we're hearing about so much of it and how it actually plays out in real life can be very, very cloaked so we can look at the list of warning signs and it's really important to get educated about that, it absolutely is. But then understand that the loved ones in your life are not going to hand that you on a platter, they're going to be indicating it in very subtle ways...
COOPER: Even if it some of those warning signs I think on the screen: feeling hopeless, like a burden to others; depression, anxiety; lack of interest, withdrawn; easily angered or agitated; increase drinking or substance use?
MOUTIER: ... Yes, and I really want to also bring us back to this idea of -- picture the worst physical pain that you have ever been in, in your life and the way that affects you and your thinking at the time, you're not thinking straight, it's -- it's -- it's excruciating, mental anguish, psychological pain, is exactly like that and just as disabling and painful.
But again, to help people understand, how does a person keep functioning and sort of on the surface of it look like themselves. Now again I think we're just -- we need to learn to pay attention at a -- at a more subtle level.
COOPER: Talinda I also think people look for a simple explanation, it happened because of this reason or that reason. I know you talked publicly about sort of almost like building blocks in your husband's life of issues that sort of one on top of the other and that there is no one necessarily explanation.
BENNINGTON: Absolutely, yes, it's -- it's a lifetime of building blocks to unhealthy mental -- emotional -- mental behavior, emotional pain and as we can find the coping mechanisms, if we have people we can trust that we can talk to, that helps us to make better choices for ourselves and my husband didn't have that in a lot of situations.
He also self-medicated so I mean that changes the chemistry of the brain and you are already genetically prone to depression, that all changes your brain chemistry and you know, if you don't take care of that early on and if you don't get the continuing method of care, you have to keep it going.
COOPER: Kirsten, I mean I've known you for a couple years now, I had no idea that you had had this experience. Was it hard to be public about it, to write about it and was it rewarding to have so many people approach you afterwards and say...
POWERS: Well we were talking about this actually in the "Green Room," I was saying even five years ago, I don't think I would've written this because I was so consumed with appearing together and wanting to look you know, -- and that because of the stigma and these kinds of things and I think I've sort of as I've gotten older I've started to understand that I need to sort of let go of that.
But also, the person who I interviewed is my fiance's brother who is one of the leading Suicide Prevention experts and I said, "Is there something that's being missed here?" You know, in the coverage, and he said, "Well, yes. Actually, what really helps people is to hear stories from people in the public-eye who have contemplated suicide and not gone through it (INAUDIBLE)...
COOPER: And that...
POWERS: ... and so...
COOPER: ... there is a way through it?
POWERS: ... Yes. And there is a way through it and I'm -- I'm very happy now. I have a good life and I've learned to manage my anxiety and so there is a way to get there and so I felt I have to do it but it was totally worth it because I heard from so many people, strangers, and including people I know you know, saying to me, "I suffer from depression," and I had no idea.
COOPER: Talinda, thank you so much for being with us.
BENNINGTON: Thank you.
COOPER: And Kirsten...
COOPER: ... as well.
COOPER: Coming up next, we'll hear from Robin William's son Zak and our own Randi Kaye about what it's like when someone you love dies by suicide and the questions you're left to ask.
... And welcome back, we're here with our Town Hall. We can't say it enough tonight if you or someone you know, are thinking about suicide please pick up the phone, call the number on the bottom of the screen or reach out to any of the organizations that we continue to show you throughout this hour.
Losing a loved one is always traumatic but losing a loved one to suicide brings with it questions and issues that often stay with one forever.
I mentioned this before my brother Carter died by suicide 30 years ago, this July, is the 30th -- it's the 30-year anniversary and there's not a day that goes by when I still don't wonder what was he thinking, why did this happen.
It's hard sometimes to get pass the way his life ended instead of remembering how he lived his life.
Joining us now is Zak Williams, son of the late Robin Williams and CNN's Randi Kaye who also lost her father to suicide.
Randi it was 15 years ago, you lost your dad. People on TV often use that word "closure" which I hate that word...
KAYE: I do too.
COOPER: ... I actually think there's no such thing particularly in the wake of suicide. Do you still think about it every day, do you still -- what is it like to be a survivor?
