Guest Post By: John Draper, Ph.D., Director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
When I was a kid, I loved Marvel comic books. As much as I indulged my imagination in the workings of superheroes back then, I never could have imagined that, decades later, Captain America would be an ally of mine in promoting SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline!
Someone from Marvel Comics contacted me in December 2010 and told us of their plan to release a special issue of Captain America in January 2011, whereby the Captain would reach out and help an adolescent boy in suicidal distress. The last panel of the issue would show the boy dialing the Lifeline number, 800-273-TALK (8255). They were calling only to obtain access to the Lifeline logo which, as a public service, is available to anyone who accesses our web site at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Marvel has made the comic available electronically.
In reviewing the story, I was simply blown away by the outstanding quality of the art work. I also noted that there was no dialogue, no word bubbles; only pictures and action. In just a few frames, they powerfully portrayed signs of suicide and precipitating events in this boy’s life that triggered his suicidal thoughts: the recent accidental death of his father; his mother dating a new love interest; his girlfriend breaking up with him; failing grades in school; and a sense of complete isolation. The writer (also a psychologist) did his homework; research shows that 1/3 of adolescent suicides are precipitated by conflicts with parents and/or relationship break-ups, often in the same day. The primary demographic for readers of popular comic books is tech savvy 20-28 year old males. Suicidal thoughts are common among persons in this age group, and males are particularly at higher risk of completing suicide. The final frame reminds readers that you don’t have to be a superhero to take action, you just need a phone and the Lifeline number.
Our thanks to Marvel—and the Good Captain—for helping us spread the word that with help, there truly is hope…and help is only a phone call away!