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Sharing and healing publications


"Survivors of Suicide Loss" . . . Two Meetings every Month

 Shepherd of the Valley Presbyterian Church 

1801 Montano Rd NW, Albuquerque

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 1st & 3rd Monday   ⁄ Information at  :  505 - 400 - 9942





-   October 2017

Written & Edited by  :  Al & Linda Vigil


       IN  THIS  ISSUE

Pg 1 :  Grieving Notes - Linda V.   

Pg 2 :  Suicide Loss : Handling the Holidays

Pg 3 :  Not All Gun Deaths are Murders

Pg 4 :  Suicide and the Holidays : Myths

Pg 6 :  Suicide Clusters

Pg 8 :  Holidays - How Do Your Cope

Pg 9 :  Adolescents More Likely to Die From Suicide Than Traffice Accidents

Pg 10 : About Survivors of Suicide Loss - NM 




By Linda Vigil

   In the Grieving Notes from the May 2017 newsletter, Al covered our feelings about all three of our daughters, including Mia who took her life by suicide, by jumping from the highest span of the Coronado Bridge in San Diego, California. Those Grieving Notes, also brought up the name of Collin Leslie.  Collin is not only a very bright young man, but he is very sensitive and emotional.  He contacted us and asked if he could film us on some questions he had of the Coronado Bridge.

    He had researched the bridge and our name kept coming up because of the work we have done over the years  -speaking and running groups on Survivors of Suicide Loss, speaking to school groups, colleges, chaplin’s, pastors, and in our ministry of helping broken people.  People who choose to walk through our door, people who did not want to be in a survivor room, hearing other people share with one another, and yes, even hearing laughter. The bright side of these unique meetings is feeling pain and asking them to please keep coming back!  I believe that there is only one way to be happy again, and that is to go through, and feel the pain, talk about your loved one, share happy times and regretful times

    It is not easy, probably the hardest thing you will ever do, but you do not have to do it alone.  You have a roomful of people to help you, and eventually they will become new friends.  Very, very special friends

    In the last four to five months, Al & I, have found ourselves in a situation that we had to turn our SOSL mission work over to our Board Members.  We are not the greatest board members, yet I have to say, we have served with wonderful people.  We so wanted the SOSL work to continue -inviting people into the group and touching their lives.  Yes, you can be happy again, you can love again.  It does take a lot of work just learning to trust.

    Our board stepped up, took over and we know they are working hard, changing the things that needed to be changed.  They are making sure there is a safe place for Survivors, to come to and start their healing process, just like they too have done.

    The board has gently taken over our mission, and let Al and I take care of our health issues.  We are older and it was time to let go and let sensitive people carry on the journey for themselves and to be there for new broken people walking through that door.

    For me, it has taken a lot of thought and prayer to surrender our personal mission which has been a great part our lives.  I feel that Mia gave us a voice, and it kept her alive inside of me, because it was helping other people put their lives back together!  You can he happy again -but you are forever changed.  Your journey can be positive if you can work through this terrible pain.

    Mia helped me, help other people!  The awareness I have gained, let me know that my way has seldom worked in the past.  It is only when I let go and trust the inner voice that quietly nudges me in the direction to surrender.  Once I choose that, my life becomes serene and fulfilling.

    We have some health issues and they hit us both at the same time.  We feel that it’s time for a new path -a new journey.  I have an area in my brain that is negatively controlling my speech.  I have felt this part of my life was too important and emotional to turn over.  I wanted to control and change this part of my life.  I have noticed that I started to withdraw from friends and events.  So I can now put my energy where it can do me some good and surrender to a new journey.  Al has had three eye surgeries and still has one more procedure to go through. Collin Leslie, has helped me surrender, by filming us for eight hours, by filming our daughter Mindy and her daughter Courtney, even Mia’s boyfriend.  Collin has given not only me, but our family a new voice that hopefully helps change people’s mind’s, who are at risk and to help families that have lost someone they love by suicide.  It is so important that my voice continue as a mission.  I believe that people come into our lives for a good reason. Collin came into our lives when most needed after a very tough health diagnosis.  But, he has helped our mission to continue. 

    His documentary is open to people that we chose to share it with.  Collin, named the documentary,  -  “Letters From Mia” -  and it can be seen on the Vimeo web-site.

    Open site code to view ...


    The video dialogue and its presentation came from the personal, hand-written journal, that Mia wrote for the four months before her suicide.  We hope that this video will become a teaching tool and support for those at risk for suicide ...and for suicide survivors.

    Good things can come from something so tragic!  Thank you Collin Leslie!

-   In Sharing and Healing,  Linda V.   - 

         Suicide Loss : Handling the Holidays

Do what you think will be comfortable for you. Remember, you can always choose to do things differently next time.

Think about your family's holiday traditions. Consider whether you want to continue them or create some new ones.   Remember that family members may feel differently about continuing to do things the way they've been done in the past. Try to talk openly with each other about your expectations.  

Consider whether you want to be with your family and friends for the holiday, or whether it would be more healing for you to be by yourself or go away this year.  Anticipation of an event can be more difficult than the event itself.  

If you find it comforting to talk about your loved one, let your family and friends know that.  Tell them not to be afraid to mention your loved one's name.   Some survivors find it comforting to acknowledge the birthday of their loved ones by gathering with friends and family; others prefer to spend it privately. 

Some survivors have found the following ritual helpful for a variety of occasions:  Light two candles, and then blow one out.  Explain that the extinguished candle represents those we've lost, while the one that continues to burn represents those of us who go on despite our loss and pain.  Simply leave the one candle burning for the duration of the holiday meal or event.  The glowing flame acts as a quiet reminder of those who are missing.  

Above all, keep in mind that there is no "right" way to handle holidays, anniversaries, or birthdays.  You and your family may decide to try several different approaches before finding one that feels best for you.
Excerpted from - “Surviving Suicide Loss: A Resource and Healing Guide”


                     Not All Gun Deaths are Murders

There are 20,000 gun suicides in the United States every year, more than 50 every single day. Nearly two-thirds of the 33,000 gun deaths in the United States are suicides, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Firearm suicides outnumber firearm homicides nearly two to one. Indeed, far more Americans die by turning a gun on themselves than at the hands of others.

They add up to a national tragedy of staggering proportions. Fortunately, there are actions we can take to help reduce the number of gun suicides in our nation. One of the most significant things we can do is to stop making it so easy for so many people to take their own lives. This means not just thinking about the why people take their own lives, but also thinking about the way, which far too often is easy access to a gun.

The fact is, even more than depression or substance abuse, the strongest predictor of how likely a person is to die from suicide is a gun in the home. Research shows a gun in the home makes a suicide three times more likely. Every day too many parents, spouses, and others who make the decision to bring a gun into the home learn how tragic the consequences of that decision can be.

There are a few reasons why the presence of a gun in the home makes a suicide so much more likely. First is the surprising impulsivity of many suicide attempts. Too often we hear grieving family members talk about how they saw no warning signs, about a teenager who took their life after breaking up with a boy/girlfriend or getting a bad grade, or about a father who recently lost his job, -always about a life that was cut tragically short because a gun was available in a completely unforeseen moment of crisis.

Guns are also so much more lethal than other methods used in suicide attempts. Most people who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide, but only one in 10 people who attempt suicide by gun get that second chance. Limiting easy access to a gun for someone who considers or even attempts suicide can literally be the difference between life and death. I have met so many people whose lives have been torn apart by the tragedy of suicide, too many that didn’t understand the risks of keeping a gun in their homes.

Dan Gross, of the President/Brady Center & Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, says,  “ Every day too many parents... who make the decision to bring a gun into the home learn how tragic the consequences of that decision can be.”


                   THE TRUTH ABOUT SUICIDE & GUNS

Firearms are the leading method of suicide, accounting for half of all suicide deaths. The reason is that guns are more lethal than other suicide methods. About 85 percent of suicide attempts,  with a gun are fatal, whereas only 2 percent of overdoses

Suicide attempts are often impulsive and are usually triggered by an immediate crisis. Most suicidal impulses are intense, they typically last only a short period of time. Intervention during this time of acute risk is critical.  Limiting access to firearms increases the amount of time between a crisis and an individual’s suicide attempt, giving the impulse an opportunity to pass.

A report from the CDC, academic journals, clearly show the relationship between firearm availability and suicide. It offers  a discussion of several opportunities for prevention and promising practices. Some goals of the report are the following:

 • Focusing much-needed attention on the problem of firearm suicide in the United States
 • Increasing understanding of the strong link between firearms and suicide
 • Heightening awareness of the increased risk of suicide by having a firearm in the home
 • Raising awareness that suicide can be prevented
 • Increasing limiting access to lethal means, such as guns and medications, can save lives

The report provides an important first step forward in bringing these two issues together and improving understanding of how we can work to solve them.


   Suicide and the Holidays  - Myths

                       Suicide Rates Spike During the Holidays and Other Suicide Myths

 Suicide attempts increase during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, right? Wrong. Suicide rates actually decrease during the holidays. It is commonly thought that holiday stress increases suicide attempts, but that simply isn't the case. Actually, the lower incident of suicides is now thought to be related to family time and the support this generates.

Suicide is often associated with depression, which is very treatable. Suicide is not a sign of weakness and it isn't about seeking attention or being selfish, yet these myths continue. Here are some other myths surrounding suicide:
Myth:  If you ask someone about suicidal thoughts, it may trigger them to act out.
Fact:  Talking to someone about suicide will not give them the idea. Thoughts of suicide should be discussed if suspected in a family member or friend. Many suicide survivors say if anyone had shown interest or compassion right before the act they would not have done it. 

Myth:  People who talk about suicide are not the ones that do it.
Fact: Threatening or talking about suicide is the number one warning sign. Too often we hear after-the-fact that a suicide victim threatened to end his life but it wasn't taken seriously. Joking or not, all suicidal threats should be taken seriously. 

Myth:  Suicide is always an impulsive act.
Fact: Suicide is often planned weeks, months and sometimes even years in advance. During this time, the person almost always shares thoughts of despair, depression or suicide, even if it's in a joking manner. Some suicides can be impulsive, but that's the exception. 

Myth:  The elderly do not commit suicide.
Fact: The elderly are most likely to successfully complete suicide.

 Myth:  Minorities are most likely to commit suicide.

Fact:  Particularly white men, are more likely to commit suicide. Although the absolute reasons are unknown, it is suspected the differences in social support may play a role.

Myth: Young people are not at risk to commit suicide. They use it as a threat to get attention.

Fact: Teen suicide is a real threat. Thinking it cannot happen to your teen is a dangerous and deadly way to think. Teen suicides have almost doubled over the last 50 years. 

Myth: There's nothing you can do if someone wants to commit suicide.
Fact: No one really wants to die, but couple depression with hopelessness and helplessness and suicide can seem like the only way out. Suicidal feelings do not last forever. Depression can be treated; personal problems that create crises come and go. When those contemplating suicide have someone to talk to they often will agree to get help.

 Myth: Suicide victims always leave a note.

Fact: Roughly 25 percent of suicide victims leave a note. They are consumed by isolation and loneliness, and writing a note seems absolutely pointless when they also think no one cares and that others would be better off.

 Myth: Anyone who is about to attempt suicide has already made up their mind and there is nothing you can do.

Fact: Indications are that more than half of suicidal victims sought help before their death. Seeking help obviously indicates they did not want to die.

 Myth: Suicide is selfish.

Fact: Suicide is not a selfish act but rather an act of desperation by someone experiencing unbearable pain who doesn't know how to make that pain stop. The two most prominent predictors of suicide are clinical depression and substance abusedependence. The person isn't thinking logically or clearly. Recent research indicates there could also be a genetic link.

Myth: If someone really wants to die we should let them.

Fact: Kevin Hines, who jumped off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and lived says in his recent book, ‘Cracked, Not Broken’   “ ...of the survivors, 19 of them have come forward and expressed words to this effect: 'The second my hands and feet left the rail I realized I had made a mistake, I realized how much I needed to live, or didn’t want to die.'”

Myth: Anyone who attempts or commits suicide is depressed.

Fact: While the majority of suicides are committed by depressed individuals, that is not always the case. Alcohol plays a role in 1 in 3 successful suicides.
 If you suspect someone is contemplating suicide talk about it with them and insist on an immediate appointment with a mental health professional. Ask direct questions to find out what they're thinking. Your questions will not push them over the edge, but rather will give them an opportunity to convey how they feel. If you believe that this person is a danger to themselves, do not leave him alone. Call 911 or take them to the nearest ER and be sure to tell a family member or friend about the critical situation.

As families and friends gather together this holiday season, if you suspect someone of having thoughts of suicide, speak up. It could be the greatest gift you ever give. 

       Suicide Clusters

      A suicide cluster is an excessive number of suicides occurring in close geographical proximity.

Clusters occur primarily among teenagers and young adults, with between 1 to and 5 percent of teen suicides occurring in clusters. A case-control study of two teen suicide clusters in Texas indicated that the clusters were teens who had close personal relationships within the the same community.  Suicide completers were likely to have preexisting vulnerabilities, such as emotional illness, substance abuse problems, frequent changes of residence, recent or anticipated relationship break-ups, that may have increased their susceptibility to suicide contagion.
It has been suggested that teen suicide clusters may result from the combination of assortative relating. In this case, teens at high risk of suicide, with shared life stress.

In 1980, two young girls living in northern Sri Lanka committed suicide by eating the seeds of the Yellow Oleander, a common ornamental shrub. In the following year there were 23 cases of oleander poisoning, apparently spurred by the publicity of the first suicides. There were 46 in the year after that and hundreds of cases in the following years. Suicide by oleander poisoning remains a major cause of death in Sri Lanka for young and old alike despite an aggressive government campaign to eliminate oleander plants.

While copycat suicides are not as common as feared, the existence of suicide clusters has been confirmed by studies launched by the Centers for Disease Control. The actual reason that suicide clusters happen is hard to fathom. Although suicides can come in waves, with one suicide other to commit or attempt to kill themselves, the full extent of the cluster is hard to chart . Since suicide clusters are most commonly seen in people under the age of 25 or younger, most research studies and literature reviews focus on that age range.

There are other high-risk groups however, including psychiatric inpatients, members of minority groups experiencing economic or cultural discrimination, prison inmates. Most recently, we’ve seen a very sharp rise among U.S. soldiers deployed on extended missions in remote settings such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since the suicide of a friend or age peer is often a traumatic experience for adolescents (many of whom are left bewildered by the lack of warning signs), the death of one teen might influence other teens feeling suicidal. Media influences, including the suicide of a well-known celebrity or personal idol can have a similar influence on depressed young people,

So how can suicide clusters be prevented? Despite calls for responsible reporting of suicide, especially youth suicides in the news media, the tradeoff between journalistic freedom and the possible impact that it can have on impressionable young people can’t be effectively determined.

Although young people appear especially susceptible, predicting when the next suicide cluster will occur is virtually impossible. Since suicide clusters can seldom be prevented, mental health professionals need to identify suicide clusters and attempt to intervene afterward to keep the cluster from expanding further.