KAYE: It's very difficult. I mean you certainly know that. I think you know, now more than 15 years later, I still have just as many questions as I did on that night at 11 o'clock, I was living in Minneapolis at the time, 11:00 p.m., I'd come home from anchoring the late news, got a call from my mother, hysterical crying on the phone to tell me what had happened to my dad.
And I immediately went into reporter-mode, I thought somebody must've killed him. I never imagined that my father would this, that he would leave us, that he would take his life so I had to -- he didn't leave a note so you know, to this day, I still have so many questions.
I called his doctors over the years. I was convinced he had a terminal illness. I called his friends to try and find out if they knew something that we didn't so I still struggle with the why as you talk about.
I also have this -- these very painful "what if" moments you know, what if I'd spoken to him that morning at 10:30 in the morning, I remembered, we had a very nice conversation, I was helping him program some things in this telephone; what if I'd just kept in on the phone a little bit longer, what if -- something might've come up, what if he would've shared something with me or what if I'd call him that evening when he you know, was thinking about that moment when he was taking his life.
He had a -- you know, he had -- he had a gun in one room and the bullets were two bedrooms away, what if I'd call him in that moment while he was walking from one room to the next and just changed his mind, caught him in the act...
KAYE: ... maybe that would've saved him.
I also struggled too with you know, being so angry at him, so many days still, all these years later being so angry that he left us and also feeling such pity and such sorrow for him that he missed out on so much of my life, so much joy.
My sister was pregnant with his -- a granddaughter who is here in the audience tonight, Talia who he's never had the chance to meet and that just breaks my heart and I still live with all of that. [19:30:00]
COOPER: Zak, you obviously were left with a lot of questions after your dad's death. Can you talk to us about what being a survivor of a family member who dies in this way experiences?
ZAK WILLIAMS, SON OF ROBIN WILLIAMS: Oh, sure. It's a traumatic experience when you first start processing things. You know, in my case, it was both a public event and a private event, and so, it was hard to differentiate between the two. And, you know, the public was grieving and the private was -- you know, privately as a family, we were grieving.
And it took a while to really understand that those processes are separate processes and I really didn't -- I wasn't able to really start addressing the issues that I was dealing through my grieving until about 12 to 18 months after his passing. And so, you know, taking care of my own well-being was something that I didn't prioritize and in retrospect, I feel like I should have started that process earlier.
COOPER: Dr. Moutier, do you hear -- I had fear after my brother's death about what might happen to me, about was this some sort of shadow that existed that would descend upon me. Do -- is that something that's common in families, that fear? And how do you counsel families in the wake of something like this?
DR. CHRISTINE MOUTIER, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION: Well, it's important to know that losing someone to suicide as has been already mentioned is an extremely complicated way to be grieving someone you loved and have now lost via this inexplicable method. It catches people by surprise, it's shocking, this mixture of emotions that you describe, from everything from yearning for them to being angry at them, it's an -- it's a lot.
And one of the important things to realize is that about 55 percent of the population has been touched by suicide in some way, either through loss or their own lived experience of surviving an attempt or having a family member who has struggled. So, if we're talking about the majority of the population, and yet, we're feeling this sense of isolation, will I be judged? Can I talk about this?
People who lose someone to suicide need to be surrounded by the same kind of supportive community that any other person who is bereaved.
But to your question about does -- do many people wonder if this runs in families? Is there a genetic element to suicide? And what I would say is, obviously, like we've mentioned, suicide is very complicated, but by no means is this a predetermined type of situation.
In fact, just like heart disease, if it runs in your family, you might take that to mean an extra call to action to take care of your health, even more so than you normally would. And so, that's what I would hope people would take from that. It is not a predetermined type of genetic push, and that's not how it works. COOPER: One of the things I understand that you want to get across is if you recognized that a family member is struggling, that you should keep trying to help, even if that person is not receptive to it?
WILLIAMS: Yes, I think it's important to be unconditionally loving in the sense that reaching out even if someone is not receptive is something that should be considered an act of love and it can be challenging. But at the end of the day, that act could save someone's life and could support someone through their process of kind of learning about themselves and understanding that there are people out there who care about them and consider them in their day to day lives, and I think that's crucial.
