Remembering Trey Pennington

I came across this post on my friend Patrick's blog and it struck me so forcibly. So I am passing it on to my readers as few as you are - you never know who might read your blog and the life you may unwittingly save:

I had heard the name Trey Pennington before, but I really hadn’t connected with him.

I wish I had.

Just the other day, though, on September 2nd, I received a notification from Klout that a friend had added me to a list of bloggers. I found myself in very good company, and wondering how I ever managed to wind up on that list.

Trey Pennington was there, too. Again, I recognized the name, but somehow, our paths hadn’t crossed. I clicked on his profile and read the short bio: he was a marketing and social media expert, a speaker, an author, a radio host and a coach for public relations professionals.

And I noticed once again that he lived in Greenville, South Carolina. Maybe, I thought to myself, we could meet up at some point in the future. Maybe we’d cross paths at a blogging conference at some point, since we were in the same state.

I clicked a button on Klout that allowed me to tweet that I had been added to a list with a few others, and his Twitter username was among those that went out on that list.

Minutes later, I received a mention on Twitter from Trey:
@patricksplace Thank you.
It’s a simple little courtesy, but one that is by no means automatic on Twitter. He took the time to Tweet back and acknowledge the mention.

Two days later, Trey was gone. Reports seem to conflict a bit, but somewhere on the property of a Greenville church, he apparently took his own life. Some have said he was battling depression.

His Twitter account lists more than 111,000 followers. The internet, over the past few days, has buzzed over his passing with people posting personal tributes to a man they knew better than I did.

People respected Trey. They liked him a lot.

And this popular guy, in a weak moment, apparently didn’t think one person was willing to listen. He probably didn’t ask. When a man makes that decision, there’s often no opportunity he offers anyone to change his mind.

His final tweet, posted that day, seems particularly poignant now that we know what happened after that:

Sure am thankful for online friends who are real friends offline, too. Love you.
His death came on the first day of National Suicide Prevention Week.

According to the American Association of Suicidology, a person at risk of suicide will exhibit warning signs:
  • Threatening to hurt of kill himself/herself, or talking of wanting to; and/or
  • Looking for ways to kill himself/herself by seeking access to firearms, pills, etc.
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide when those actions are out of the ordinary
  • Increased substance use
  • Feeling no reason for living or sense of purpose
  • Feeling anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Feeling trapped or hopeless
  • Withdrawing from friends, family or society
  • Showing rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Showing dramatic mood changes
Keep an eye on those around you and watch for these signs. Maybe in that way, if we look for ways to let those who are important to us know that they do have a place to turn, we can prevent more tragedies like Trey’s.

That’s an important way that everyone — even those of us who never got the chance to talk social media with him over coffee — can remember and honor his memory."

I went to school with a lot of abusive kids who now as adults on Facebook are friends of mine (I did not look for them, but between FB trying find connections and they're looking for connections, I suddenly have a ton of high school "friends" who recall nothing from that time period - at least it appears that way to me. But I remember one friend who was and still is a true friend and he had admitted to me many years ago that he had actually considered suicide at some point because of the bullying that happened. I am grateful neither of us had been in school with the Internet and social networking in place the way it is now. Bullying is much worse thanks to the connectedness of society now.

And so many other issues as well. The hopelessness over finding work is one of them, and possibly the most prevalent now. You need not know someone in pain, but most of us have at one time or another known someone in that situation or someone affected by someone they knew who took his or her life.

Suicide prevention was something that was discussed then, too, but not in such detail and not given its own national week as now. It is key that people know that there are groups and services out there that can help and listen and provide the kind of support and guidance people in that situation need so much. If you post this and one person sees and posts this, it is possible that you may, knowingly or not, save a life.

Are you in crisis? Please call 1-800-273-TALK

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