In one recent study on suicide clusters in young people, a team of researchers based at the University of Melbourne in Australia examined 155 studies on suicide clusters and how experts managed to prevent additional deaths. They came up with the a of list of six recommendations for an effective strategy:

   Young people affected by suicide can be referred for educational/psychological debriefing to help them deal with grief and suicide thoughts. The debriefings can be conducted individually or for large groups. Debriefing sessions involve providing information on suicide prevention, stress and grief coping strategies, and who to contact if further help is needed.

 ❷  When debriefings are not enough, young people asking for extra help can receive psychological counseling. Group and individual counseling for young people affected by suicide can include addressing guilt and responsibility, recognizing grief reactions, learning that suicide cannot always be prevented, and how to deal with personal suicidal thoughts.
 ❸ Teachers, parents, and counselors can often recognize high-risk cases who seem particularly in need of help. Having a strategy in place for referring high-risk cases for further screening by mental health professionals is especially important.

 ❹ Ensuring responsible media reporting of suicide clusters. Although organizations dealing with multiple suicides have reported good success in establishing guidelines for responsible suicide reporting, the impact of sensational news stories on communities dealing with suicide clusters cannot be underestimated.

 ❺ Recognizing that the problem can continue despite the suicide cluster apparently being contained. When a community has been traumatized by multiple suicides, the trauma can drag on for months or years afterward. Anniversaries, irresponsible media stories, and failure to the issues that triggered the suicide cluster to begin with need to be identified.

 ❻ Although community strategies for dealing with suicide clusters show some promise, their actual validity is still undetermined. Although many of the recommended approaches have become common in recent years following multiple suicides, there is still no broad agreement on how they can be used properly. Ultimately, the responsibility is on all of us to recognize how far-reaching suicidal behavior can be, especially when the contagion is spread by word of mouth or sensational media stories. 

 Holidays - How Do You Cope?

The holidays are a common trigger for those bereaved by suicide. Survivors experience myriad emotions as the waves of grief wash over them again and again.

 The holidays can be an especially challenging time for survivors of suicide loss. For many, this time of year evokes memories of loved ones who are no longer with us, and while it’s important to express emotions and take the time to grieve, we often feel lost as to how to cope.

1.  Acknowledge life has changes and it’s OK for the holidays to change too.   Take the time to reflect on past rituals and celebrations, and ask yourself, is this still meaningful to me? Do I have the energy to do this? Do I want to do it? Will it be more hurtful than helpful? Some people feel like everything else in life has changed so much, they want to make sure the holidays stay the same. Whereas other people acknowledge the holidays are already onerous, and this is an opportunity to find some new rituals. Discover what works best for you, and accept it as your way of coping.

2.  Manage your energy.  When you are grieving, your energy levels are significantly impacted due to all of the emotional work you are doing. Self-care becomes even more important, and you must pay attention to your energy levels at this time of year. Be prepared to expect less of yourself  –it may not be possible to do all of the things you have done in the past. Be sure to ask for help or modify your plans in your energy level is not there. It’s imperative to be good to yourself, and to be active in your self-care in a conscious way that we often struggle with during the holidays.

3.  Have a discussion with family and friends around how you will remember the person who is not there.  There are new traditions you can create, or special rituals to include the memory of your loved one in the celebration and in the activities you do.  It’s so important to remember the person’s life, and know that the way they died does not define who they are, their value, or what they meant to you when they were alive. Have a discussion with the signficiant people in your life and ask them: how do you want to remember? Determine whether any options are off the table, and find a solution that everyone is comfortable with. Perhaps you would like to serve a particular food the person enjoyed, or acknowledge them by participating in a special activity.

4.  Be aware of your social support network.  Focus on creating a meaningful social support network around you –people in your life who are sensitive to what your needs and moods might indicate. These are people who you can rely on as your allies in challenging times.

When we think of social support, we tend to limit our options and look to one person to satisfy all of our needs. But your social support network should be made up of closer to three or four people. It could be colleagues at work, friends, family, even the neighbor next door. You’ll need someone who makes you laugh, someone who can be quiet with you and support you, someone who can cry with you, even someone who can help with the shopping. No one person can fill all of those needs. It’s important to identify who you can turn to depending on what you need at that point in time.

Recognize the gifts the various people in around you  can give you at challenging times, and let them know what you need from them. Tell them, “I don’t need anything else from you except for you to make me laugh,”  or  “I just need you to be quiet with me.” This might be a gift to them, and you’ll be more likely to get the support you need. 

 Adolescents More Likely to Die From Suicide

  ...Then From Traffic Accidents

                                             By SABRINA TAVERNISE - WASHINGTON

               “Adolescents more likely to die from suicide then from from traffic accidents."

That grim fact was published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They found that the suicide rate for children, ages 10 to 14 had caught up to their death rate for traffic accidents.
The number is an extreme data point in an accumulating body of evidence that young adolescents are suffering from a range of health problems associated with the country’s rapidly changing culture. The pervasiveness of social networking means that entire schools can witness someone’s shame, instead of a small group of girls on a school bus. With continual access to such networks, those pressures do not end when a child comes home in the afternoon.

“It’s clear to me that the question of suicidal thoughts and behavior in this age group has certainly come up far more frequently in the last decade than it had in the previous decade,” said Dr. Marsha Levy-Warren, a clinical psychologist in New York who works with adolescents. “Cultural norms have changed tremendously from 20 years ago.”

The unprecedented rise in suicide among children at such young ages, is troubling. In all, 425 children ages 10 to 14 killed themselves in 2014. In contrast, 384 children of that age died in car accidents.

The crossing-over point was reached in part because suicide had spiked, but also because fatal traffic accidents had declined.
Far more boys than girls killed themselves in 2014 — 275 boys to 150 girls — in line with adults in the general population. American men kill themselves at far higher rates than women. But the increase for girls was much sharper — a tripling, compared with a rise of about a third for boys.

The reasons for suicide are complex. No single factor causes it. But social media tends to exacerbate the challenges and insecurities girls are already wrestling with at that age, possibly heightening risks, adolescent health experts state.

“Social media is girl town,” said Rachel Simmons, the author of  Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls.  “They are all over it in ways that boys are not.”

Statistically, girls dominate visual platforms like Facebook and Instagram where they receive instant validation from their peers, she said. It also is a way to quantify popularity, and take things that used to be private and intangible and make them public and tangible, Ms. Simmons added.

“It used to be that you didn’t know how many friends someone had, or what they were doing after school,” she said. “Social media assigns numbers to those things. For the most vulnerable girls, that can be very destabilizing.”

The public aspect can be particularly painful, Dr. Levy-Warren said. Social media exponentially amplifies humiliation, and an unformed, vulnerable child who is humiliated is at much higher risk of suicide than she would otherwise have been.  “If something gets said that’s hurtful or humiliating, it’s not just the kid who said it who knows, it’s the entire school or class,” she said. “In the past, if you made a misstep, it was a limited number of people who would know about it.”



Grief never ends ...but it changes.
It’s a passage, not a place to stay.
Grief is not a sign of weakness or a lack of faith.
It’s the price of love !


 About  : "Survivors of Suicide Loss - NM"

Two (2) Meetings each Month at :

Shepherd of the Valley Presbyterian Church 
1801 Montano Rd NW, Albuquerque
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

1st & 3rd Monday of Every Month

More information at  :  505 - 400 - 9942



E-Mail  :  Sharing & Healing - Newsletter





August 2016

"Survivors Of Suicide Loss" . . . Six (6) Meetings each Month

 Shepherd of the Valley Presbyterian Church  1801 Montano Rd NW, Albuquerque

Monday May 1st  &   Monday May 15th : 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   AND   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

 Rust / Presbyterian Medical Center  2400 Unser Blvd SE, Rio Rancho

Monday May 8th  &   Monday May 22nd  : 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   AND   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Grief Resource Center  1113 University Blvd NE, Albuquerquqe

Thursday May 4th  &  Thursday May 18th   :  7:00 to 8:30 p.m.



- 2016 -

Written & Edited by  :  Al & Linda Vigil


Linda Vigil

Over the years I have watched broken people come through the doors of our Survivors of Suicide Loss support group, (SOSL.)   Al and I try to welcome each and everyone, giving them a  ‘New-Comer' folder and  reaching out, trying to connect with them on  personal level.  The folder has so much literature, that they look at us like  "...do you really expect me to read all this?  Does this really matter?"  

We explain to them what information we need and why. They are so truly broken. They are looking for answers —their biggest question is ...WHY?  And they question how they can go on?  They believe that they will never be happy or normal again. Then the tears flow from newly broken people.
They never realized how many tears a person could cry in a twenty-four hour period.

The all consuming anguish we survivors experience in the early days, weeks, months, and even years of our loss —eventually gentles into manageable sorrow. Although we never "get over it."  
We do get on with "it" and we can find a new normal in our forever changed life.

We have come to understand that the relationship we had with the loved one we lost by suicide did not end at the grave or the cremation. The connections and impacts go on forever. Some of our survivors attend many months ...some for several years.  They attend and listen to the many, many stories, and they share their own story ...over and over again, with the group.  They have found more people sharing their grief journey, than they dreamed possible, and with time, they begin to act as a peer facilitators.  They share more deeply with others that they can relate too.  They begin to see how their shared experience could help others.  They find that it is truly a privilege to be a participant on the most intimate, most sacred exchange of human emotion imaginable —grief.  Every one is changed and healed by it.

Graces that happen in that environment are beyond words. We can choose to help alleviate suffering any way or place we can. That is what SOSL is about. By attending meetings and doing everything we can do to preserve our mental and emotional health.  So we can help others that are walking the same path of healing.

We cannot thank survivors enough for stepping up and helping us out with leadership, concern, and the deepest caring for our ‘new' broken survivors who walk through the doors of SOSL, looking for ways to go on with their lives.  And yes, get on with their new journey and with their choice to find a new normal and a choice to be happy again. 

                                                                   — In Sharing and Healing : Linda V.

 All About  Fear

Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger —if we didn't feel it, we couldn't protect ourselves from legitimate threats. Often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell. Yet exposing ourselves to our personal fears can be the best way to move past them."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    The (Only) 5 Fears We All Share  :  By Karl Albrecht Ph.D

President Franklin Roosevelt famously asserted,  "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."

I think he was right: Fear of fear probably causes more problems in our lives than fear itself. That claim needs a bit of explaining, I know.

Fear has gotten a bad rap among most human beings. And it's not nearly as complicated as we try to make it. A simple and useful definition of fear is: An anxious feeling, caused by our anticipation of some imagined event or experience.

Medical experts tell us that the anxious feeling we get when we're afraid is a standardized biological reaction. It's pretty much the same set of body signals, whether we're afraid of getting bitten by a dog, getting turned down for a date, or getting our taxes audited.

Fear, like all other emotions, is basically information. It offers us knowledge and understanding—if we choose to accept it—of our psychobiological status.
And there are only five basic fears, out of which almost all of our other so-called fears are manufactured.  These five are:

EXTINCTION—the fear of annihilation, of ceasing to exist. This is a more fundamental way to express it than just calling it "fear of death." The idea of no longer being arouses a primary existential anxiety in all normal humans. Consider that panicky feeling you get when you look over the edge of a high building.

MUTILATION—the fear of losing any part of our precious bodily structure; the thought of having our body's boundaries invaded, or of losing the integrity of any organ, body part, or natural function. Anxiety about animals, such as bugs, spiders, snakes, and other creepy things arises from fear of mutilation.

LOSS OF AUTONOMY—THE fear of being immobilized, paralyzed, restricted, enveloped, overwhelmed, entrapped, imprisoned, smothered, or otherwise controlled by circumstances beyond our control. In physical form, it's commonly known as claustrophobia, but it also extends to our social interactions and relationships.

SEPARATION —the fear of abandonment, rejection, and loss of connectedness; of becoming a non-person—not wanted, respected, or valued by anyone else. The "silent treatment," when imposed by a group, can have a devastating psychological effect on its target.

 EGO-DEATH —the fear of humiliation, shame, or any other mechanism of profound self-disapproval that threatens the loss of integrity of the Self; the fear of the shattering or disintegration of one's constructed sense of lovability, capability, and worthiness.


        From the  -  Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation
                        What to Do If You Someone You Know is Depressed or Suicidal

DepressionSuicide isn't just an ugly word. For those who have loved ones who are depressed and suicidal, it can be terrifying.  It is a global problem, as each year more than a million people die by suicide. That's one suicide every 19 seconds.

And the problem is only getting worse, as over the last 45 years the worldwide suicide rates have increased by 60%.  The US isn't spared from this problem at all. The most recent CDC data reveals that in 2012, about 40,600 cases of suicide were reported.

In addition, the problem isn't limited to just one age group. While the highest suicide rates were among the people from 45 to 59 years old, it is also an existing problem among the youth.  Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 24, and the #3 cause of death for kids age 12 to 18 as well as college-age adults.

In fact, if you combine the number of fatalities brought on by AIDS, cancer, birth defects, heart disease, chronic lung disease, influenza, pneumonia, and stroke, it is still less than the number of fatalities caused by suicide.

. . . . .    SOME   WARNING  SIGNS     . . . . .   

But for many of us, suicide is not a statistical situation. This is especially true if you have a suicidal son or suicidal daughter, or if you have a suicidal friend. It's a deeply personal issue, and of course you want to help.

If your child is beset by depression or if you have a depressed friend, it's only natural for us to be concerned and worried about our loved one.

           Here are some warning signs to look out for :      Know the Signs

1. They talk about taking their own life. This in itself is enough for you to be very concerned.

2.  They take unnecessary risks or repeatedly engage life threatening activities, such as abusing drugs or driving recklessly.

3. They harm themselves, such as cut themselves or bang their heads against the wall.

4. They talk to other people in such a way as if they won't see them ever again.

5. Perhaps they may even engage in rather indirect conversation that's vaguely suicidal. For example, they may wonder aloud if you'll miss them when they're' gone, or if suicide is wrong or painful.

6. They're getting their affairs in order, such as giving away their wealth and possessions.

7. They actively procure the items they need to commit suicide, such a gun or hoard dangerous pills.

8. They suddenly stop seeing or talking to other people and withdraw from their social circles.

9. You notice that they exhibit extreme mood swings, such as being enthusiastic one day and then extremely down the next day.

10. Their sleeping and eating patterns have drastically changed.
    What You Can DoCan do
It's a natural thing to want to help your suicidal friend or suicidal son or daughter. Actually, your help is essential and could very well save their life.

  If you're concerned because you have noticed at least one of the warning signs of suicide in your loved one, you should not simply ignore your fears and hope you're wrong.

   If you're not sure of what to do, or if you think you need to do something immediately, then you need to get some professional help. You can call 911, or you can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).  

   It's alright to call for help even if you think you're over your head. Not everyone is cut out to provide the kind of help that a depressed friend needs.

   In fact, you should call a professional even if you think you can handle the matter yourself. For things like this, the opinions of a trained professional can't hurt.

   You can also talk to your suicidal daughter or son, by asking direct questions. Ask them about what's bothering them, and you can even ask directly if they're contemplating suicide.

   When they speak, your job is to listen to them—as in really listen. Don't rush, don't cut them off, and don't say anything judgmental.

You're talking to them because you care, and that's what you need to let them understand.

   And when they talk, all you can do is offer support and sympathy. Don't try to berate them for having these suicidal feelings, don't say it's a sin, and don't give advice or offer ways of solving their problems.