COOPER: Randy, I remember my mom saying in the wake of my brother's death that she felt like we were on a life raft and some people could get on the life raft and help us, and some people who we thought would be able to get on and help didn't know what to do.
I'm wondering, did you find or do you find people sometimes don't know how to respond when they learn what happened to your dad?
KAYE: Yes, and that's why, you know, even here in our office, you know, so many people even just tonight came up to me and said I had no idea.
COOPER: I had no idea, right.
KAYE: Yes. I mean, and you and I have worked together for 15 years, because we don't -- I don't really talk about it, I don't lead with it. But it is something that's difficult to talk about still, you know? And I still have, you know, so many questions about it as I said, but I also wonder, you know, what -- maybe what I could have done more.
And I think one of the lessons that I have taken away from it, which I do talk about now, when I do talk about it with people, I tell them, you know, don't take no for an answer from your loved one. If they are struggling, if you think they're struggling, look, for those signs, because -- you know, my mom told me my dad was crying, and he was retired and he was saying this isn't what the golden years are supposed to be about.
And I would call him and I'd say, dad, are you -- are you OK? I'm fine, it's your mother. It's your mother you should worry about.
And I took his word for it. I do think you just have to really listen to your loved one and look for those signs and not take -- not take no for an answer.
COOPER: Randi, thanks so much for being with us.
And, Zak -- Zak William, thanks for being with us as well.
Up next, the new startling data that shows a steady increase in suicide rates in just about every state across this country. Some of the reasons behind those numbers and the people that are most affected.
COOPER: Welcome back to the CNN town hall, "Finding Hope: Battling America's Suicide Crisis".
On the bottom of your screen, we continue to show you organizations you can reach out to if you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide. Help is a phone call away.
I want to show you something sobering. Take a look at this map behind me. According to new data from the CDC, suicide has risen in 49 out of 50 states, the exception is Nevada. Nearly every state in America.
Among the groups that are overrepresented, middle aged white men, veterans, members of the LGBTQ community. Other government reports have found out that the veterans made up about 14.3 percent of adult suicide in 2015, when they only made up 8.23 percent of the total adult population. Nearly one in three lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth attempted suicide at least once in a given year, one in three.
With me and Dr. Christine Moutier now is Jane Clementi whose son Tyler was a student at Rutgers University, died by suicide in 2010 after being cyber bullied. Also joining us, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Jane, so many Americans and so many members of the gay and lesbian community were so impacted by your son's death and you've been very vocal in the wake of this.
Why do you think this crisis affects so many gay and lesbian and transgender youth?
JANE CLEMENTI, CO-FOUNDER, TYLER CLEMENTI FOUNDATION: Well, as -- our foundation, my husband and I did start a foundation after Tyler died because of so many of the great conversations that were started.
And one thing that we found out is that gay youth are also more likely to be bullied. And, of course, not all of bullying situations end in a terrible circumstances that Tyler's did, but they still suffer great consequences. Much of the same mental health issues that lead to suicide are what many of the gay youth that are bullied do, and which is why we are more interested in the foundation of going towards prevention, to try and prevent suicide, and prevent bullying in that respect.
So, one of the things that I saw with Tyler's story was that there were so many people that saw what was happening to Tyler and no one spoke up. And then I learned when I started learning more about bullying is that people in most bullying scenarios have bystanders that see what's happening and they say nothing. So, we want to turn those bystanders into upstanders. So, that's one of our initiatives.
COOPER: It's also hard for -- I mean, we talked about this a little bit. For a lot of people to reach out for help. I mean, Tyler had recently come out and was obviously going through issues, cyber bullying issues which he probably didn't talk even -- he didn't talk to you about.
COOPER: So, it's often hard for somebody to reach out, they don't want to bother somebody else, even a close family member.
CLEMENTI: Yes, and also we thought something about that transitional time, he was no -- he wasn't really fully acclimated into the culture of that group.
COOPER: The transitional times are really hard, out of school, into school.
CLEMENTI: He wasn't at home. He wasn't in daily contact with family, with friends and that transitional time is very, very difficult.
