The numbers are flat out scary: suicide claims the lives of 30,000 Americans a year. About 5,000 of these are young people; people like you and me who have their entire lives ahead of them. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15 – 24. It is also the second leading cause of death for college-aged youth and considering that many of our readers fall in this age range, the numbers take on a greater relevance.
Louis Posen and Reese Butler aren’t superheroes from a comic book, but if there were such a thing in real life, Louis and Reese would be flying high above the clouds. When most people say they support causes and say they want to help out, there is a lot of talk but little action. Talk is cheap. Louis Posen of Hopeless/Subcity Records and Reese Butler were tired of all the talk and took action against suicide with the Take Action Tour.
In 1998, Reese Butler lost his wife to suicide. That same year, Butler decided to take action; he founded the National Hopeline Network 1-800-SUICIDE. He explains his motivation, “My wife Kristen Brooks died on April 7th, 1998 by suicide after the loss of our stillborn child. I wanted to donate money in her name to an organization actively preventing tragic deaths such as hers. When I discovered there was not even a national toll free number for people in a psychiatric crisis, I set about creating the Kristen Brooks Hope Center and developing the National Hopeline Network 1-800-Suicide.”
For quite some time, Hopeless/Subcity Records have donated portions of the proceeds from their CDs to various charities, something that makes their label stand out above the rest. When Louis and Hopeless/Subcity were looking to expand their awareness, they didn’t have to look far. “The beginning was in 1998 when Hopeless realized we were reaching a lot of people” Posen says, “We realized there was a unique opportunity to reach a lot of people and do something positive with it. So we started the next year, we launched a tour to bring the charity concept of Hopeless on the road and that was the first Take Action Tour. Then in 2000, we hooked up with the Hopeline Network, 1-800-SUICIDE, we were looking for an organization who understood what a punk and hardcore tour was all about, understood that this was an opportunity for them to reach the type of people they wanted to reach with their mission.”
Reese Butler talks about the importance of music in helping spread the word, “Music is a universal language that speaks to the heart and soul. The passion from which artists write and perform allows people to be touched in a way no other medium can connect close to in terms of reaching millions of people with a message of hope and inspiration.” Hopeless/Subcity could have decided to use the Take Action Tour to raise awareness for anything, but suicide prevention is what the kids need. Posen explains, “The reason that suicide prevention and the cause of suicide became so important to Subcity is because of the audience that we’re reaching. We found a cause that hit home for kids that go to these shows and they are definitely dealing with issues around suicide.”
What makes the Take Action Tour so successful is the attitude and stance of those behind the cause. They believe in giving something back and they follow through with their actions and make it part of who they are as people and a label. They believe in using their music not as mere entertainment, but as education as well. “It’s something we feel we have to do” says Posen. “Its part of our purpose as a label and our purpose in life to take all these hours and all the money that we spend and try to do something positive with it beyond entertainment. I think entertainment is a really good thing, it makes people enjoy life, but at the same time, you can be educating people on issues that they care about but might not know about.”
The concept of giving back and raising awareness seems like an easy concept, but it’s something that not many other labels do. “I don’t know why (other labels don’t give back)”, says Posen. “To some people, they just don’t realize that maybe they can do it. It’s such a difficult business world out there, we all hear how the economy is tough, and so a lot of people are focused on survival and not on giving back, but what we try to do at Subcity is incorporate it so there is no difference between the two. As long as we’re surviving, we’re giving back, and I think everyone can find that.” In terms of laying down a foundation for other labels to follow, Hopeless/Subcity does an amazing job at this. When money and greed are overtaking the music industry, Subcity breaks from the norm and does things the right way. “Part of what we do with Subcity is to try to set an example for other companies and individuals to do the same thing. You don’t have to have a lot of money to do something charitable” states Posen.
Currently the Take Action Tour is making its rounds raising awareness and funds for suicide all over the country. The tour intertwines the message of suicide awareness and the entertainment very effectively. The bands appearing on the tour are Poison The Well, Dillinger Escape Plan, Shai Hulud, Avenged Sevenfold, and Further Seems Forever to name a few and when all is said and done, it’s the music on the tour that is the driving force behind raising suicide awareness. Many of the bands on the tour are of the hardcore/punk genre and Posen explains why this is the case, “It started with Poison The Well coming to the table first. Then other bands who they were friends with or look up to them wanting to be on a tour that they are associated with and a cause that they care about. I think other hardcore bands have followed Poison The Well’s lead.” Butler doesn’t just limit the tour to punk and hardcore but feels they relay the message the best, “We did not choose punk/hardcore at the exclusion of other genres. Specifically we are most proud of punk/hardcore as that genre is targeted at one of the highest risk groups for suicidal behavior and depression.”
The tour has helped out countless kids over the years; Posen and Butler hear positive feedback from them every day. “That’s why we do it” says Posen. “We get that positive feedback and it’s scary how much feedback we get. It does hit you hard when you read it. There’s a bittersweet thing there, the bitterness of realizing there are a lot of kids out there in trouble and need a place to turn, and the positive side is there is a place lucky enough. Sometimes, there isn’t a treatment or cure or a place, and in this case there is. There are 24-hour confidential hotlines that know how to deal with this and have the references to help you. There is a letter that always comes back to me.” Butler shares his feedback that he receives, “Every show I go to I end up connecting with many special people who have been touched by suicide and tell me how the work we are doing gives them hope.”
There is hope out there and sometimes it takes special people like Louis Posen and Reese Butler to rekindle it. Even though the Take Action Tour continues to improve and increase in raising awareness, the work will never stop.
Butler sums things up in the best way possible, “It is the most incredible feeling to know that my wife’s life and death had a far greater meaning than she even knew, and that my life and the entire Hopeline Network team has a higher purpose. Prior to starting the Hopeline I was adrift with no purpose in life. This work has become a mission and has consumed me and rewarded me with the greatest purpose for my life. To help others not go through the same pain and tragic loss that Kristin’s family and I went through.” If only God made more people like Louis Posen and Reese Butler.