Mrs. Tennessee Wants to Remind Others ‘They Are Not Alone’ After Losing Brother to Suicide
Mt. Juliet, Tenn. – Almost one year ago, on Jan. 2, 2019, Amber Lynn Carroll received a call that would forever change her life - her brother, Jake Pennycuff, had ended his. Now the Mrs. Tennessee America has made it her mission to help others remember they are not alone before it’s too late.
Tennessee’s suicide rate is the highest it has been in five years, according to the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. “The Status of Suicide in Tennessee” report showed that in the past five years there have been 1,017 suicide deaths, or 15.7 per 100,000. That’s higher than the national rate of 13 per 100,000. Across the country, suicide has become an epidemic. Between 2001 and 2017, the suicide rate in the U.S. increased 31% and that was before the impact and stress of COVID-19.
For Carroll, mental health awareness and suicide prevention has now became an open dialogue in her family. Her parents, Tracy and Roger Pennycuff, and husband Cody, founded “We Are Team Jake” to “seize the awkward.”
“Our mission is to let people know they're not alone and help family members answer the question, ‘how do I address this?’” Carroll said. “We have an open conversation about this in our household now.”
Since the launch of Tennessee’s Resilient Tennessee Campaign that focuses on suicide and drug overdose prevention, Carroll has been promoting it at events and to friends. Her brother had struggled with drug abuse since being introduced to it in college. His parents believe the drugs mixed with his depression and anxiety to make a difficult situation more toxic. For his family, talking openly about mental health and drug abuse to end the stigma could be the conversation that saves someone’s life.
“Being able to actively listen, having an open dialogue, allowing them to talk and provide non-judgemental feedback can save the person you love,” she said. “Let them know you're there for them and point them to resources that are available such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.”
With the one-year anniversary of her brother’s passing, Carroll is hopeful that others will hear her message and take the steps to have conversations with their families.
For individuals struggling with depression, there is help available 24/7. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.