COOPER: Yes, I also want to bring in Jimmy Hatch. Jimmy, a friend of mine, is Navy SEAL whose career was ended after he -- got wounded on a mission to try to rescue Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan. Jim, you've been very open about your struggles after leaving the service and to help -- you reached out for help, you had a circle that maybe you weren't even reaching out, they reached out to you and made sure you got help and yet, there's so many veterans who still don't feel comfortable speaking out because -- I assume because of a stigma.
JIMMY HATCH, RETIRED U.S. NAVY SEAL: I think so. I think the military is an environment where we have to be critical on one another because of the stakes involved with the type of work we do. I think we always want to appear strong and not let anybody down. I certainly thought that way as though by having these suicidal ideations and self-medicating, I was no longer capable of doing the work that I was in. I felt as though I had participated in making them my last mission a failure. I took all of this on board.
COOPER: You'd been -- I mean, you had been a SEAL for 20 years. So, you felt that your purpose suddenly had disappeared.
HATCH: Exactly. And I think it's not uncommon. Once we can no longer do that kind of work, we're kind of lost, it's a transitionary period of our own.
But, you know, my friends -- the people that I worked with saved my life in a gunfight. They reinserted themselves in my life, after my wife ran out of options with me, and, you know, nobody gets medals for taking their buddy to a mental hospital. But those guys showed up and they did it.
COOPER: That's one of the things you've said to me, and I love that idea that they give you medals for what happens on the battlefield, but for the people who drive you to the hospital every time you need to go, who stand by you, they're no medals for those folks.
HATCH: Right, and, you know, the thing of it is, it was mentioned earlier, if you got hit by a bus out here and you were laying on the ground with a broken leg crying, you know, people would come to you and help you out. The mental health circumstances that I was under, I wasn't really crying out, but my words were great but my actions were different.
And those guys who had been near me in gunfights and spent a lot of time with me in the past, they realized that in spite of my words, I was not well, and they came and injected themselves into my life.
COOPER: The very high risk of middle age white men, Sanjay, do we know much of why that group has gotten vulnerable?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know in the United States as a whole, life expectancy has dropped over the last couple of years which is kind of an extraordinary thing because it's been steadily going up --
COOPER: I didn't know that.
GUPTA: -- over the last couple of years. It's plateaud and then dropped. And if you start to really look at why that's happening, as you point out, it's really this -- the middle aged white working class population that seems to be hit the hardest.
The most common cause of premature death are liver cirrhosis, typically due to alcoholism, opioid overdose and suicide, death by suicide. These are the -- those are the deaths of despair, drinking too much, the opioids, and obviously, suicide.
Why it's this particular population in particular, it could be they have been hit harder by the economic downturn, there's more stigma about actually going out and seeking help of some sort, these are the sons and daughters of the greatest generation, in many ways they were supposed to inherit the United States, but instead, they see themselves dying at a faster rate than of their sort of similar groups around the world. So, that's I think part of what's happening here.
COOPER: Jane, you've been very open about what you yourself struggled in the wake of Tyler's death?
CLEMENTI: Yes, I think that when you're in that deep dark place of despair and isolation, that you don't see the resources that you have all around you, our family was certainly warmly supported and people from my community before Tyler died, as well as we've been warmly embraced and welcomed into the LGBTQ community as well. But when you're in that deep dark place of despair, you don't see those resources or that support and you feel --
COOPER: You felt the impulse of suicide?
CLEMENTI: I did, because as a mom, I should have known what was happening. I should have known what was going on. I should have know and the what-ifs and the could-haves and the should-haves all just circled and spiraled out of control.
COOPER: How did you get through that?
CLEMENTI: I had professional health, which was great. I guess my faith -- God was very present for me in that space and time. And it was just a matter of one moment, one day at a time, using other coping skills like journaling, professional help as I said, being supported by friends and family members, which you don't really see. I mean, many people would say, well, you have two other sons, you have your husband, you have so many people but all I could feel was my loss and I have never felt like that ever before and I was never -- not prepared for crumbling, my whole world crumbling apart.
COOPER: There are -- I mean, science continues to make breakthroughs and there are some really promising -- I mean, first of all, there are medications available right away now, but there's also a number of experimental treatments which hold a lot of promise.
GUPTA: Well, you know, I mean, this isn't so much a new medication, but something that's got a lot of new attention is ketamine, for example. And I've heard doctors -- other doctors describe this as almost a rescue drug because of how quickly it can work.