        As a friend or family member, you have two responsibilities. You can offer sympathy and concern, and at the same time you should talk to a real professional who can advise you on what to do, depending on the circumstances.


Pulling the Trigger             

By Sarah McAfee

     Two weeks before my oldest cousin's twenty-third birthday, he shot and killed himself. It scarred our family. The kind of jagged, gnarled scar, like a poorly-filled pothole, that—even though it's been nearly twenty years—you still run your fingers across from time to time and feel the sting of a fresh wound.

     We weren't all that close, but as a 14-year-old, sorting through my own perceptions of self-worth and fears about the future at the time of his death, I felt it very deeply. It was the first time a loved one of mine had committed suicide, but it would not be the last. Not even close. 

I want to talk about guns. It's controversial, fraught with partisan politics, and the conversation always seems to focus on the fringe issues. We argue about whether we need armed employees at schools or campus gun bans, but the number of deaths from school shootings is very, very small compared to the total number of gun-related deaths (although we all believe the number should be zero). We argue about ways to fix the mental health care system so we keep guns out of the wrong hands, but the connection between mental illness and violence is weak (although we all believe the mental health care system absolutely needs improvement). Those are not the issues I want to talk about (today, at least).

Personal experience always trumps rhetoric, so for me, when I think about guns, it is suicide and its impact on families and communities that weighs on my mind. Unlike the other gun issues we debate, this one is, statistically, the biggest issue related to guns in the US: Americans are far more likely to kill themselves than each other. In 2012, nearly two-thirds of all firearm deaths were suicides, and the number is rising. In fact, firearm homicides have been decreasing since 2006, despite the proliferation of media attention the issue is currently receiving.

Suicide is unquestionably a mental health problem, and an especially big problem in western states like Colorado. But it's a gun problem, too. Of all those who attempt suicide, 9% die; of those who attempt suicide with a gun, 85% die. According to the CDC, more than half of suicide deaths involved firearms—over 21,000 in 2013. That's about the same as the number of deaths from Leukemia each year, and at that scale, it's hard to deny that guns are a public health issue.

 Furthermore, the hard truth is that simply having a firearm in your house increases the likelihood of death by suicide for every member of your household, in the same way that smoking around your family increases everyone's chances of dying from lung cancer. Without banning cigarettes and shutting down manufacturers, we've still managed to significantly reduce their negative effects on the general population. If we're willing to have a thoughtful, civil discussion around how we limit exposure of vulnerable populations to guns, one that recognizes that there isn't a single solution, but that we need a multi-faceted, commonsense approach, then we can make progress on this issue, too.

I want our leaders and our country to keep talking about guns, because we haven't found our common ground yet. I want our communities to talk about public safety, crime, and individual liberties, but not let fear guide our policymaking. And, I want us all to talk about the lives that are at stake, and the loved ones we've lost. Suicide has always been a taboo way to die—a cause of death that's quietly left out of obituaries—and access to a gun facilitates it. The human cost of our silence is too great; so let's talk about it.
        For David, and all the others.


                       Palo Alto Youth : Investigation after Five Teens
                                    Kill Themselves in Just over a Year

    Since October 2014, five high school students or recent graduates in Palo Alto, California have committed suicide.  Another Crisis on campussix teens killed themselves from 2009 to 2010 Investigators with the CDC will be arriving in Palo Alto this week to investigate the two suicide clusters. Most of the victims killed themselves by jumping in front of trains.

Numerous news reports have pegged the town's over achieving culture as a possible cause for the string of tragedies.  Prestigious Stanford University is located in Palo Alto, and the town is home to many employees at Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook.

A team of mental health experts from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is scheduled to be in California this week to investigate a series of suicides by teenagers in the affluent university town of Palo Alto.

Santa Clara County officials took the unusual step of inviting the CDC to do an epidemiological study on the teen suicide problem that has anguished Palo Alto parents, teachers and young people for at least seven years, the San Jose Mercury News reported.  The team, which includes representatives from both the CDC and the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has spent the last three months working with the county Public Health Department to gather data on suicides, suicide attempts and suicidal behavior among Santa Clara County youth.

Starting Tuesday, its members plan to spend two weeks on the ground meeting with local doctors and community leaders, according to the Mercury News.  Their research also will include evaluating existing suicide prevention programs, reviewing media coverage of the teen suicides and identifying the factors that might put Palo Alto's youth at greater risk, CDC spokeswoman Courtney Lenard told the newspaper.

Six teenagers from Palo Alto, the home of Stanford University, killed themselves in 2009 to 2010 events that triggered public forums, peer-run support groups and police patrols at the commuter train tracks where some of the young people ended their lives.

Yet five more teens committed suicide in 2014/15.  From 2010 through 2014, an average of 20 minors and young adults a year died by suicide in Santa Clara County as a whole.  Palo Alto officials asked the state and county to request the CDC evaluation expert puzzleafter hearing of a suicide assessment the agency conducted last year in Fairfax, Virginia, where 85 people between the ages of 10 and 24 killed themselves in a five-year period.

The Fairfax County study concluded that among the possible risk factors facing young people there were an inadequate number of school counselors, stigma and denial around mental illness, pressure to excel academically and bullying through social media.  A preliminary report on the situation in Palo Alto is expected to be completed soon after the site visit.  The worrying trend of suicides first gripped the Palo Alto community in 2009, when five teens in less than a year killed themselves by jumping in front of oncoming trains.

The first in the string of suicides was 17-year-old Jean-Paul Blanachard, who attended Gunn High School. His mother said in 2014 that he may have had an untreated mental disorder.  Blanchard's death was followed a month later by the death of 17-year-old Sonya Raymakers, who killed herself in her final week of high school. She had been accepted to NYU.

In August of that year, the youngest victim took her life, 13-year-old Catrina Holmes who was set to start at Gunn just four days later.  According to her father, she left behind a suicide note saying she hated the 'b****y community' at her middle school.   


                SUICIDE and RELIGION          
                                                         By  Harold G. Koenig, MD

Suicide is not a popular topic that most people are anxious to read about. However, it is a serious problem, is commonly associated with depression, and often occurs when depression treatments fail. This article focuses on this most feared consequence of depression (although often not feared by the person overwhelmed with      hopelessness). The atheist Nietzsche, known for his famous quote "God is dead," wrote that "The thought of suicide Religion and prayeris a great consolation: by means of it one gets successfully through many a bad night." The pain of depression and a meaningless life is sometimes so great that the only hope of ever escaping the horrible feelings lies in the possibility of ending life itself, and for those like Nietzsche, the thought of ceasing to exist is more bearable than continuing on in this emotional state. How is religious involvement related to suicide or feelings about suicide?

Before answering that question, however, I'd like to provide the reader with a little background on suicide. Every year in the United States about 35,000 people die from suicide. This is probably an underestimate since people kill themselves in many ways not reported as suicide, such as car accidents or simply failing to take life-saving medication. Even though underreported, suicide is still the 4th leading cause of death for those aged 18 to 65 in the U.S. The yearly suicide rate in this country is 11 per 100,000, which is the same as it was in 1902 despite the emergence of modern treatments. Each day nearly 2,300 persons attempt suicide and 90 of those individuals are successful. The rate of suicide is highest in adults over age 75, probably due to difficulty coping with the loss of loved ones, health, and independence associated with advancing age.

Depression is the most common cause of suicide,  but there are other factors that also play a role: anger, need for control, and impulsiveness; social isolation; alcohol and drug abuse; and certain medications, including antidepressants in adolescents or young adults and narcotic pain killers in middle-aged and older adults. Chronic medical illness increases the risk of suicide, especially in diseases associated with moderate or severe pain, urinary incontinence, seizure disorder, or severe physical disability. Genetic factors may also play a role, as the latest research is beginning to discover.

Cultural risk factors for suicide include the stigma associated with seeking help, barriers to getting adequate mental health care, media exposure to suicide, and believing that suicide over personal problems is acceptable. In Asian families and other groups, factors influencing suicide include attitudes towards a woman's role in marriage, dominance of extended family systems, and family loyalty overriding individual concerns. Although all major religions condemn suicide for emotional or personal reasons, they are not all equal in this regard. Religions with strong prohibitions against suicide are Islam, Judaism, and Christianity (especially Catholics and conservative Protestants). While the Eastern religions Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Hinduism generally oppose suicide, they are more accepting of it than Western religions. In Buddhism, for example, while suicide is discouraged for those who are unenlightened, once enlightenment has been achieved, it may be permissible under certain circumstances. Likewise, although Hinduism condemns suicide in general as an escape from life and cause for bad karma, self-willed death may be allowed through fasting in terminal disease or severe disability (called "prayopavesa").

Religious beliefs and practices may influence suicide risk not only because they forbid it, but also because of their relationship to psychological, social, behavioral, and physical factors that lead to suicide. Since religious involvement is associated with better school performance, greater conscientiousness, improved coping with stressful life events, less depression, faster recovery from depression, and is a source of hope and meaning, it could reduce suicide through these pathways. Furthermore, loneliness and lack of support are strong predictors of suicide particularly among women, and involvement in a faith community may help to increase social support and neutralize social isolation. Likewise, since alcohol and drug abuse are frequently involved in suicide attempts and completed suicide and religious involvement is related to less alcohol and drug use, this is another way that suicide may be prevented. Finally, one of the strongest risk factors for suicide is poor health and physical disability. If religious persons drink less alcohol, use fewer drugs, smoke fewer cigarettes, and engage in healthier behaviors, then physical health may also better and diseases that increase suicide risk fewer.

Although the above logic seems rational, what does objective, systematic research find with regard to the relationship between religion and suicide? Among studies that have compared different denominations, more studies find that Catholics are at lower risk for suicide than studies that find Protestants at lower risk, although may of those studies were done prior to the year 1990. Jews have a suicide risk neither greater nor less than Christians or other groups. Studies on Muslims have found a lower suicide risk compared to other groups, although reporting bias may have been an issue. Overall, then, Catholics have a slight advantage over other denominations within Christianity, although denomination tells us very little about a person's risk for suicide.

What about the relationship between suicide and religiousness or religiosity? Does the intensity or degree of religious belief/practice make a difference? In our systematic review of the research published in the Handbook of Religion and Health, Second Edition (Jan/Feb 2012 forthcoming), we identified 141 studies that measuredWhy do bad things happen religiousness and correlated it with suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and completed suicide. Three-quarters (106 of 141) found less suicidal thoughts and behaviors among those who were more religious. Furthermore, there is every reason to think that religious interventions in religious patients at risk for suicide may help to lower the risk; however, since no clinical trials have examined this possibility, these interventions should be administered with caution (and should not replace traditional psychiatric care). Furthermore, while religious beliefs and practice may help to prevent suicide in laypersons, it may be a different story in clergy. When clergy become severely depressed or hopeless, suicide risk may be quite high and the need for professional treatment urgent. 


      Suicide Rate Again on the Increase
                 - Surges to a 30-Year High -
                                              By SABRINA TAVERNISE   NY Times APRIL 2016

WASHINGTON — Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years, a federal data analysis has found, with increases in every age group except older adults. The rise was particularly steep for women. It was also substantial among middle-aged Americans, sending a signal of deep anguish from a group whose suicide rates had been stable or falling since the 1950s.

The suicide rate for middle-aged women, ages 45 to 64, jumped by 63 percent over the period of the study, while it rose by 43 percent for men in that age range, the sharpest increase for males of any age. The overall suicide rate rose by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The increases were so widespread that they lifted the nation's suicide rate to 13 per 100,000 people, the highest since 1986. The rate rose by 2 percent a year starting in 2006, double the annual rise in the earlier period of the study. In all, 42,773 people died from suicide in 2014, compared with 29,199 in 1999.

Rising rateFrom 1999 to 2014, suicide rates in the United States rose among most age groups. Men and women from 45 to 64 had a sharp increase. Rates fell among those age 75 and older.
"It's really stunning to see such a large increase in suicide rates affecting virtually every age group," said Katherine Hempstead, senior adviser for health care at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who has identified a link between suicides in middle age and rising rates of distress about jobs and personal finances.

Researchers also found an alarming increase among girls 10 to 14, whose suicide rate, while still very low, had tripled. The number of girls who killed themselves rose to 150 in 2014 from 50 in 1999. "This one certainly jumped out," said Sally Curtin, a statistician at the center and an author of the report.

American Indians had the sharpest rise of all racial and ethnic groups, with rates rising by 89 percent for women and 38 percent for men. White middle-aged women had an increase of 80 percent.  American Indians had the sharpest rise of all racial and ethnic groups, with rates rising by 89 percent for women and 38 percent for men. White middle-aged women had an increase of 80 percent.

The rate declined for just one racial group: black men. And it declined for only one age group: men and women over 75.

The data analysis provided fresh evidence of suffering among white Americans. Recent research has highlighted the plight of less educated whites, showing surges in deaths from drug overdoses, suicides, liver disease and alcohol poisoning, particularly among those with a high school education or less. The new report did not break down suicide rates by education, but researchers who reviewed the analysis said the patterns in age and race were consistent with that recent research and painted a picture of desperation for many in American society.

 Boy - 'Driven to Suicide by Bullies'   

             By JAMES TOZER, Daily Mailbully sign

A distraught mother has claimed that her 11-year-old son was driven to suicide by bullies at his school.  Thomas Thompson took an overdose of painkillers after other pupils picked on him because he was clever and well-spoken, she said.  Sandra Thompson found her son in his bedroom when she returned home from work in the evening.  Her partner, Geoff Clarke, tried to resuscitate the youngster while paramedics were called, but he had suffered a fatal heart attack.  Thomas is believed to be the youngest child to take his own life because of alleged bullying.

Coming so soon after similar cases, his death will add fuel to the debate over what to do about the bullying problem.  Miss Thompson, a shop assistant, said her son's ordeal began at Riverside Primary School near their home in Wallasey, England.

It was thought the situation might have eased last September when he started his secondary education at Wallasey School in nearby Moreton, but the bullying continued. His 33-year-old mother, who also has an eight-year-old daughter, Alexandra, said: "He told me how they got at him every day - trying to strangle him with his tie, poking him.

"It was like torture. They'd call him names like 'gay boy' and 'fatso'. He didn't really fit in with other boys his age. He was extremely clever and loved reading and doing his schoolwork. So they teased and tormented him relentlessly - just because he was a bit different. These bullies killed my son."

Thomas frequently missed classes.  On the day of his death, he had got off the school bus to escape the bullies. Miss Thompson said she had spoken to Thomas's teachers, but the school claimed the only reported incident had been at a bus stop and involved children from another school.   

Wallasey School headmaster Martin Pope said: "There is absolutely no record of the child reporting bullying within the school. We saw no evidence of Thomas being treated differently by other pupils."  Describing him as an "extremely intelligent boy", he added: "The whole school has been deeply shocked and saddened by Thomas's death." Wirral Council said the school's commitment to eradicating bullying is widely admired and this made Thomas's death particularly sad.

But Dr Michele Elliott, director of child protection group Kidscape, said: "Thomas's death is a terrible waste of a life. At 11 years old, he should have been living a carefree life and looking forward to the summer holidays. "The bullies apparently responsible for his death, and anyone who stood by and watched it happen passively, should be punished."