COOPER: I've have heard it in some ways stops suicidal ideation right away.
GUPTA: Within hours, you know? So, typically, you know, you have -- it's an infusion typically, so its' through an I.V. during the day. And then by the next morning, typically, it's -- the suicidal ideations are gone.
As people have described it, it's not that there -- the problems or whatever may have been fueling their depression are gone, but just that suicidal ideation is gone. It works totally different than typical antidepressants.
COOPER: Jane, thank you so much for being with us.
CLEMENTI: Thank you.
COOPER: Jimmy as well, it's great to see you. And, Sanjay, as well.
When we continue, we're going to hear from survivors of attempted suicide, their stories of hope, how they made it through and they're now helping others.
COOPER: Welcome back to this special CNN town hall, "Finding Hope: Battling America's Suicide Crisis."
Right now, if you or a loved one is thinking of suicide, I urge you to reach out for help. On the bottom of your screen, we continue to show you the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and other organizations. Please don't hesitate to make the phone call.
Hope is such an important word in this discussion, and if you're feeling hopeless or know someone who is, there is help and there is a way through.
I want you all to meet Jordan Burnham who at 18 nearly died by suicide. He survived. It was 11 years ago.
I'm very happy, Jordan, that you are with us tonight. Thanks so much for being here.
JORDAN BURNHAM, SUICIDE ATTEMPT SURVIVOR: Thank you for having me. Absolutely.
COOPER: We're talking about hope tonight and I'm wondering just how you held on to hope and kind of came back to a place of hopefulness after being hopeless.
BURNHAM: Yes, it was difficult because at that point, you know, I was 18. I attempted suicide by going out of my nine-story bedroom window. So, I'm laying in a hospital and I'm down to 80 pounds. I can't move. I can't talk.
But what I did have was the support of parents, my family, my sister, the community. I had all of that support surrounding me. But in the midst of all of that, I was able to share my story, with the reporter from "The Philadelphia Inquirer" newspaper. And at that point, I had a trach in my throat, so I didn't even have a voice, but I thought I had a story that could hopefully help other people and feel as though they're not alone.
COOPER: You wanted even at that time so soon after to try to help other people?
BURNHAM: Absolutely. I was incredibly grateful to be alive. I had to accept that my body was never going to be the same. I also had to accept, this is a suicide attempt.
But I knew that it wouldn't define me if I share my story myself in trying to help others. So, at that point, I had hope by trying to help others.
COOPER: I heard you say a question you hear most from people is, you know, what's the one thing that -- what's the one conversation that people could have had with you that would have helped? You say that's kind of the wrong question to ask.
BURNHAM: Right. I think the better answer is what's the culture that could -- you could have been surrounded by that probably could have helped myself with my mental health issues in having that conversation. I felt like I couldn't do that when I was a teenager. I felt ashamed to admit when I wasn't getting enough sleep, or my appetite was inconsistent. I felt ashamed that I couldn't wake up and get out of bed, and that I didn't feel like myself.
So, I felt like there wasn't an open culture when it comes to talking about when we're struggling and our mental health issues and now I'm starting to see a change in that.
COOPER: I also want everybody to meet Dese'Rae Stage, who's also with us tonight, who's also a survivor of suicide.
You're a founder of a project called Live Through This. You take portraits of other survivors.
What's -- why do you feel that's so important to show others? DESE'RAE L. STAGE, FOUNDER, LIVETHROUGHTHIS.ORG: For me, when I first
started this project, I wasn't seeing a reflection of stories like mine. I thought I was the only person in my life who had attempted suicide and I came later to find out that that is not the case. I'm sitting next to two other suicide attempt survivors.
I -- I wanted to show that. I wanted to show that we are people. We are just like everyone else. We come from different cultures, different backgrounds, SES, age range, gender presentation, sexual orientation. That suicide doesn't discriminate essentially.
COOPER: Getting through it, there's life after it?
STAGE: Yes. There's life after, and that's not to say that life is easy. It gets better. It might get worse again. It might get better again, but I think in interviewing 185 other suicide attempt survivors, what I've learned is that we struggle, but we struggle better over time, most of us.