Last month 16-year-old Karl Peart took an overdose of painkillers after suffering what his family called a lifetime of bullying.

Two weeks later, Gemma Dimmick, a 15-year-old at the same school - Hirst High, in Ashington, Northumberland - also committed suicide. Relatives claimed she too had been bullied. Also last month, nine-year-old Jessica O'Connell's parents revealed the diary she kept of her suffering at St Wilfred Roman Catholic School in Ripon, North Yorkshire, as she was driven to the brink of suicide by bullies.






. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


1st and 3rd  MONDAY
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"Know That You Are Not Alone
                               — Sharing Can Be Healing"

Sharing and Healing is © by SOSL-NM
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April 2016


Coming : "Survivors Of Suicide Loss" meetings in Albuquerque

3rd Monday July  18th  

1st Monday August  1st    and    3rd Monday August  15th


  ♦   At : Shepherd of the Vally Presbyterian Church, 1801 Montano Rd NW, Albuquerque  ♦ 

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



> Albuquerque : 2nd & 4th Saturdays, 1:00 - 2:30 : Desiree @ 505-344-4343 <

> Santa Fe : 1st & 3rd Thursdays,  5:10 - 6:30 : Janet @ 505-690-1698 <

> Las Cruces : Margaret for Information @ 575- 521-5579 <



                                                               " SHARING AND HEALING "

April  2016

A Newsletter for Survivors of Suicide Loss

Written & Edited by  :  Al & Linda Vigil 


         Pg 1 : Grieving Notes - Al V.        Pg 2 : Emptiness Inside Your Heart       Pg 2 : Adult Grief  

         Pg 3 : Isaiah 60:20 & April' Suicide        Pg 4 : Eight-year-old Suicide   

         Pg 5 : Understanding Survivors of Suicide Loss      Pg 7 :  A Friend Is Someone Who Understamds

         Pg 8 : Explaining Suicide To A Child      Pg 10 : Coroner - Part of Prevention   

         Pg 12 : About SOSL and Meetings




Al Vigil

 A new phrase  ‘complicated grief’  is rapidly finding itself very popular in reference literature relating to a suicide death.

Before the suicide of our 18 year old daughter, Mia, we had of course lost others that we love ...grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends. Like all people, we experienced a normal grief and bereavement period of sorrow and numbness.  Losing someone we love to death, is one of the most distressing and,  unfortunately, common experiences people face.  

Complicated grief is added with the guilt and anger, abandonment and blame, that is easily associated with a self-chosen  death.  These feelings are the most difficult to ease, and it can interrupt the acceptance  loss, and thus move forward.  People follow different paths through the grieving experience.  The order and timing of these phases varies from person to person.  With a suicide, the feelings of loss can be debilitating and sometimes don't improve even after time passes.

Complicated grief can be clearly defined as a complex bereavement period.  In complicated grief, painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble accepting the loss and resuming your own life. We have added guilt. We have difficulty accepting the reality of  loss to suicide. Sometimes we ahve a long  length of time adjusting to a new reality in which the deceased is no longer present. We have a hard time talking about the suicide loss with those who have not experienced such a loss.

Discussing your suicide loss, with other survivors like you, can help you come to terms with your loss and reclaim a sense of acceptance and peace.  There is incredible healing in allowing yourself to experience the pain of your loss with others. 

Survivors of Suicide Loss groups are dedicated to providing information and support to assist in the grieving and healing process. It is a support group of people who help one another through the stages of complicated grief related to suicide. 

                                                                                             — In Sharing and Healing : Al V.



                    I think the hardest part of losing someone, Tree

                         isn’t having to say goodbye,

                            but rather learning to live without them.     

                   Always trying to fill the void, the emptiness

                           ...that’s left inside your heart when they go.

                                                                    —  Contributed by Melinda White


            Adult Grief - By David Kessler

     When a parent of an adult dies, some view it as a rite to passage. Some feel you should take that death in stride, handle loss in an adult manner.

      What does that mean? Not be sad? Be grateful Dad didn’t die when you were a child? That would be underestimating grief. Loss does not diminish because you are an adult or because your mother or father lived a long life.

Holding hands     Here’s what most people don’t understand: Whether our partents live near or far are emotionally close or distant, they anchor us in the world. Even though we know they will die someday, most of us can’t fathom a world without them. Can you imagine a world without a sky? Of course not. It has always been there.

     Often we lose a parent after a long illness, but sometimes the death is sudden. For some the call comes on an otherwise idle Thursday. Out of the blue, our world tuns upside down without warning. How can this be? Mom was fine, and now she is not. Dad was here, and now he is not.

      Sudden loss compunds the loss. That’s because there is no preparation, no goodbye, just the loudest absence one could ever imagine. As a result, in sudden death, the denial will be longer and deeper. The more sudden the death, the longer it may take to grieve the loss. Give yourself that time.

     Our society places enormous pressure on us to get over loss. But how long do you grieve for your mother of 40 or more years? The answer is simple: You grieve for as long as you need to.


  Isaiah 60:20  and  April’s  Suicide    :  A Personal Expression

                                                                                                         submitted to Sharing and Healing Newsletter by Don Neidigk

   Isaiah           "Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself;

for the Lord will be your everlasting light,

understanding Survivors of Suicide Loss

                                and your days of mourning shall be ended."    — Isaiah 60:20


It was nearly three months after my daughter-in-law took her life before

I found myself  feeling somewhat normal again. I attended a variety show at a local

high school and laughed, something I hadn’t done for a while.  I was having a lot of fun with my grandchildren. Then some random events triggered intense emotions.  Sirens in the middle of the night woke me up giving me flashbacks of the sounds

I heard on the tragic morning April died.

 A day or two after that my three year old granddaughter Ely started asking if Mommy lived at her old house or if she lived in the church on the hill where people worshipped Jesus.  Next, my daughter-in-law’s sister Heather brought picture albums by for me to keep for Ely so she could remember her Mommy.  So I started crying all over again.  To myself I said, "I thought I was over this. Will the sorrow ever end?"

 Yes, says Isaiah prophetically.  I had grieved my loss for only a few months. But Israel, of which Isaiah literally speaks, would grieve its loss of nationhood, its freedom and the deaths of countless loved ones for more than half a century before the Persian king Cyrus would allow the survivors to return to their land and rebuild their homes.  Eventually though, Israel’s darkness would indeed turn to light and the people’s joy would return, just as God promised through Isaiah.

 I see Isaiah’s promises of an end to mourning and the return of light as a hopeful metaphor for survivors of suicide loss.  God has not forgotten or abandoned us though it may seem that way.  His love and presence remain with us.  The coming of Jesus who carried our sins and sorrows to the cross and who rose again on Easter morning offering new life to all is God’s promise that we are remembered and that beautiful days of light and joy will most certainly return.

 It was decades before the joy returned to Israel. 

It may be a long time for us as well, but the light and joy will return.  God says so. 


"Lord, hold me close to your heart even in those dark moments when I  wonder if You care. 

Deliver me from despair and help me await the sunshine of your love and the return of joy. 

In the name of your Son Jesus, amen."     ,,,,Don Neidigk


 EIGHT-YEAR-OLD SUICIDE in Las Vegas, Nevada

                         : Edited from several news reports

The death of a Las Vegas valley 8-year-old boy has been ruled a suicide. The Clark County Coroner's office says it's the youngest suicide in recent years. What is so shocking about the Singleton case is his age.  According to the coroner, Clayton Singleton's death was intentional. The boy shot himself in the head on Oct. 10 at his family's southwest valley home. Metro Police say Singleton was home alone with his 6-year-old sister when he shot himself. The parents were not at home.

He was one of the 350 people who have committed suicide this year in Clark County.

Seven of those were under the age of 18.

Neighbors who lived just doors away from the boy's family are in disbelief over the coroner's finding.Stop Youth Suicide

"It makes no sense to any of us because we saw him playing out with the other kids. He was always happy and always had a smile," said neighbor Julie Davis.  "While my heart goes out to them, I would also like to ask them what were you thinking." Davis said. "That makes no sense in my head. They were way too young."

Earlier this week the Coroner's Office ruled the death a suicide. What factors lead to that ruling remain confidential in what is still an ongoing police investigation. There are also questions about how the boy got hold of a gun. Police said the gun belonged to a family member. Authorities released a statement saying the death was ruled a suicide after a comprehensive investigation which included statements and physical evidence.

 The Center for Disease Control says several factors increase the risk for youth suicide. Those include: history of previous suicide attempts, family history of suicide, a history of depression or other mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse, stressful life event or loss, easy access to lethal methods and exposure to the suicidal behavior of others. While Clayton's age has drawn attention to his death, suicide prevention professionals say that while not common, suicides among the very young are not unknown.

 Dr. Nadine Kaslow, former president of the American Psychological Association and current professor at Emory University in Atlanta, said understanding pre-adolescent suicides is difficult because there is so little data due to how rarely they happen."Anybody can have thoughts of suicide," said Richard Egan, a suicide prevention trainer with Nevada's Department of Health and Human Services. "Anybody can be at risk."  Unfortunately, Kaslow said, most children who try to kill themselves don't understand the permanence of their choice.  "They have a difficult time appreciating the finality of death in a way that adults typically would."

 Egan and Kaslow both say the warning signs for youth are essentially the same as they are for adults, and say to look for things such as changes in attitude, isolation and a loss of interest in things that they used to enjoy. 

 "What could be going on in their life that could bring them to think that suicide is an option?" Egan said.  "It's still some of the same things that we look at for adults. But the different age groups may perceive it differently."

 If your child is displaying any of the warning signs, or if you think your child might be having suicidal thoughts,

 be willing to talk to them about it, Egan added.  "Ask them openly and directly if that's what they are thinking. If that is what they're thinking, then connect them to resources. If that's not what they're thinking, help them with their life crises."


 Understanding Survivors of Suicide Loss  - Suicide is A Death Like No Other

                                                                                                    :  By Deborah Serani,  Psy.D.

 Grief is a universal experience all human beings encounter. Though death inevitably touches our lives, research shows that many people grieve in varying and different ways. From the textures of emotions, to length of time in mourning, to even the kinds of rituals and remembrances that help heal the irreplaceable loss. Grieving the death of a loved one is never, ever easy.

 Suicide, however, has been described as a death like no other ... and it truly is. Death by suicide stuns with soul-crushing surprise, leaving family and friends not only grieving the unexpected death, but confused and lost by this haunting loss.

 Who is a Survivor of Suicide Loss?

Despite science supporting a neurobiological basis for mental illness, suicide is still shrouded by stigma. Much of the general public believes that death by suicide is shameful and sinful. Others consider it a "choice that was made" and blame family Support circlemembers for its outcome. And then there are people who are unsure how to reach out and support those who have lost a loved one to suicide, and simply avoid the situation out of ignorance. Whatever the reason, it is important to note that the underlying structure of grief for survivors of suicide loss is intricately complicated.

When someone dies by suicide, research shows that at least 6 people are intimately traumatized by the death. Those who are directly affected include immediate family members, relatives, neighbors, friends, fellow students and/or co-workers. And because 90% of people who die by suicide have a psychological disorder, mental health clinicians are also included as a survivor of suicide loss. From the nearly 800,000 suicides reported from 1986 through 2010 and using the 6 survivors per suicide estimate, it is believed that the number of survivors of suicide loss in the U.S. reaches 5 million people.


 Understanding Suicide

Based on the accounts of those who have attempted suicide and lived to tell about it, we know that the primary goal of a suicide is not to end life, but to end pain. People in the grips of a suicidal depression are battling an emotional agony where living becomes objectionable. Most people who die by suicide have a significant depression narrowing their problem solving skills. Corrosive thinking reduces optimism, the hope of possibility and increases feelings of helplessness. The depressive illness itself makes it virtually impossible to hold onto any semblance of pain going away. While some may argue that a person who dies by suicide has done so by their own choice, I argue that serious mental illness, in fact, limits choice. Studies of those who have survived their suicide attempt and healed from their depression report being astonished that they ever considered suicide.

 Why Grieving is Different

Research has long known that suicide survivors move through very distinctive bereavement issues. Family and friends are prone to feeling significant bewilderment about the suicide. Why did this happen? How did I not see this coming? Overwhelming guilt about what they should have done more of or less of —become daily, haunting thoughts. Survivors of suicide loss often feel self-blame as if somehow they were responsible for their loved one’s suicide. Many also experience anger and rage against their loved one for abandoning or rejecting them —or disappointment that somehow they were not powerful enough, loved enough or special enough to prevent the suicide.

These mistaken assumptions plague survivors of suicide loss for a very long time. Many struggle for years trying to make sense of their loved one’s death —and even longer making peace —if at all —with the unanswerable questions that linger.Questions

As such, survivors of suicide loss may encounter blame, judgment or social exclusion - while mourners of loved ones who have died from terminal illness, accident, old age or other kinds of deaths usually receive sympathy and compassion. It’s strange how we would never blame a family member for a loved one’s cancer or Alzheimer’s, but society continues to cast a shadow on a loved one’s suicide.

 What also makes grieving different is that when we lose a loved one to illness, old age or an accident, we retain happy memories. We can think back on our loved one and replay fond memories, share stories with joyful nostalgia. This is not so for the suicide survivor. They questions the memories,  "Where they really good?"  "Maybe he wasn’t really happy in this picture?"  "Why didn’t I see her emotional pain when we were on vacation?"  Sometimes it becomes agonizing to connect to a memory or to share stories from the past —so survivors often divorce themselves from their loved one’s legacy.

Survivors of suicide loss not only experience these aspects of complicated grief, they are also prone to developing symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder—a direct result from their loved one’s suicide. The unspeakable sadness about the suicide becomes a circle of never ending bewilderment, pain, flashbacks and a need to numb the anguish.

           Ways to Help a Survivor of Suicide Loss  

If you know someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, there are many things you can do. In addition, by reaching out, you also help take stigma out of the equation. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the death.

Grief SupportExtend your condolences, express your feelings of sorrow. Make sure you use the loved one’s name. "My heart is so sad that John died." Many who have lost someone to suicide have a broken heart, clinically called Stress Cardiomyopathy, and really need your empathy, compassion and understanding to heal.

Ask the Survivor  if and how you can help. Though they may not be ready to accept help, asking signifies that you are there—not avoiding or distancing during this tragic event. The notion of being there if needed is extremely comforting for survivors.

 Encourage openness

 Be accepting of however survivors need to express their feelings. It may be with silence, with sadness or even anger.

 Be patient. Don’t set a time limit for a survivor’s grief. Complicated grief can take years to process. Moreover, don’t limit a survivor’s need to share and repeat stories, conversations or wishes. Repetition is a key factor in grief recovery.

Listen.  Be a compassionate listener. This means don’t look to fix things. The greatest gift you can give someone you care about who has survived a suicide loss is your time, reassurance and love.

           Ways to Help Yourself if You’re a Survivor of Suicide Loss

Ground yourself  : It may be very painful, but you must learn to hold tightly to the truth that you are not responsible for your loved one’s suicide in any way, shape, or form.

 Don’t put a limit of your grief.

Grieve in your own way, on your own time frame. It will take time to find a place for your sadness and loss. It may take even more time for you to feel hope again and envision possibilities.

Plan ahead.

When you feel ready, assist your family in finding ways to mark your loved one's birthday, family holidays or other milestones. Understand that new moments, experiences or events will be met with sadness, even with emotional setbacks. Preparing for how you will move through these calendar dates will help minimize traumatic reactions.

Make connections

. Consider joining a support group specifically designed for survivors of suicide loss. The environment can provide a mutually supportive, reassuring healing environment unlike anywhere else.

Give yourself permission.

To cry. To laugh. To seek professional help if you need it. Remember that you are moving through the most difficult of losses—and you can take control of the path to healing.

 A friend is someone who understands your past,

believes in your future and accepts you today the way your are...

Sometimes the best thing you can do is not think,Reach out

not wonder, not obsess.

Just breathe and have faith that everything will work

out for the best.

                                                          Contributed by Melinda White


 Explaining Suicide To Children Shattered Hearts

Suicide is frequently a sudden, surprising and shocking death that leaves family members reeling in disbelief and heartache. Suicide is akin to lobbing an explosive into the middle of the family. There is enormous collateral damage.

For children, the death of a parent is a traumatic event, which is especially intensified for young children. However, when the death is a suicide, the trauma is heightened even more.

Suicide is the hardest death to accept. There are so many unanswered questions.

Young children do not readily understand the concept of suicide. They might ask,  "What is suicide?"  Once the child Grief in childrenhas some grasp on the meaning of suicide, there will be the inevitable "why?" question that wracks every survivor, young and old, of a suicidal loss.

Suicide opens Pandora's Box. Children want to understand why their parent made that choice and why their parent did not choose to stay with them.  Did I do something to make this happen?  Is it my fault?  Didn't Daddy love me enough to want to stay?  If I had loved her more, would Mom have stayed?

 It's crucial for children to be given an age-appropriate answer.  The younger the child means the simpler the response with fewer details, understanding of their parent's death so that they can begin to make sense of this terrifying loss and, over time, integrate this seminal event into their psyche. When we are in serious pain, we will do anything to minimize or eradicate the pain. Suicide is a choice, made at that moment in time, to end the agony of a life. That agony clearly has nothing to do with the child, but the pain of the parent's life. Suicide is often prompted by haywire neurochemicals, mental illness, profound physical pain, substance abuse and/or trauma. In other words, the parent was under extreme duress, which influenced their thinking and their actions.

 Suicide is a mental health issue. With children, it can be helpful to use the idea of sickness because children readily understand this.  Because suicide is both traumatic and considered complicated grief, there is the possibility that the child could become emotionally frozen. As a result, their development stalls and they can have increased difficulties socially and at school, which can set the stage for long-term repercussions.

 At the funeral, the priest said my Daddy died because he was sick.  My Daddy didn't have cancer. The priest said what my Daddy had was a mental illness.  He said my Daddy tried very hard not to be sick, but it got the better of him.  I liked that the priest said that.  I didn't have to explain it to anybody.

 Because suicide is both traumatic and considered complicated grief, there is the possibility that the child could become emotionally frozen, i.e., their emotions are frozen at the time of trauma like a solid block of ice with no movement and no flow. As a result, their development stalls and they can have increased difficulties socially and at school, which can set the stage for long-term repercussions.

 To heal from the trauma, loss, and grief, the primary focus is to encourage the child to express their feelings. This Girl cryingcan be done through physical activity, arts and writing projects, all things creative and, with older children, involvement in acts of service, like a walk to raise money for mental health resources.

 Children of suicide are often very angry How could you do this to me?  Why did you leave me? Because of you, my life is all messed up, why aren't you here?

 They have greater fears and anxiety  How can I remember my Mom better?  How can I make sure I never forget my Dad?  Will I be left alone?

 Children of suicide show more depressive symptoms  Why am I so sad?  Will I be this sad forever?  When will it stop hurting?  You tell me they are in a better place, I want be with them.  If I kill myself too, will I see my Mommy again?

 They have a pronounced fear of death :  You always said I am just like my Daddy, am I going to die this way?  Are you going to die too?

 There can be denial Marissa didn't want to believe it.  It couldn't be true.  Not her dad.  She told everyone her dad died of a heart attack, but, it was actually a suicide.

 Why is everybody acting so weird?  How come nobody wants to talk about my Dad's death?  What do I tell the kids at school?  Why do people look at me funny at school?  Or whisper about me and my family?  Will some of my friends even avoid me now? Why do I feel all ashamed and embarrassed, I didn't do anything wrong, did I?

 It is not easy to lose a parent under any   circumstances, but to lose a parent to suicide is incredibly difficult. Suicide by a parent leaves a very frightened and terrified child who is struggling mightily for emotional survival. Gently encourage your children to express all of their feelings   —the good, the bad and, especially the ugly. Reassure your bereft little ones that they are not alone. Yes, this is tough. Yes, we are all sad. Yes, it's OK to laugh at a silly movie tonight and cry tomorrow. There is no perfect way, but by being open, honest and vulnerable with your children, you will navigate this slippery slope.

 Above all, show the children that although we cannot control what happens, we can learn how to manage our reactions. It takes time and patience and tenderness to pick up all the pieces of a child’s shattered heart.



CORONER :  Data and Dialogue are  Part of Suicide Prevention Strategy


coronerBefore she became McLean County, Illinois, coroner last year, Kathy Davis was aware people died too often from suicide, but now it's her goal to try stopping it.

As a nurse practitioner,  Davis saw the devastation families endure when a loved one takes his or her own life.

Her work in the emergency room of Advocate BroMenn Regional Medical Center, combined with research she shared with students as a nursing instructor, is the foundation for Davis’ initiative to lower the number of suicides in McLean County.

"Our goal is to save lives. We want to strengthen the idea that prevention is possible," said Davis.

 Working as part of a team, the coroner can play an important role in addressing the 15 suicides reported so far in 2015 in the county, said Davis. The effort starts with data collection and engaging local health care providers in a discussion about those numbers.

 "We want to see how we can translate the data into a dialogue and a prevention effort," said Davis, who has talked with the Community Crisis Planning Group about the development of a prevention plan.

 The group of mental health and health care providers began meeting last year as part of the effort to improve community mental health services, including a better response to people in crisis.

 "Suicide prevention is at the core of what we do," said Laura Beavers, coordinator of behavioral health service for the McLean County Health Department and a member of the planning group.

 "The coroner's perspective and educational background has been very helpful," said Beavers.

 The expansion of that dialogue beyond professionals is a key element of a prevention plan, said Davis. The long-held belief that suicide is a topic too sensitive to share with others must change.

 "We want people to get involved and talk to others about suicide, ask what they can do," she said.  Data compiled by her office is a starting point, but work done at the state level also should be part of the local initiative.

 Recently, Davis joined the Illinois Suicide Prevention Alliance, a group of stakeholders from the public and private sectors working to develop the Illinois Suicide Strategic. A partnership that includes law enforcement, schools and health care providers is necessary to build an effective prevention program, said Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, organizer of the state alliance.

 "Suicide is a complex issue with multiple, interrelated causes rooted in both the individual and the environment," said Arnold.

 "While much is known about suicide, there is still much more to learn,"  added Davis.

 "One thing we know about suicide is that it can happen to anyone. The issue crosses all socio-economic lines. As a community, I believe we can pull all our resources together and get some answers that will help prevent more deaths," she said.



We walk through the valley of the shadow of death   —yes. Vally of Death

But we must remember that where there is shadow,

there too, has to be light.










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December 2015

  Coming : "Survivors Of Suicide Loss" meetings in Albuquerque

 1st Monday May 2nd    and    3rd Monday May 16th   

 1st Monday June 6th    and    3rd Monday June 20th  

  ♦   At : Shepherd of the Vally Presbyterian Church, 1801 Montano Rd NW, Albuquerque  ♦ 

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



> Albuquerque : 2nd & 4th Saturdays, 1:00 - 2:30 : Desiree @ 505-344-4343 <

> Santa Fe : 1st & 3rd Thursdays,  5:10 - 6:30 : Janet @ 505-690-1698 <

> Las Cruces : Margaret for Information @ 575- 521-5579 <


December 2015

A Newsletter for Survivors of Suicide Loss

Written & Edited by  :  Al & Linda Vigil


 Pg 1 : Grieving Notes - Linda V.      Pg 2 : Losing a Friend to Suicide     Pg 3 : Adoptee Suicide  

Pg 4 : Coronado Bridge Suicide Deterrent      Pg 5 : Breaking the Silence : Jewish Suicide     

Pg 7 : No Shame, No Euphemism      Pg 9 : What No One Tells You About Suicide 

Pg 12 : About SOSL and Meetings


Linda Vigil

Here it is once again, Holiday Time. Again the time of year to be thankful and joyful. The malls are getting busy, people with gifts, hurrying to the next store. Searching for that perfect gift. People are trying to work into their schedules, which are already busy and stressful, time for shopping, baking and trying to fit in the many concerts, plays, seeing Santa and Christmas cards!

Then there are many of us entering the season without the one, or ones we love, who have

made the choice of ending their lives by suicide.  People mean well when asking about your plans for the Holidays. People you haven’t seen for a long time, and do not know of your loss, or the Christmas cards missing your loved one’s name, or the special friend you lost in high school or college, or the neighbor. The Holidays bring the pain to the surface once more.

I truly believe that chance meetings are the result of Karma.  Remember,  — ‘how people treat you is their karma. How you treat them is yours.’   No one ever told me that Grief felt so like Fear.  Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor, you get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one. You will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you want to be.  Grieving doesn’t make you imperfect. It makes you human. I know what its like to lose some one you love. You don’t past something like that. You go through it.

Your present circumstances don’t determine where you go, they simply determine where you start.

Al and I learned many, many years ago, getting help and sharing our pain with others regarding the dynamic of friends and family that comes after the aftermath of suicide can be Freeing!

Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.

                                                                                             — In Sharing and Healing : Linda V.

Losing A Friend to Suicide

 By Danielle Campoamor / Huffington Press

Like most, I was heartbroken when I heard of Robin Williams' suicide, a year ago.  And like many, the one year anniversary of his death pulled out emotions and memories and an overwhelming anguish that I'd rather keep buried.

It's hard to explain to those that don't know, what it is like to lose a friend to suicide.  It's hard to quantify that kind of loss or describe the unavoidable hole that's left behind. It's hard to express the lingering sadness that transforms itself over time, attaching to your ribs so it can breath with you; never truly leaving the insides you try so desperately to protect.

But I can try.

When you lose a friend to suicide you feel guilty. My friend called me the night he died by suicide, asking me for a ride, and companionship, and my time. They were the simplest of requests, yet ones I could not fulfill. I had been drinking, celebrating Cinco de Mayo and unable to operate any machinery responsibly. We promised we'd talk the next day. We made plans to see one another soon.

We never spoke again.

So you rationalize endlessly, telling yourself that so much was out of your control and there was nothing you could have done and  —in the end  —it was his or her decision, but there will never be a day that doesn't pass by that you don't feel responsible.

The guilt is palpable. It attaches itself to your spine and pushes you, ever so slightly, towards the ground you sometimes want to lay on. It tells you that things could have been different. It whispers situations where they're still alive. It pokes at you, promising you that if I had done something, anything, they would be here.

When you lose a friend to suicide you hear words like "coward" and "weak" and "selfish," and the pieces of you that haven't broken yet, begin to crumble. The people who didn't know him told me that what he did was wrong. They told me that he was self-centered and feeble and unworthy of the grief so many of his friends and family were feeling. They didn't understand that he felt lost. They didn't understand that he felt lonely. He had a hopelessness I can't clarify. He had a mourning I couldn't possibly fathom.

And it won.

So you become defensive and angry and even violent, defending your friend who is no longer here to defend themselves. They become another sibling you never had; because you're angry and maybe, just maybe, even a small piece of yourself, fueled by that rage, begins to think the same but you won't allow anyone else to say it. You can't let someone think that they only cared about themselves because you know that isn't true. You won't allow someone to say they were weak because you know they were strong and steadfast and powerful.

 When you lose a friend to suicide you feel lost yourself.

 You begin to look inward, wondering what is wrong with you that you couldn't have seen such an insurmountable death coming. You contemplate your abilities as a friend. You wonder if they had tried to speak with you but you were too busy to really listen. You wonder if you had declined a drink around them, they would have been inclined to tone down their drinking themselves. You tell yourself that if you didn't leave town when they stayed or had gone to college when they didn't or had done the things that pulled your lives in different directions, they wouldn't have made the choices they did.

 You just can't stop wondering.

 But most of all, when you lose a friend to suicide you miss them. You miss them as much as you would if they had died any other way. A loss is a loss and a death is a death and while we like to quantify them, in the end, the pain and heartache and guilt and questions and rationality and wanting, all come from the same place.

 In the end, they're just gone. And how they left this earth doesn't make their absence any more or less painful.

 And while losing a friend to suicide can make you feel so horribly alone -- as if you are the only person on the planet who knows what this loss feels like -- I can assure you, you're not. Every day, approximately 105 Americans lose their life to suicide.  Yes, 105 Americans. Every day.

 So while we remember Robin Williams and the loss we felt a year ago, remember that it's OK to struggle explaining how it feels to lose a friend to suicide.

 Remember that it's OK if you can't explain how it all feels because, the sad truth is, so many of us already understand. 

 Adoptee Suicide: Unspeakable Pain 

                             -from  ‘Lightofday’ stories  -  Sent to Sharing and Healing by Brenda Grey - Ohio

This week I heard about the death by suicide of a young Ethiopian adoptee, reported by his US family to be about 12 years old, living in America since 2013.  My heart aches for everyone —for the boy, for his family in Ethiopia, and here in the US, for all of us.

 Adoption can be full of great joy, many gains, and lots of love. It can also have deep layers of grief, loss, and trauma. I do not know the circumstances of this most recent death. I do know that adoptees attempt suicide at higher rates than non-adoptees, and do so at alarmingly young ages. One source of information is Pediatrics.

 I am saddened by how many people I know in the adoption community who have considered suicide and who have attempted it. Almost everyone in the adoption community knows personally of adoptees who have died by suicide.

 Let’s keep talking about the realities of depression and trauma, and encouraging others to talk about their loss and fears, especially around adoption, without judgement or dismissal.  It’s tough stuff.  We have to do it.

 Coronado Bridge Suicide Deterrent ( Worth Considering )

 Al & Linda Vigil - Editors Note

Our eighteen-year-old daughter, Mia, jumped to her death form the Coronado-San Diego Bridge on January 5th, 1984.  That year alone there were 11 suicides from the bridge. The highest number of deaths were recorded in 1980  —16, and none were reported in the year of 1985.  It is the third deadliest  in the USA, trailing only the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Aurora Bridge in Seattle. 

Our oldest daughter Melinda White, was instrumental in the placement of several  ‘emergency & crisis,’  signs along both sides of the Coronado bridge.

Since the San Diego-Coronado Bridge opened in 1969, some 300 people have committed suicide by jumping off it. Now the Coronado Bridge Collaborative wants to explore the possibility of adding some feature to the bridge as a suicide deterrent. They  want to research barrier options for the iconic bridge that has one of the highest rates of suicide in the country.

 Caltrans, owner of the Coronado bridge, has no interest in modifying it. But we hope that a feasibility study can be done, as Lewis’ group has proposed, to see how much an effective barrier would cost, and whether it would affect the architectural integrity of the bridge.

 A study for suicide intervention at the bridge would explore, for example, whether the bridge is strong enough to support the additional weight of a fence on top of the current 34-inch-high barrier. Or whether a net would interfere with Navy ships passing underneath.

 A grassroots effort to add a barrier to prevent people from jumping to their deaths from the Coronado Bay Bridge received the support of the Coronado City Council Tuesday.

 Cari McLaughlin’s brother, Bryan Bell, jumped to his death from the span eight months ago. She believes if he was unable to take his own life that day, the family may have been able to get him help.  "He’s not the only one. The day after he did it, somebody was up there," she said. "It’s just so easily accessible."

 The side rails of the bridge are just 36 inches, she said. McLaughlin also said the phone positioned for those feeling suicidal was not functioning on the day her brother walked across the bridge. McLaughlin was among the supporters who showed up to the council meeting Tuesday night wearing yellow ribbons and sharing stories of heartache.

 Research shows people with suicidal impulses may not act on them if they can’t use a "suicide magnet," such as a famous bridge. We agree with Jennifer Lewis, a professor and co-founder of the Coronado Bridge Collaborative:  "It feels irresponsible not to at least take a look at the possibilities."  Members of her group are heartened by the success of a similar group in San Francisco, which won approval of a $76 million plan to put a net below the Golden Gate Bridge. It is expected to be completed in 2019.

 In San Francisco, more than a dozen alternatives were considered before a net was chosen. It will be 20 feet below the roadway, and extend out 20 feet over the water. The net will be stainless steel cable that collapses slightly, and will be angled to make crawling out of it difficult. Several research projects show suicide barriers have proven successful in not only reducing jumping deaths at the selected bridge site, but in the surrounding areas, as well.

 Al Molano of Bankers Hill also spoke to the council. His 23-year-old step-daughter, Lisette, suffered from alcohol abuse and depression.  He said he doesn't want to see any more families go through the heartbreak that he and his family have suffered.  


                      Breaking the Silence

                 : Jewish Suicide

By Judith Posner (Retired professor from York University, in Toronto. She lives in Jerusalem.)

A few weeks ago a professional window cleaner came to work at my house in central Jerusalem. The window guy was an affable, middle-aged, native English speaker. After a brief episode of Jewish geography, he began cleaning on the top floor, working his way down to the main floor, where I was writing on my laptop at the kitchen table. When he was nearby, we engaged in a few more predictable exchanges: where we were born, when we made aliyah and so on.

Then he put down his cleaning tools, turned to me and asked, "You have kids?" I told him that my daughter lived in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv.

 My answer did not suffice. He responded with, "Is that it, or do you have more?" There would be nothing unsettling in his question, especially in the Land of Israel where we are commanded "to be fruitful and multiply," and were it not for the fact that I used to have another child, a son. Eric, my first-born, who died more than eight years ago, just short of his 27th birthday.

I decided to tell him: "I lost a son." In the developed world it is unusual to lose a child. It’s a peculiar expression, a euphemism we use in relationship to death, as though Eric were a 5-year old and we were shopping at the mall and got temporarily separated. Sometimes, after hearing that I have a deceased child, a person will be quiet for a moment or change the topic entirely, perhaps not wanting to pry (even in Israel, where prying is practically a national pastime).

 Others, like my window cleaner, are genuinely curious and unabashed about pursuing the matter: "How did he die?" This question prompted me to make another split-second decision: To tell or not to tell?  "By suicide," I answered, as neutrally as possible. It is hard to be neutral about suicide. I no longer use the phrase "committed suicide," as it implies that a crime has been committed. My son was not a criminal.

He was bipolar. He was also brilliant, funny, compassionate, charismatic and loving.

The window cleaner mumbled a sympathetic word or two, but as is often the case the conversation came to an abrupt halt. This decision of whether or not to mention the subject of suicide is a recurring dilemma. It is part and parcel of the conversational social life of a parent of a suicide, especially in a family —centered society like Israel. My daughter experiences similar challenges when people ask her if she has siblings.

Most people have nothing much to say after hearing about a loved one’s suicide. Death can be difficult enough to handle, but suicide is a double whammy, the taboo of taboos. It terrifies, and their association with it sometimes taints "suicide survivors."

"Suicide survivor!"  What telling terminology. Ordinarily, we think of a survivor as an individual who has pulled through after an atrocity, as in rape or cancer, or the Holocaust. But "suicide survivor" refers not to the person who survives a suicide attempt, but to the friends and family left behind after a "completed" suicide, the current buzzword in suicidology. This tells us something about the social enormity of such a death. It reflects our deepest, primal fears that the suicide might take our loved ones. When children die by "normal" means, however horrible, be it leukemia or a traffic accident, we call it a tragedy, but we do not refer to the parents and siblings as survivors. And our sympathy toward survivors is oftentimes ambivalent. A negative reaction to suicide is nearly universal except for some very specific and unusual circumstances.

 Judaism is no exception. Not so long ago, Jewish suicides were buried outside the cemetery gates and were not given the respect of a proper burial and full mourning rites. As in most other mainstream religions, suicide was viewed as a sin against God. Today, Judaism defines the suicide as mentally ill and therefore not responsible for his sinful behavior. But these changes in the interpretation of Jewish law and the more general worldwide trend toward decriminalization of suicide do not eradicate pre-existing, and largely unconscious, social taboos.

 There are many reasons for me to avoid the topic of suicide in casual conversation. Aside from the fact that I may be regarded as an inadequate parent, I do not enjoy making people uncomfortable. On the other hand, I am increasingly aware that when I don’t tell the truth, I am collaborating with the enemy. The enemy is silence, which stems from shame and embarrassment about mental illness. I am also being disrespectful to my son and his interrupted life. He did exist. I did have a son. My daughter had a brother. It is a grotesque lie to suggest that I had no other children.

When I talk about my son, many people react as though suicide were unusual or rare, even though statistics prove otherwise. In Israel, suicide is the second most common cause of death for young males. Among the Israel Defense Forces, there are more deaths from suicide than from actual military operations. In Israel, as in America and elsewhere, rates of automobile deaths and homicides are significantly lower than suicide rates.

The general silence on the topic may actually propel a potential suicide toward his final act, as some experts are beginning to argue. It accentuates their alienation. I recall with great regret and some anger the misguided advice I was given by both my son’s therapist and his psycho-pharmacologist.

They knew that my son was obsessing about suicide. At the time, I knew very little about the subject myself, so I deferred to them when they specifically instructed me to avoid discussing the issue with him. They did likewise. We will never know the effects of this strategy of silence on my son’s ultimate decision.

 No Shame, No Euphemism : Suicide Isn't A Natural Cause of Death

           By John Henning Schumann  : Writer and Doctor in Tulsa, Okla

Beware the mention of  'natural causes’  —as in my mother's obituary:

"Norita Wyse Berman, a writer, stockbroker and artist

... died at home Friday of natural causes. She was 60."

 Sixty-year-olds don't die of natural causes anymore. The truth was too hard to admit.

Fifteen years on, I'm ashamed of my family's shame. Those attending her funeral and paying shiva calls knew the truth anyway. People talk.

One of the many ironies of dying young is that my mother was a true believer in modern medicine. She had a cabinet full of elixirs and potions for which she paid top dollar. For most of her life she never paid retail for anything, so the medicine cabinet was testament to her insecurity about fleeting beauty and a quest for longevity. Others around her might succumb to aging, but my mom had confidence that her vitamins and nutraceuticals could hold back Father Time.

 Her anxieties predated the Internet and the rise of  Dr. Oz.  I know she'd have become a big fan of the telegenic surgeon, and would have asked why I couldn't have a practice more like his. After all, she told me more than once, "Making money is not a sin."

She divorced my father when I was 12. She wanted a career, which was an idea my father did not support. Eventually she became a stockbroker, and in spite of limited financial acumen, she became very successful. She had natural sales ability and made brilliant use of her greatest talent — networking. The fact that the 1980s and '90s witnessed two of the greatest bull markets in Wall Street history certainly helped.

My mother remarried soon after my parents' divorce. But 15 years into her career, my stepfather convinced her to retire because of his own declining health. They moved to Florida, accelerating their senescence by living in a gated golf community. Finances were no issue, but my mother's mental state soon started to unravel.

My mother hated golf. She tried other pursuits like painting and travel. But retirement simply wasn't for her. My sense was she'd lost her self-worth when she no longer felt like a stock market titan.

One day my stepfather called to let me know that he found my mother lying on the floor of the garage with the car running. It was time to get help. Thus began my family's odyssey in the mental health care system.

Over the next five years, my mother would bounce between despondent lows and powerful highs. Diagnoses abounded, depending on where in the cycle she was. One doctor labeled her bipolar, another "majorly depressed with psychotic features."

Medicines were started, adjusted and then new ones were added. Her doctors tried mightily to find the right cocktail of drugs so she could stay in balance.

Eventually most of her improvement came from lithium. But she hated taking it because it made her urinate frequently and because she saw it as a relic. If she had to be on medication, why couldn't it be one of these newer-fangled drugs with a more impressive name and less stigma?

My mom was the type of patient who thinks there's a pill for every ailment. Antibiotics for colds. Weight-loss pills. Sleep aids. The silver-bullet theory of medicine. She even underwent shock therapy as a potential quick fix. But because her psych meds earned her the label "crazy," she sought any opportunity to shed them.

Twice this behavior led her to other suicide attempts. Her doctors called them gestures. We wanted to believe that she didn't have real intent.

My mother's behavior taught me the first practical thing I learned in medical school: Don't stop taking medication for a chronic condition without first telling someone. Like hospitalized patients that "cheek" their pills, my Mom lied to her doctors about taking her medications because she didn't want to be nagged and didn't want to be dependent on them. But without her pills her mental health was far too fragile.

We were stuck in twin binds. My mother loved medicines and their potential for miracles, but she always sought to ditch them the moment she felt better. As my mother's mental health struggles surfaced, I was on my way to becoming a doctor. But I was powerless to help someone closest to me.

It's not that my mother didn't believe in my healing powers. On my very first day of med school I called home to debrief. "I have a rash I need you to take a look at," she interjected.

Did she really think after ‘Day 1'  I knew anything about doctoring?

Looking back, I can now see that my mom was giving me my earliest lesson in the culture of expectations. There's a reason medical ethicists warn against treating family and friends. Corners get cut. Judgment becomes impaired. Honesty becomes scarce.

Throughout her illness I believed that I was there for my mother. In our talks I was able to cut through the bull she fed everyone else. My intention was to let her know that my newly acquired medical knowledge would always be available to her. I wanted her to trust me.

But the more I pressed, the farther she receded. She put up a brave front, so convincing that she bluffed her way past my fledgling diagnostic skills. In her last rise out of the depths, we all hoped against reality that she was on the road to a permanent recovery.

Then she hung herself on the day after Thanksgiving.

It's painful to admit even now. But I no longer feel shame. Sadness, yes. Even anger still, though that ebbs.

I also harbor the hope that others can learn from her illness and death. If suicide remains in the shadows of stigma and superstition, it will always plague us.

...and once again I will repeat : Norita Wyse Berman, a writer, stockbroker and artist ...died at home Friday of natural causes. She was 60."

Suicide is not a natural cause of death.

 What No One Tells You About Losing A Loved One To Suicide

                                                    By Rheana Murray - ABC News

Despite the great loss that suicide, like any death, brings, there are still things suddenly left behind —homes to clean out, clothes to give away, pets to find shelter for, social media accounts for which you have to figure out the passwords.

My little sister left a kitten, an apartment she shared with her boyfriend just outside Charleston, SC, and an unfinished college career in political science. Most importantly, she left behind so many unanswered questions.

 It was a Tuesday in July when my mother called me, tense on the phone, asking if I could drive to my sister’s apartment. She’d gotten a frightening phone call from my sister’s boyfriend, but he was crying too hard to get many words out. My mom just wanted me to make sure everything was okay. It would be a couple of hours before we learned that it wasn’t.

When I pulled up, I saw my sister's boyfriend, surrounded by police officers, on their lawn —slumped over with his hands on his knees as he choked on tears, unable to speak. The sight of him like this made the hair on my arms stand up, my throat suddenly threatening to close as my eyes welled up in fear of what might really be happening. My sister's kitten, named Izzy after Katherine Heigl’s character in Greys Anatomy, was strangely sitting in a cage on the grass.

 She left behind so many unanswered questions.

These are the things that no one tells you about suicide.

I did not know that my mother and I would become "survivors " what the loved ones of someone who dies by suicide are called.

I learned that in support groups.

I was struck by how peculiar it seemed that my phone kept buzzing with messages from friends who wanted to go out that night, that my boss at the newspaper where I worked was emailing to see where I was that the world kept spinning, even though mine was crashing.

And then, even though you’re grieving, there is work to be done. We had to clean that apartment and tie up the loose ends of my beautiful, 19-year-old sister’s life. We packed it all away, neat and tidy, so she could be put to rest with respect. We had to organize the funeral. And then, we had to grin and bear it when the church told us they couldn’t send a priest. Suicide is a sin, they said. Of course, grief and pain come with any death, natural or otherwise. There are always things to clean up after someone dies, but there are many nuances unique to dealing with suicide. A common one is the incessant itch to scan the past for red flags, for ways that you might have stopped it from happening. I have only one: The night before my sister died, we had dinner together at a local Thai restaurant. She didn’t finish her meal. But when the waiter wrapped it up for her, she instead offered the leftovers to me, explaining that she probably wouldn’t get the chance to eat them later.

Things like that will drive you crazy if you let them.

There are many nuances unique to dealing with suicide.

In the months after my sister died, my mother scanned her social media accounts, staying up all night to read what people wrote on a Facebook memorial page. She kept my sister’s phone and listened to her old voicemails and re-read her text messages over and over. She ached to find a clue. And for a while, it seemed like everything was a clue.

 This search for the reason, for any reason, is a desperate attempt to explain the inexplicable. It’s easy to wonder if there was, perhaps, something my mom and I didn’t know about —money problems, a stalker, or an undiagnosed mental illness, —maybe. Anything would have brought us a tiny step forward toward closure. Over the years since her death, I’ve come to the conclusion that my sister, the one person on the planet with whom I was closer than anyone else, was simply sad and angry. And maybe more so on that particular day. It was her boyfriend’s 21st birthday, and they’d gotten into a fight about their plans for that night. That’s all I know, but I wonder : Could something that simple have pushed her over the edge?

Maybe there’s no person or thing to blame.

This search for the reason, for any reason, is a desperate attempt to explain the inexplicable.

There’s a shock factor to suicide: You should see the look on people’s faces when I tell them my story. And later, how they grimace when they accidentally make a flippant remark in my presence, usually something like, "I want to kill myself today."

There’s also still stigma, despite wonderful initiatives like National Suicide Awareness Month. I think that’s the reason suicide survivors tend to find each other. I can’t help but feel a connection with other people who’ve gone through this. Friends and acquaintances are quick to introduce me to someone they know who is also a survivor. Safe from shame, we share the details that are too dark to tell anyone else, like how it was done and who was unlucky enough to find our sister or mother or uncle or friend. It’s like swapping war stories with a secret club.

Let me be clear: All death breaks us down, and apart, in ways we can’t imagine. But suicide does something worse in the way it forces us to question everything. We search for answers in old emails, in diaries, in CD collections, and even in the contents of someone’s fridge : Why would she have bought milk yesterday?

Eight years after my sister’s suicide, I still have no real explanation for why she’s not here. That’s something else no one tells you about suicide —that one day, you’ll have to find peace in not really knowing why someone you love is gone.




                                     SOMEONE THEY LOVE BY SUICIDE


1st and 3rd  MONDAY

  7:00 - 8:30 p. m.




  Al & Linda  at  505 / 792-7461

E-mail :  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "


"Know That You Are Not Alone

                              — Sharing Can Be Healing"

Sharing and Healing is © by SOSL-NM

Non-Profit : #NM ID 4996054

Non-Profit : FED : 501-c-3























































































August 2015


August 2015

A Newsletter for Survivors of Suicide Loss


   Coming  SOSL  Meetings  in  Albuquerque 

3rd Monday November 16th    &       1st Monday December 7th 

3rd Monday December 21st    &      1st Monday January 4th

 ♦  At : Shepherd of the Vally Presbyterian Church, 1801 Montano Rd NW, Albuquerque  ♦ 

Mission Statement 

◊   Survivors of Suicide Loss - New Mexico  ◊

Is a support group that serves the needs of people suffering the loss of someone they love by suicide.

 With two meetings every month, that are free and open to all survivors. SOSL also hosts relevant presentations and discussions throughout Albuquerque and New Mexico.

Survivors of Suicide Loss - NM groups are dedicated to providing information and support to assist in the grieving and healing process. It is a support group of people who help one another through the stages of grief related to suicide.

Self introductions by each person is requested so that all in attendance recognize the common relationship with all others there. Longer term survivors facilitate and help lead the meetings. They present their own perspectives and experiences on the death of the one they lost by suicide. We share feelings of guilt, anger frustration, emptiness, loneliness and disillusionment. For some, it is hard to identify or even to understand their feelings. Through others’ expression of what they are feeling, we begin to have a better awareness of what is going on inside us.

The issues discussed at Survivors of Suicide Loss meetings are usually —grief, mourning, anger, loss, abandonment, guilt, blame, and paths toward recovery and acceptance. The purpose of all our meetings is to openly discuss these feelings and to share our experiences as we live and work with the grieving process.

 The mutual sharing with those who have a related loss, offers us perspectives and experiences that are valuable to survivors of suicide loss. These and other key issues can trouble of us. The risk in frankly sharing our unique problems and concerns about such topics is offset by the benefit of learning from those who have experienced the related suicide loss.

 SOSL-NM meetings are attended by both recent and long-time survivors, all of whom benefit from the sharing of experiences and approaches to the loss through suicide. In addition to the survivors, the meetings are also frequently attended by mental health professionals who offer their various perspectives on unexpected death, grief and bereavement, guilt, responsibility, and mourning.

More information from Al & Linda at (505) 792-7461

 ( © by SOSL-NM : Non Profit NM ID #4996053 & FED 501-c-3)  

               Articles In This Issue

Pg 1: Grieving Notes - Al V.   --    Pg 2: Suicide and It’s Unrelenting Stigma    - -    Pg 4: "Sin of Suicide" is Losing it’s Grip

Pg 5: Suicide and the Young Physician    - -    Pg 8: Suicide isn’t Contagious     - -     Pg 10 : Quote - "Those We Love"        

Pg 11:  Rules When it Comes to Talking About Suicide   --    Pg 12: About SOSL and Meetings


Al Vigil

        "Grief never ends ...but it changes

         It's a passage, not a place to stay.

           Grief is not a sign of weakness or a lack of faith. 

            It's the price of love !"                                                                                                     

                                                                     - Quote was sent to us by our daughter Melinda White

Yes, you did —you took the risk —and you fell in love.

You knew that the way your happy heart skipped a beat  —you had found your soul mate. A true nature of love usually happens when you see the tears in eyes of your spouse —when they tell you that ‘you’ are their world.

And you especially fall in love, on the day your children are born.

You fell in love with your daughter the first time you saw her wrinkled brow and puckered lips. You fell in love the first time you saw your son’s toes —you even counted them.

Right there begins a passage of love that will be intertwined with the life passage of those that you are in love with. Painfully so, in our present grief, we know that our time together could never have been pre-defined. The loss to death, of someone you love will always be much too soon.

We can truly believe that deep love is immortal. Even after the death of that person

that we love, love for them continues on. In fact, I think the love for that person sometimes magnifies itself over time.

At our  Survivor of Suicide Loss  meetings, we never refer to any loss as being about a person ‘that’ you loved. That love is never ‘past-tense.’  You don’t stop loving them because they died.

We will mourn that loss for the rest of our life.

Our grief is the price of that beautiful and privileged gift ...love.

- In "Sharing and Healing" — Al V.   

Suicide and Its Unrelenting Stigma

                  By Kristinea Cowan - Journaist

Suicide is an earthquake. Sudden, jolting and catastrophic, it ruptures the lives of those it leaves behind. The aftershocks ripple into subsequent generations. We spend years navigating our emotional landscapes, seismically realigned by chasms of guilt, confusion and regret. We build bridges when we share our grief, seek individual or group therapy, and work toward healing and growth.

Maybe the most ominous ravine is the one filled by stigma. It often seems impossible to cross. 

Stigma is defined as "a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one's reputation." Our society does a good job of saddling suicide with stigma. In an effort to make sense of it, perhaps, we label the person who ended his or her life. He was selfish. She was crazy. They took the easy way out. These sorts of things couldn't happen to us.

Statistics say otherwise. In the United States, someone dies by suicide every 13 minutes, and each death intimately affects at least six others, according to the American Association of Suicidology. Between 1989 and 2013, there were 825,832 suicides, leaving an estimated 4.95 million survivors behind, the AAS says.

Until Jim's death, I assumed suicide was reserved for people afflicted by excessive fame, addictions or crimes.

Our culture drives these assumptions.

Before my brother ended his life, one of the few times suicide came to mind was when I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, in 2008. I was struck by the prominent signs urging suicidal people to seek help. Last year San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge Board of Directors unanimously approved funding for a 20-foot-wide steel net — a so-called suicide barrier.

Author Amy Simpson backs this up in her book,

Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church's Mission : Have you ever paid attention to the way people with mental illness are portrayed in popular media? While some works, especially more recent ones, treat mental illness with honesty and sensitivity, most of popular media treats the mentally ill as either frightening or funny or both. Most people don't seem to give it a second thought, but for people whose loved ones suffer from ongoing serious mental illness, such portrayals are hard to ignore.

The last 16 months have revealed flaws in my thinking. I'm bent on raising awareness about suicide and helping others prevent it. A major hurdle I'm seeing is related to stigma. It chases those who've attempted suicide, those who lose loved ones and even psychiatrists who treat suicidal patients.

In a recent conversation with my dad, I was reminded how pervasive stigma is. Jim was from my mom's first marriage, so we have different fathers. My dad was Jim's stepfather, raising him from the age of 4. Their relationship was strained from the start. My dad is the son of Greek immigrants. I never knew my paternal grandparents, but it seems they trained him not to acknowledge his feelings. My dad had a troubled relationship with my grandfather, and he repeated some of it with my brother. Once Jim was an adult, he distanced himself from my dad, but they remained civil.

In the early days after Jim died, my dad presented a stoic front. He's suggested that we shouldn't dwell on his death; we must "move on." I was surprised when he admitted to struggling emotionally, grappling with guilt over not being a better father to Jim. His medical doctor has referred him to a therapist. Yet my dad hasn't acknowledged the source of his angst, afraid of what the M.D. might think. Stigma.

It plagues those mired by suicidal thoughts and attempts, as Kevin Caruso, founder of Suicide.org, explains on the site :

Because of the stigma (the ignorant stigma, mind you) that still exists concerning mental illness, many people who need help do not seek it. Even though there is clear scientific data that indicates irrefutably that a physical connection exists with most mental disorders, many people still stigmatize others because they stupidly hold on to the misguided beliefs of yesteryear that people with mental disorders are weak or just lack will power.

Some suicide-attempt survivors are pushing back against the stigma they've faced, according to a

Chicago Tribune story: "They are speaking up in an effort to educate, raise awareness and reduce stigma about suicide, which advocates say is a public health issue, not a private shame."

Psychiatrists who treat suicidal patients face an especially sharp stigma. A

story in The Atlantic says :

The stigma of suicide is so strong that it's often an issue left unspoken, even by doctors. Many psychiatrists refuse to treat chronically suicidal patients, not only because of the stigma that surrounds it even in their profession, but because suicide is the number-one cause of lawsuits brought against mental-health treatment providers.

My dad's hunch is right, sadly. Even the medical field is beset by stigma. That's hard to grasp, because mental health practitioners are supposed to be a place of refuge for those battling suicidal thoughts. It sometimes infects another safe haven, too  —churches.

In her book, Simpson explains in a chapter on stigma :

Although 80 percent of church leaders said they believe mental illness is 'a real, treatable and manageable illness caused by genetic, biological or environmental factors,' only 12. 5 percent of them said mental illness is openly discussed in a healthy way in their church. Some churches stigmatize mental illness because they simply don't want 'the wrong kind of people' interfering with their vision for their churches.  Let's face it: a thriving ministry to people with mental illness is not the easiest or most ego-polishing kind of ministry.

No one, no institution or part of our society, is free from stigma associated with suicide and mental illness. Changing this will be an enormous endeavor. What will it require? Raising our voices individually and collectively, as some attempt survivors have. Working with our mental-health providers and places of worship, to quell fears of lawsuits and unfavorable public opinion. Examining our own misconceptions, and striving for greater sensitivity. And that's just a short list.

We must press on, in honor of those we've lost, for attempt survivors, for grieving families, and for friends and family of the future, who one day will face atrocious battles against mental illness and suicidal thoughts.

‘Sin of Suicide’ is Losing its Stigma

By KATHY HEDBERG - Associated Press -  June, 2015

There was a time when suicide was considered a sin or "self murder" by many faith traditions, according to the Suicide Prevention Action Network of Idaho. People who died by suicide were sometimes denied funerals or burial in a common cemetery.

Things have changed.

Suicide "does not carry the stigma it once did," said the Rev. Craig Groseclose, pastor of the Cameron Emmanuel Lutheran Church near Kendrick.

"It’s not considered an unforgivable sin," Groseclose said. "It’s more a symbol of our broken humanity and needs to be addressed like any other of our faults. What I usually try and instill is that God has not abandoned them  —the person who has died by suicide and the family."

A workshop dealing with the role of faith community leaders in preventing suicide and helping the survivors was recently presented at Lewiston, Moscow and Coeur d’Alene by Jenny Griffin, executive director of Suicide Prevention Action Network of Idaho.

"We’re trying to let people know there are other options to suicide," said Griffin, whose own 16-year-old son died by suicide. These people don’t want to die. They just want the pain to end."

For nearly 60 years, ever since suicide statistics have been kept at a national level, Idaho has ranked in the top 10 states for suicides. It currently is in seventh place. Although Washington’s suicide rates also used to be high they have dropped and the state is now ranked 22nd for the rate of suicide.

There are a number of reasons for high suicide rates, among them poverty, a "pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps" mentality among the population, lack of affordable health care and accessibility to guns.

Griffin said when she speaks to law enforcement or military officers  —whose rate of suicide is among the highest  —they become defensive and almost belligerent about the suggestion that gun ownership might play a role in suicide rates.

The prevention network is not suggesting people should not own guns, Griffin said.

"We are a gun-toting state," she said. "But if you have guns in the house and a person with a mental health condition, lock up your guns."

One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with mental health and suicide issues, Griffin said, is the stigma attached to them. There is no stigma attached to illnesses such as cancer or cardiac arrest.

"We shouldn’t do it to people who are in a mental health crisis," she said. "We have to change the perspective. We have a culture that, if you have a mental health condition you’re weak. We don’t do that with other medical conditions."

That’s where clergy and faith communities come in, both in dealing with people in mental health crisis and helping survivors of suicide cope with their grief and loss.

"We believe that suicide is not the way human life should end," said the Rev. Sue Ostrom, pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Moscow. 

"We encourage the church to provide education to address issues related to death and dying, including suicide. I think it’s safe to say the response to suicide would be a tragedy and the church’s response should be one of love, care and comfort  —not condemnation."

Dan Cornell, pastor of worship and care development at Cross Point Alliance Church in Lewiston, said there is no difference in the way the church deals with a death by suicide or by any other means.

"We don’t necessarily approach it differently. We still want to care for the families; we still want to walk with them through that process and do what we can to be present with them and care for them," Cornell said.

He admitted, however, that there is sometimes a "hush-hush" attitude about a suicide death that makes preparing for a memorial or funeral tricky.

"I don’t know that our society really knows how to walk through that," Cornell said. "I think families struggle thinking, ‘How do we even have a funeral for somebody who has died by suicide?’ So I feel like we’re not very educated."

The Suicide Prevention Action Network advises pastors and other faith community leaders to be aware of the implications in the language they use to talk about suicide - using terms such as "committed suicide" that connote success or failure in an endeavor.

Even words emphasizing that the deceased is "at peace" or implying that suicide was a reasonable response to the stresses in the person’s life might be viewed as an encouragement to others who are vulnerable, the network warns.

Although there apparently are no statistics, pastors often believe that belonging to a faith community can help people deal with mental health illnesses that sometimes lead to suicide.

"I hesitate to say that, but it does seem to coincide," Groseclose said. "For those who don’t have faith to rely on, it becomes, I think, more difficult to face the feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness that may lead a person to think of or attempt to end their life.

"It’s been my experience that the faith communities, when a suicide occurs, have been very supportive of the family," he said. "And I think we can do more in terms of trying to be more alert to the possibility or to the indications that are there. To be more proactive rather than reactive."

"Having a sense of belonging," said Ostrom, "can be real helpful, so people who are part of a faith community can provide that sense of belonging.

"I recognize that because there have been times when the (universal) church has sometimes taken the stance of saying, ‘We condemn you’ and not being supportive that may still be a factor for some people in despairing of where they are.

"I would hope that the church) s a place of hope and that people can find belonging and that God is present with them and God’s love is there. And that gives them another tool to use in dealing with whatever has led them to feel such despair."

                            SUICIDE AND THE YOUNG PHYSICIAN

Jennifer is a master’s-level mental health clinician. Fourteen years ago —almost to the week, she tells me —one of her patients shot himself; and his family brought a lawsuit against her.

"I'd seen this individual for four appointments, and on the fifth appointment, he did not show," she says. "The next week I heard that this had happened  …I was just beside myself with grief. I'd never lost a client before, and I have had many suicidal clients. It was very tragic that this had been the outcome; we had barely enough time to really scratch the surface on issues. Immediately when things like this happen, you're advised by legal counsel not to talk to anybody, when it becomes clear that there is going to be litigation. In my profession, you isolate. You don't talk. Even among your colleagues, there is a certain stigma."

Jennifer says the patient didn’t express any suicidal urges to her. He had come to see her at the behest of a girlfriend, to deal with some anger issues he was struggling with. When advised to take medication, he refused. Then the girlfriend left him, and he killed himself. Yet the family still filed suit against Jennifer and when the judge threw out the first case, they re-filed under a different charge. She says these proceedings dragged out for five years.

When asked why she thinks they sued her, she pauses for a moment. "I think the family was left with a lot of questions and in their mind they needed to find someone to blame for this," she says. "There was nothing to substantiate the lawsuit. My board cleared me. But it was a grieving family. I mean, I feel for them every Christmas. Every time I put my Christmas tree up around this time of year, it brings me right back there."

The flip side of that equation is when a doctor fails to meet the professional standard of care, in ways that can be quite obvious. Skip Simpson is a suicide- malpractice attorney, but from talking to him, he doesn’t seem vengeful. He says he’s interested in bettering th current mental-health system, not bringing frivolous lawsuits.

"If we were to talk for 30 minutes there would be two people in the United States who would die from suicide within that period of time," he tells me during our conversation.  "There is a basic duty to prevent harm, for example, at a hospital. If those charged with treatment of mentally disturbed patients know the facts from which they could reasonably conclude that a patient would be likely to harm herself in the absence of reclusive measures or interventions to protect them, then they must use reasonable care under the circumstances to prevent that harm. That’s not just in hospitals, but also in outpatient care too. In my profession, you isolate. You don't talk. Even with your colleagues, there's a certain stigma."

This type of lawsuit is personified in Denise Vitali Burne’s case. Her brother Matt, 37, committed suicide in 2004, while at The Meadows, an inpatient treatment facility located in Arizona.

"He was our rock," Burne says during a phone conversation, starting to cry almost immediately. "He was our golden-haired boy. He was 37, dual-degree at John Hopkins. Totally drug and alcohol-free, —he had an MBA. He was really solid, brilliant, and funny."

Matt decided to admit himself to The Meadows after falling into a deep depression. According to Burne’s retelling of the story, he had undergone many medication changes before his admittance, and The Meadows decided to take him off a heavy dose of Xanax as soon as he was admitted.

"He got in on Wednesday," Burne says. "On Friday, they pulled him off Xanax so fast that he went into paresthesia on Saturday …for four days he told them all he could think about was killing himself. He wanted to hang himself. He thought about nine ways of killing himself, and he settled on hanging. He basically said, ‘I'm suicidal, I'm suicidal, I'm suicidal, I'm suicidal.’ Well, they never locked him down. They never took his belt away from him."

According to Burne, that Saturday night, on Thanksgiving weekend, Matt attended a 12-step meeting that left him emotionally vulnerable. "He got up and he left the meeting," she says. "Two patients followed him out and he turned around and said to them, ‘If I were home right now I would hang myself.’ He went back to his room that night. He talked to his roommate, he took his meds, and he went to bed. At 6 o'clock Sunday morning the 28th, his roommate went to the nurse's station for a blood draw and said to the nurses —there were two nurses on staff for 70 patients in three separate buildings  —‘Oh, by the way Matt's not in his bed. He hasn't been in there since 5 o'clock when I woke up.’"

"They didn't rush to go look for him, and then when the shift was changing the one nurse was leaving and walked around the outside of the building," she continues. "She looked down the hill and she saw my brother kneeling. She later said she thought he was picking grass to feed the horses …he had walked out the back door undetected because for some reason, in the acute wing of a psychiatric hospital, there were no bells, no whistles, no walks, no cameras, no nothing, just the fence. He went down the hill and hanged himself on a tree. They found him at 8:05 in the morning."

The lawsuit Burne’s family eventually filed against The Meadows was settled out of court, and she started up her own nonprofit, called Break the Silence, in memory of her brother. But she says the system is irreparably flawed, and blames doctors for much of its deficiency. Neither The Meadows nor its legal representation returned requests for comment.

"He basically said, ‘I'm suicidal.’ Well, they never locked him down. They never took his belt away from him."

"He did everything right," she says of Matt. "He reached out for help and he was miserably and irreversibly failed … I just think that caregivers really need to understand that every person is an individual, and if they can't put the time and effort and energy into really knowing their patient … then they’re in the wrong field. They have to go back to their own conscience and wonder about the care they gave that person. Did they give that person the best care that they could at that moment? Did they trust in the system? Did they not pay attention to their gut? I can't answer for them. I would just think if you see somebody that's vacillating—and maybe I'm wrong, but from what I've seen, I don't think happy smiling people just in five minutes go and kill themselves. I think there are signs."

Christine Moutier is Chief Medical Officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She says this type of sentiment is normal among many family members who have lost someone to suicide, and sometimes warranted. "I think there are many actual mistakes that get made," she says. "There are doctors who simply don’t meet the standard of care. And then there are doctors who may not have made a single actual mistake, but the family perceives the treatment as not going well. Human nature is to need to find a reason for things. But if you get asked the same question about an oncologist who loses a patient to cancer, the family is much more likely to understand that the person had a terminal illness, so the best care happened but the outcome was still death. We tend to not think of mental illness usually in such black-and-white terms, as terminal illness."

According to many doctors there is also a severe lack of training for mental health professionals —not only on how to deal with suicidal patients, but how to process a patient’s death. Paul Quinett, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral science at the University of Washington School of Medicine, is heavily involved in teaching clinicians how to do both.

"I think most of us believe that when we hire a licensed mental-health professional, that they've had training in how to assess and manage suicidal patients, when in fact, the majority do not," he says.

A survey showed where a group of doctors and nurses were asked if they think it’s possible to prevent someone from committing suicide. More than half answered that they didn’t think it was. Another survey asked group of doctors and nurses if they think it’s possible to prevent someone from committing suicide. More than half said no.

"Well, I don't believe that," he says firmly. "I believe that's a convenient myth ...but so many clinicians are not well-prepared for that outcome. There are lots of clinicians who lose patients to suicide in the course of their career … in a way it's almost an occupational hazard. That's why people need the very best training they can get, to learn how to work effectively with people considering ending their own lives."

For clinicians who have lost someone, it can be incredibly hard to continue doing their jobs. Molly, a licensed graduate social worker, was working with a man at an inpatient facility for about a year and a half. Thirteen months ago, she found him hanging in his room.

"I was devastated," she says. "I actually debated, pretty extensively, leaving the field because I just was like, ‘I can't do this. I can't set myself up for this to happen again.’ I'm still working, but it took me a really long time to come back to it."

"Would you ever treat another suicidal patient?" I ask her.

"I don't really plan to, to be honest," she says. "That would be very, very hard for me. Maybe down the road, that'll be different. I think the trauma of finding him is a big piece of that. I think had I not had that extra layer, I could picture myself being able to eventually, but I need to get past it first."

I can’t help but think of my friend and how lost and alone she is right now. I imagine the reality she’s lived for four months of medication, doctors, the cold clean halls of the hospital. Head-banging, cutting herself, restraints, more pills. It’s a world I danced on the edge of for years, and I managed to leave it behind for a life where I laugh more than cry, and hurt without despairing. I want that for her so much, but how will she ever reach that point when no doctor will take her on?

"I get why they don’t want to work with me," she says during another one of our conversations. "I’m more complicated. I’m just a difficult patient. I’ve been told that. "No one is saying they don’t think I can get better," she says flatly, almost without emotion. "They just don’t want to."


              ...& We Need to Talk About It                  - From the Huffington Post

Writing about suicide isn't easy. I've been trying for a while to write this post, but I never know where to start. Do I start with my own story? How I have lived in that pit of despair that causes someone to actually think that taking their life is a solution? Or do I open with the staggering suicide statistics? Like, every 40 seconds someone commits suicide? Or, did you know that half of all college students consider suicide at one point?

Neither options allowed me to find the right voice to speak about something as evasive as suicide. But then, I received a text message that finally gave me the voice to talk about it. And that voice is mighty pissed off.

It was 8:30 p.m., my husband and I were lounging on the sofa, catching up with our DVR, when my cellphone dinged. We have a rule that we try not to use our phones after a certain hour, unless we're expecting news. If it had been one text, I would have ignored it. But it was the urgency of multiple incoming texts that made me break our rule.

It was my best friend. She had just found out that an acquaintance of hers had committed suicide.

She didn't know her that well; they had only performed together once. Her friend, who had known the woman more intimately, had told her the news and he was devastated. My friend was in the middle of a rehearsal and couldn't really talk, but she needed to tell someone who would understand. Who could offer advice on how to console her friend.

Despite being the bastion of mental health knowledge that I am, I was at a loss and caught completely off guard by her text. There's no real way to prepare for the news of a suicide. Other than being there for them, listening to them, and giving them a hug if they want it, there's no real way to console a friend or family member who is dealing with this type of loss.

The absurd thing about this situation is that in the past two months, this is the third suicide victim I have heard of. I haven't personally known any of the victims. It's always a friend of a friend, but the news always hits me like a punch in the stomach, knocking the wind out of me before I am brought to tears. I cry for the death of strangers because I feel a fellowship with people who have mental health issues and because I know that black hole of sadness all too well.

Except Wednesday night, something was different. Maybe it was because it was my best friend who was distraught over this sudden news, or maybe it was because this was the third person, but I was angry.

I was angry that someone was struggling so badly that they felt the need to take their life. I was fucking pissed that they were so desperate that death seemed like a better alternative than living. I was pissed that they were clearly not getting the help they needed or deserved. I was fucking pissed that people would say how they never "saw it coming." I was pissed off because suicide shouldn't happen, but it seemed to keep happening over and over again.

Despite all the advances we have made in mental health awareness, suicide is still an issue that is shrouded in silence and secrecy. Suicide is sometimes treated like a "contagious" disease, as if you can catch it just by speaking its name. Maybe "suicide contagion" happens not because of the act itself, but because no one wants to talk about it. No one wants to talk about the fact that maybe they've thought about killing themselves before because it's embarrassing and morbid.

Or maybe they had a relative who committed suicide that no one talks about. Or maybe suicide just makes them feel terribly sad, even if they didn't know the person.

There's no easy way of talking about suicide, because it's hard to explain why someone would think killing themselves is a viable solution to their problems. As someone who has seriously thought about numerous ways to die, suicide is still hard to articulate. It's a complex and confusing issue because it goes against one of our most basic instincts, self-preservation.

The thing is, suicide is not about wanting to die, it's about wanting the pain to end. It's about wanting to disappear. It's about wanting whatever it is you're struggling with to be over. If you've never battled with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, an eating disorder, or any other form of mental illness, it's hard to understand the enduring and seemingly never-ending psychic pain. It's a pain that follows you like a shadow in your waking hours and haunts your dreams as you sleep. There is no escaping it.

Moreover, suicide is hard to talk about because of the pervading myths that surround suicide. I'm sure a researcher somewhere has done a fancy study with numbers, but I've been in enough social situations to know how dumb people can be about mental health and suicide.

I was at a party this past summer when the subject of suicide, self-harm, and mental health came up. I don't know how or when the conversation started, but it was sudden and swift and I braced myself for the impact of these words.

"They say it's a cry for help."   ......   ‘They do it for attention."  ......  "Well they say that you can tell a cutter from someone who really wants to die by the direction of the cuts."   .......   "How much of a loser do you have to be to fuck up your own suicide?"   ......   "I get why people jump in front of a metro ...but everyone knows taking a bottle of Advil will only make you sick."

These comments were tossed out over wine and cheese, in front of near-perfect strangers. This is the stupidity and callousness with which suicide is discussed. It was complete thoughtlessness and ignorance that dominated the conversation.

Let me demystify a few things about cutting and suicide: The two are not intrinsically linked. Just because you cut doesn't mean you want to commit suicide. Attempting suicide or self-harm are not "cries for help" and aren't attention-seeking behaviors. People who do these things are sick, just like someone who has cancer or diabetes, and they simply don't know how to cope with their feelings or the world they're living in. This is what I wished I had said at this party. But after bearing the weight of these words in silence, I made a quick exit in tears.

So it's not that we shouldn't talk about suicide because we're afraid it'll be contagious, but we need to know how to talk about it. We need to be sensitive to our audience. We need to be considerate of other people's experiences. We need to be kind and understanding. Suicide isn't an easy subject to broach and defies all logic, but we need to talk about it, or else all of these deaths will have been in vain.


There Are Rules When it Comes to Talking about Suicide

There are rules when it comes to talking about suicide, and experts say how we talk about it may be just as important as having the conversation.

Many rules have to do with what doesn’t work. Blaming or shaming the victim: that doesn’t work, experts say. Neither does ignoring the death. But talking explicitly about the death, especially the method or circumstances, doesn’t help either; in fact, research shows that too much detail can actually inspire others who are at risk.

Whenever  we can, we should talk about suicide, experts say that those are some solutions.

"It’s preventable. It is something we can do something about," said Lisa Wexler, a researcher and professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Wexler lives in Kotzebue and has spent over a decade working to address suicide in western Alaska.

She led a workshop on the topic, along with educator Diane McEachern, during Kawerak’s Rural Providers Conference in Nome last week.

As part of the presentation, Wexler and McEachern incorporated an innovative approach to prevention. Rather than lecture on the topic of suicide, they simply introduced a single piece of data: In Alaska, suicide rates among youth go up during the summer, and down in the winter.

They asked conference participants to break into groups and come up with their own explanations for the data, which contrasts seasonal trends in the Lower 48. The result was a list of potential factors that spoke to the culture and lifestyle of western Alaska: sunshine and warm weather that might allow teens to stay out late to party; less adult supervision in the absence of school; intense summer romances; and even a lack of sleep.

The topic of suicide is a sensitive one for many in the Bering Strait. Alaska has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, with Alaska Native youth particularly at risk. And the data being presented wasn’t new. One participant voiced her frustration at the lack of fresh information —saying the real benefit, for her, came from talking and collaborating with people from other communities that face similar issues.

"Certain communities are put at higher risk, not because of what they’re doing, but because of what’s been done to them," she said.

Wexler said factors like food insecurity, unemployment, loss of cultural identity and intergenerational trauma have played a role in the prevalence of suicide within indigenous groups all over the world.

McEachern pointed to one example of how historical trauma could factor into suicide: Young men and women who come from homes fractured by the relocation of parents or grandparents are likely to place a disproportionate weight on early adolescent romances.

She said those romances, when they sour, can be a trigger for teens already struggling with suicidal feelings.

"There are things that are done in our community that are not necessarily called suicide prevention," explained Pananga Pungowiyi, Kawerak’s Wellness Director. "Fostering healthy relationships between people, helping people understand how to express their emotions…those are really important skills that need to be fostered in our young peoples."

"If you look at things like suicide prevention," she said. "It’s always systems trying to fix people. But if you look at the bigger picture you realize there’s nothing wrong with the people, there’s something wrong with the way the systems are interacting with the people.

"Allowing people to develop their own systems makes for more relevant solutions, she said. And just as multiple factors contribute to a traumatic cultural experience, Pungowiyi believes that concept can be reversed as community members develop multiple fronts on which to confront problems like suicide.

Wexler agrees that while there is no single solution to the issue, the most effective kind of prevention is "many kinds of prevention."

As for what can be done to address suicide on the individual level, Wexler concluded: No harm can come from asking loved ones how they’re doing.





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