For me, that's the real message of hope is it might continue to hurt. You might continue to have suicidal thoughts, but you can still get through it. And the people who I have interviewed are perfect examples of that.
COOPER: I think it's such an important message, Doctor, that, you know, that you can lead a great life. I mean, that you can get -- you just got to get through that moment.
MOUTIER: Absolutely. And we're hearing about the challenges are several fold. But once people get past stigma and are able to start talking about what they're experiencing as actual changes in their health, just like they would if they were physical health changes, that takes care of one huge layer. We can learn what actually leads to our best outcomes, what's -- causes, what triggers us to spiral downward. We can learn how to actually fine tune things. It's not a perfect science, but just like Dese'Rae was saying, you can actually learn that.
COOPER: If somebody right now is in crisis watching this, what would you say to them?
MOUTIER: If someone is in crisis right now, I would say reach out to someone. Take the risk, because it's a scary thing to do. But there are people who love you. You are not alone, and to reach out and speak to somebody about what you are going through.
If you can't do that with someone in your life then call the suicide prevention lifeline or text the crisis text line. Those are available 24/7.
I would also say that if you're a viewer watching right now, and at some point throughout the show you've been thinking, I wonder if some of those warning signs apply to this person in my life, that is probably a sure sign that it's time to reach out to that person.
COOPER: And it's OK to have that conversation? MOUTIER: Yes. Absolutely.
COOPER: Jordan, thank you so much for being with us.
Dese'Rae, great to see you.
Dr. Moutier, thank you so much.
We began the hour talking about two deaths by suicide, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Really, I mentioned how a terrible thing of suicide in my life is you end up focusing on how someone's life ended, sometimes not on how they lived their life. So, with that in mind, we just want to take a few moments to remember the life and passion of our colleague and our friend, Anthony Bourdain.
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST, PARTS UNKNOWN: You know, food is an entryway. I'm a guy who spent 30 years cooking food professionally. That's where I come from, that's how I'm always going to look at the world, but food isn't everything. And something comes up, I'm happy to get up from the meal and wander up elsewhere.
COOPER (voice-over): Anthony saw the world and experienced life in a way most people never will. In places near and far, he talked, tasted with open mouth and eyes and open heart and mind.
By the time of his death, Anthony had visited more than 80 countries, many of them multiple times. Even if food was not your passion, Anthony could enthrall you with what he saw and learned in the places he went.
He was born Anthony Michael Bourdain on June 25th, 1956. He grew up in New Jersey but spent time with relatives in France in the summers. That's where he developed his appreciation of fine foods.
In 1999, when Anthony was 44, he sent a humorous and slightly shocking essay to "The New Yorker" magazine about the realities of working in a restaurant kitchen. Then, in 2012, joined CNN.
"PARTS UNKNOWN", which won plenty of awards over the years, was far more than a show about just cooking and eating. Anthony was a great storyteller. His voice was unique and fearless. He was as interested in politics and music and culture as what was cooking on the stove.
BOURDAIN: I describe "PARTS UNKNOWN" as a series of essays -- of standalone essays that generally try to focus on the subject of food and where it comes from but not always.
COOPER: He was married twice and in 2007 welcomed a daughter Ariane into the world. After she was born, he told "People" magazine that she gave him a reason to live.
It's impossible from the outside to ever fully know what goes on in someone else's heart or in their head. It's impossible to fathom how quickly one's life can change. Anthony once wrote: As you move through this life and this world, you
change things slightly. You leave marks behind however small. And in return, life and travel leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks on your body or your heart are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.
The hurt for all of us who knew Anthony, for all of us who came to know him through his travels, that hurt is strong. The shock is real. The sadness is just beginning to sink in.
Anthony Bourdain was 61 years old.
COOPER: I want to thank everybody for participating in this town hall tonight. I want to thank Dr. Moutier doctor again and really everyone for being here.
And just to remind anyone watching that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline answers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The number again, 1-800-273-8255. Also online, the International Association for Suicide Prevention, the web address is there on your screen, wherever you are in the world. And for additional resources and coverage of this vital issue, go to this page on CNN.com.
Thanks very much for watching. Right now, this season's final two episodes of "ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN".