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January 2015

"SHARING AND HEALING"

 January  2015

A NEWSLETTER FOR SURVIVORS OF SUICIDE LOSS

Written & Edited by : Al & Linda Vigil


 

Al & Linda @ 505 - 792-7461 for More Information

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      NEWSLETTER ARTICLES

Pg 1:  Grieving Notes - Al V.

Pg 2:  All it Takes Is One Person

Pg 5:  Country Seems Complacent

Pg 7:  Suicides Occur after Midnight

Pg 8:  This is A Letter to Lila

Pg 10: Called The Silent Killer

Pg 10: Public Myths About Suicide



              MISSION STATEMENT 

     SURVIVORS OF SUICIDE LOSS - New Mexico, (SOSL-NM), is a non-profit self-help support group that serves the needs of people suffering the loss of someone they love by suicide.  With two meetings in Albuquerque  (1st & 3rd Monday every Month, 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at Shepherd of the Valley Presbyterian Church, 1801 Montano Rd. NW)  that are free and open to all survivors. SOSL-NM also hosts presentations and discussions relevant to suicide loss throughout the Albuquerque and New Mexico area.

   The 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 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 suicide 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 perspectives and experiences that are valuable to survivors of suicide. These and other key issues trouble many of us. The risk in frankly sharing our unique problems and concerns topics is offset by the benefit of learning from those who have also experienced a 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. In addition to the survivors, the meetings are also frequently attended by mental health professionals who offer their own various perspectives on unexpected death, grief and bereavement, guilt and anger, responsibility, and mourning.

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



 " GRIEVING NOTES "

Al Vigil

— Happiness Is A Choice —

The death of a loved one is listed at the very top of stress levels in  Adjusting To Change   charts. Adding the word ‘suicide’ to the cause of the death, increases the concepts of grief  work into an added assault into the human spirit.  The suicide of someone you love is one of the most intimately painful emotion

that one can go through.  It can become the primary hurt in our hearts forever.  We know. We’ve have lost three people in our family to suicide. Our eighteen-year-old daughter, Mia in 1984,  uncle Bob in 1998,  and sister Patricia in 2008.

The grief of suicide loss will bring reactions that are deemed the most painful by mental health professionals.  Simply they are listed as  guilt, anger, abandonment, denial, depression. All of these hopefully, will one day, be turned into inner peace about the suicide death.

The stage of  —acceptance.  If our love for the persons that we lost by suicide, would have been enough  —they would still be alive.

Through our lives, there are times that  we will  "walk through the valley of the shadow of death."  But think about it  —if there  is shadow, there must be light. We need to trust that one day we will emerge into sunshine again. We need to know when to pick up and hold high a light of hope. The light can take many forms. It can be a touch,  a telephone call,  a note,  or a smile.  When our light shines through, we give others to permission to shine with us. The person who said to us, during the darkest part of our path through the valley of suicide loss,  "I care for you," held up a lighted candle. Later someone else added,  "We're thinking of you,"

—and that added even more sunshine.

During the early days of grief, it was at an  SOSL meeting that we began to feel that we were not alone on this path of pain.  Thus more candles were lit and soon all those lights merged to bring us into a valley that has become more sunshine than shadow. The sunshine at the end of the valley has been made brighter because we can surely believe that our happiness is a choice.

In Sharing and Healing

             - Al V.




   All It Takes Is For One Person To Step Up

                  JODIE O'SULLIVAN  (June 2014-Australia)

When Alison Fairleigh was asked to speak at the Border’s Winter Solstice event, she didn’t automatically say "yes."  The 2013 Queensland Rural Women’s Award winner wondered if she really had something to say that people needed to hear.

Even though she has worked in mental health and suicide prevention for years. At first she did not feel qualified One Personbecause she felt she had not lost someone in her immediate family to suicide.

But she had. Her grandmother took her own life when Ms. Fairleigh’s mother was pregnant with her and Ms. Fairleigh spent her childhood thinking that she was somehow to blame.

"My grandmother had lived with mental illness most of her life," Ms. Fairleigh explains.  "She would have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the modern world and she would probably have been institutionalized at various points."

But because the death was talked about in very hushed tones behind closed doors, the young Ms. Fairleigh only gleaned bits and pieces of the suicide story.

"It was so hidden," she says.  "The way it had been communicated to me as a child, I thought my grandmother had taken her life because she was angry that my mother was pregnant with me."

That awful secret hung over Ms. Fairleigh until she was in her late 20s when she had her first "real" conversation with her mother about the death. "I was then able to understand it," she says. 

Yet it wasn’t until three men took their lives in the space of three weeks in a small community in North Queensland where she was working, that Ms. Fairleigh was galvanized into action. 

"Two of them were known to me and I was responsible for the partial care of my students at the college and colleagues affected by the suicide," she says.

 It was to alter the course of Ms. Fairleigh’s own life. She is now a passionate and pro-active campaigner for rural communities and their mental health. What she has seen and learned out on the road, in paddocks, in farmhouse kitchens and school classrooms is that communities need to be empowered to care for themselves.

 "I am deeply and acutely aware of the impact that suicide has in a community," she says. "When we look at how communities cope post-suicide, particularly rural communities, they want to stick their heads in the sand. Even though everybody knows, they want to pretend it didn’t happen."

 That doesn’t help anyone, according to Ms. Fairleigh, "It exacerbates, it frustrates and it intensifies the grief that families feel," she says. That’s why Ms. Fairleigh decided she did have something to share with the Border community —with an event supporting those who have lost a loved one to suicide. But, at the same time, Ms. Fairleigh believes solutions and support need to be targeted to suit individual communities.

 awareness"Awareness is a word often bandied about," she says. "It’s a big word but we need to be a bit specific about the people who are suffering with this."

 And, while she acknowledges suicide does not discriminate, she says there are sections of the population at higher risk. Like farmers. "They don’t often have a lot of people out there speaking for them or trying to create awareness that they are a high-risk demographic," Ms. Fairleigh says.

 She adds that men in their 70s and 80s are the highest risk for suicide in Australia, closely followed by men between the ages of 29 and 59. There are many factors that can bring these men to that point —isolation, lack of access to services, stigma, male stoicism and attitudes around manliness, and financial hardship. But Ms. Fairleigh says what might surprise many people is that one of the biggest contributing factors to suicide in this demographic is the lack of a significant relationship.

 "In post-interviews with families who have lost somebody to suicide the over-riding factor is there has been a relationship that has broken up," she says. "It can be a marriage, it can be a family that has been torn apart by succession planning, or lack thereof, or the lack of a relationship." This knowledge makes community collaboration and networking all the more important particularly in rural areas, according to Ms. Fairleigh.

 "We need it desperately," she says.  "When you have people living in isolation or independently going about their business they can be particularly at risk.  The kids might have gone off to university and there is only the husband and wife left on the farm struggling to cope with financial pressures. Men will go into a cave and they will stop talking and they will isolate themselves more."

 That’s where the community network has to step in. "You need neighbors that are aware of what is happening and who can start to reach out and build those bridges and give people a break. It requires just one person who is willing to step up to the mark," said Alison Fairleigh.

 The other thing to recognize, she says, is the differences between how men and women communicate and support each other.  "People tend to think that men don’t talk together," she says.  "They do talk, they just talk differently."

 That’s why she says many counseling and mental health services are not truly accessible to the men who might be struggling. "We expect them to come into a room and sit directly opposite somebody and pour out their innermost feelings in an environment that is already unnatural to them," she says.

 It’s why solutions to suicide prevention are more likely to be found quite literally out in the paddock. "That’s why I talk so much about empowering communities to meet these problems. When we have people working collaboratively from all aspects of our community addressing the issue that is when we see the rates of suicide decrease."

 But it does require leadership. "It requires just one person who is willing to step up to the mark and bring together medical services, doctors, community groups, business associations and school principals in one room and say we need a strategy for our community."

 That is often easier said than done when there is still so much stigma and fear around the subject. Even the language discriminates. "People still say things like ‘commit suicide’," Ms. Fairleigh says. "Commit implies a crime or a sin … we have to remember these people were ill.  If we say people die of cancer or they die in a car accident.  Then it’s OK to say someone died by suicide."

But how do we get past the stigma?  Ms. Fairleigh believes the best place to start is the funeral. "We can still love and cherish that person’s life even though they died by suicide," she says. "It’s giving people permission to say they lived."

That’s what Ms. Fairleigh will have in her heart when she makes her address to the Border next weekend. She hopes she can offer encouragement to the community to put in place solutions that are going to prevent the tragedy of suicide. To prevent families having to go through what she has witnessed. But she also wants to leave the Border with the message that we also need to celebrate the life of those we have lost to suicide.

 "Celebration gives us a sense of hope and with hope then we can move forward," she says. "When there is no hope, then that is a very dark place for everyone." 



COUNTRY SEEMS ALMOST COMPLACENT       Martin E. Klimek, for USA TODAY

 Standing high above the San Francisco Bay, perched on an I-beam outside the Golden Gate Bridge railing, the man dressed neatly in khakis and a button-down shirt hesitated.

 Kevin Briggs stood a few feet away, imploring him not to jump. In nearly 20 years as a California Highway Patrol officer complacentpolicing the famous span, Briggs has had more success than failure in talking troubled souls back from the ledge.

 He and two other officers persisted for nearly an hour on this day in 2007, and the man, perhaps 35 years old, seemed touched by their earnestness. He reached over three separate times to shake Briggs' hand.

 Then it was suddenly over. "He said, 'Kevin, thank you very much,' " Briggs recalls quietly, "and he left." The man plummeted to his death in the waters below.

 There's a suicide in the USA every 13 minutes. A short ride from the Golden Gate Bridge where about 1,600 of these deaths have occurred over the years. Actor-comedian Robin Williams took his life at his Tiburon home in August.

 Americans are far more likely to kill themselves than each other. Homicides have fallen by half since 1991, but the U.S. suicide rate keeps climbing. The nearly 40,000 American lives lost each year make suicide the nation's 10th-leading cause of death, and the second-leading killer for those ages 15-34. Each suicide costs society about $1 million in medical and lost-work expenses and emotionally victimizes an average of 10 other people.

 Yet a national effort to stem this raging river of self-destruction —90% of which occurs among Americans suffering mental illness — is in disarray. This article explores the human cost of allowing 10 million Americans with mental illness to languish without care. On the dark edge of that spectrum is a consuming urge to die, and those committed to understanding suicide say there are potential solutions if there is a national will to seize on them.

 The country seems almost complacent with this staggering death toll. America's health care community remains mired in confusion over how to tackle suicide mostly because the public —and with it, the federal government — never gets serious about finding crucial answers.

 Basic questions about whether suicide is a public health problem, whether it can be prevented on a broad scale, whether suicidal thoughts and actions are a disorder or a symptom of other disorders, remain widely debated.

 "Is there the kind of concerted effort (for suicide) that's been made with HIV, with breast cancer, with Alzheimer's disease, with prostate cancer?" asks Christine Moutier, chief medical officer for the  American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

"There'samerican-foundation-for-suicide-prevention never been that kind of concerted front."

 "When we invested in HIV/AIDS and breast cancer, we dramatically reduced the rates of death," says Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice president of research for the foundation. "If we invest in suicide prevention —really invest in it —then we have a good shot at bringing it down." Perhaps as a result of this scattered approach to what is clearly a health crisis, greater sums of money and research are devoted to curing diseases and social ills that kill far fewer Americans despite clear historical evidence that more investment translates into more lives saved.

 The National Institutes of Health —the largest source of research money —spends a small fraction on suicide compared with diseases such as breast and prostate cancer that result in as many or fewer American lives lost. The suicide research budget for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has actually been shrinking since 2011. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention promotes several "winnable" priorities, among them motor vehicle injuries and HIV. Suicide, though more costly in lives than either of those categories, is not on the list.

Lawmakers' agendas are heavily influenced by public disinterest and a persistent view in the USA that anyone bent on killing themselves cannot be saved. Briggs saw the worst of this during suicide crises on the bridge when drivers passing by would yell out, "Go ahead and jump."

"If the public doesn't think you can do anything about it, they won't support it," says Alex Crosby, a CDC epidemiologist who focuses on suicide prevention.  "Can you really stop somebody who wants to kill themselves? I still hear that," says Jane Pearson, chair of the NIMH research consortium. "Changing that perspective is really critical.  If we invest in suicide prevention —really invest in it —then we have a good shot at bringing it down."

Only in one area did Americans react to suicide. When soldiers started killing themselves in record numbers during two arguably unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a groundswell from the public and Congress drove the military to respond.Military Suicide   The Army suicide rate tripled from 2004 and 2012 as more than 2,000 GIs took their lives. A new RAND study says that since 2005, about $230 million was poured into suicide research, more than two-thirds of it from the military.

"All the military research is likely to benefit civilians as well," says Michelle Cornette,  of the American Association of Suicidology.  A centerpiece effort is a $65 million study —the cost split between the Army and NIH —analyzing soldier suicides and tracking tens of thousands of troops over a period of years to understand self-destructive urges.

"The level of detail we are getting ... nobody has ever done anything on that scale in any population relating to suicide risk," says NIMH study scientist Michael Schoenbaum. "We have an enormous amount to learn."

Briggs, who retired from the CHP last year, says answers are long overdue. Promoting crisis management and suicide prevention, he says the nation must find a way to treat despair before the only resort is a police officer begging someone not to jump.

 "Get them before they're up on the bridge," Briggs says, "because when they're up on that bridge, the  game is almost over." 



Suicides More Likely to Occur after Midnight : Study ShowsAfterMidbight

 June  2014   - The research was published in the Journal Sleep

 Suicides are far more likely to occur between midnight and 4 am than during the daytime or evening, a new study has found for the first time. This appears to be the first data to suggest that circadian (bio-logical clock) factors may contribute to suicidality and help explain why insomnia is also a risk factor for suicidal ideation and behavior," said principal investigator Michael Perlis, from the University of Pennsylvania.

 "These results suggest that not only are nightmares and insomnia significant risk factors for suicidal ideation and behavior, but just being awake at night may in and of itself be a risk factor for suicide," he said.

 The researchers analyzed a total of 35,332 suicides. Results show that the weighted, scaled mean suicide rate per hour was 10.27 per cent after midnight, peaking at 16.27 per cent between 2 am and 2:59 am. In contrast, the mean suicide rate per hour was 2.13 per cent between 6 am and 11:59 pm. When six-hour time blocks were examined, the observed frequency of suicide between midnight and 5:59 am was 3.6 times higher than expected.

 According to the research authors, previous research suggesting that more suicides occur during the day failed to account for the proportion of the population that is awake at each given hour.

 Perlis notes that an important implication of the study is that the treatment of insomnia may be one way to reduce suicide risk.



 THIS IS A LETTER TO LILA   (Who Would Have Turned 20

                                                                    —If She Hadn't Committed Suicide)

A Letter Lila,    They say that time heals when grieving the loss of a loved one. But it's been 2.5 years since you killed yourself, and I'm not so sure I'm doing any better. Maybe it's because I don't know how to let go. Maybe it's because I don't want to let go. or maybe it's because:  "They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, later on, when somebody says your name for the last time."   

      Lila, I have this fear that if I were to stop thinking about you, you would die that second time, and I would be the one responsible for it. And I already feel responsible for the first time you died because I have something called survivor's guilt. I assumed that of all our friends, you'd be the one to come out on top. I assumed wrong, and now I'm paying for it. I still feel like I could have done more for you. Maybe a phone call could have been what saved you. And even if I couldn't have changed your mind, at least I could have tried distracting you to keep you alive for just one more day. You know, it was through Facebook that I found out what you had done. Crazy, right? It was the anniversary of when we first met and became friends, and I wanted to say hello. But do you know what posts I found on your wall?   These statements  from people that love you   —"I miss you!"    "I can't believe you're gone."   "Rest in peace."   "How could you do this to me?"  
     Well, Lila, how could you?  I’ll ask you again -how could you do this to me?
     The answer to that question is  fairly simple. You kept on trying to kill yourself, and eventually, you did.
But I don't think that's what your friends were aiming for in that question. I think they meant to call you out for being selfish.
Yet Lila, it has taken me  2-1/2 years later to realize that your suicide was hardly an act of selfishness.
If at all anything, you probably thought that your suicide was an act of selflessness. You probably told yourself  "no one needs me" or even "the world would be better off without me."
     And let's just suppose that there was someone in this situation who was selfish  —then it certainly would have to be that friend of yours or even me. We wanted to keep you alive in a world you thought made you suffer. And now that you're gone, we feel bad for ourselves because we're ridden with guilt that we couldn't do anything more to help you. We feel bad for ourselves because you didn't just shatter our hearts into little pieces -- you actually tried to take back one as though it were never there.
     But it doesn't work like that, Lila. No one can just leave the world without a trace by committing suicide. You can't just undo the impact you've made on someone else's life. Once you enter someone's life like you entered mine, once you share with someone the joys of friendship, and once you set the standard for what it means to love a friend like a sister, you can't tell yourself that "no one needs me" or "the world would be better off without me" because those statements would be lies.
     I know that in the grand scheme of things, my concerns for you would have amounted to little in that vast ocean of troubles you experienced, but here's a point to all this: if your being a part of my life has made me selfish to want you in my life, then I will, without hesitation, claim that selfishness as mine. It's proof to me that you made the world a more beautiful place while you were still here. It's proof to me that you are a friend worth wanting  —and needing   —in my life. Because now there exists for me no world without a Lila.
     You taught me the value of trust in a friendship. You taught me the value of love in a friendship.
     You've inspired me to be open with and embrace others.  You've inspired me try to be the friend to others that you were to me.  You could never undo the good that you've done in my life, Lila, no matter how hard you tried, in the same way you could never undo how much I still love and miss you.
                        Happy birthday, kiddo



       Called  -  Silent Killer

 It's often called the silent killer, and now it's taking the lives of nearly 40,000 Americans each year.  But, for many it’s still a taboo subject —don’t talk about it.

Yet, suicide is one of the leading causes of death and every 19-1/2  minutes there is one suicide in the U.S.  In fact, more people are likely to die of suicide now, than in car accidents. Some say there are many factors to consider when getting to the root of this problem.

"Suicide is complex and multi-faceted. There's also an increase in the risk factors that are associated with suicide, like substance abuse. There is a proven and significantly high rate of substance abuse and that coincides with suicide.

There are many programs across the United States that are dedicated to help spread the intervention and prevention of suicide. They are focused on getting the word out in schools about suicide deaths.

Everyone needs to know that there's hope and where to ask for help. There are many individuals out there who want to help stop, or at least lower the high rates of suicide.  Suicide is closely associated to treatable, metal health and substance abuse issues. 



myths-truth


          PUBLIC MYTHS ABOUT SUICIDE

People Often Commit Suicide Without Warning

 This myth is frequently perpetrated by reporters (e.g., the interviews with teachers and neighbors who say they are surprised that this boy would do such a thing). In fact, people who attempt and/or complete suicide generally have given multiple indications of distress.

 Sometimes a Minor Event Leads an Otherwise Normal Person To Commit Suicide

 This belief may be stated by friends and/or relatives of the suicide who may worry that something they said or did pushed the suicide "over the edge", and in sensational news reports of suicide (e.g., rock lyrics, role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons™). This view is not supported by research results. Generally, suicidal persons are likely to demonstrate long-term adjustment problems as well as certain maladaptive cognitive patterns, such as deficient problem-solving and coping skills, rigid thinking, and irrational beliefs.

 Only Psychotic People Commit Suicide

 This represents the other end of the continuum from the "rock lyric" suicide myth. This myth is that suicidal behavior is prima facie evidence of psychosis. While persons experiencing psychotic disorders may commit suicide, the majority of suicides involve individuals who do not demonstrate psychoses. However, there is considerable controversy over the extent to which "rational" suicide is possible.

 Their Situation Was Probably So Bad That Suicide Was the Best Solution

 This derives from a value judgement as to what makes life worth living. One often hears comments that suicide would be understandable or reasonable for patients with terminal illnesses. However, while the life circumstances of suicidal individuals are often bad, most people in similar circumstances do not attempt suicide. Some research suggests that patients with terminal illnesses are rarely suicidal and that those who do become suicidal tend to be clinically depressed as well. In contrast, the suicide rates for individuals with AIDS is many times higher than in the general population.

 People Who Threaten Suicide Don't Do It

 This is the "attention-seeking" myth. The notion is that people who are "serious" would proceed quietly with their suicide plans. While there is no data on the number of threateners who actually carry out their threats, several studies have shown that about two-thirds of suicides have expressed their intent before committing suicide.

 People Who Really Want To Die Will Find a Way; You Can't Stop Them

 It is probably not the case that most suicidal individuals "really want to die." Most suicidal people are ambivalent about suicide; at the same time as they wish to die, they hope someone will rescue them. Further, the impulse to commit suicide is usually acute and transient and will dissipate with or without treatment if delayed. Finally, post-mortem studies have demonstrated that the majority of suicides involved individuals who were experiencing depression, schizophrenia, and/or alcohol abuse at the time of their deaths. These are treatable problems and their amelioration almost always eliminates the impulse to commit suicide.

Don't Discuss Suicide with those that are Depressed; It Might Give Them the Idea or Push Them Over the Edge

 Suicide is rarely a new and surprising idea to depressed individuals. In most cases, it is a relief to have "permission" to talk about it. A more dangerous situation is where the individual feels that suicide is too "shameful" to mention which may result in increased feelings of isolation. Probably the worst thing which may come from a inquiry about suicidal thoughts is minor irritation. In the best case, it can lead the client to receiving the help she or he needs.

 The Overwhelming Majority of Suicides Are Among Minority Groups from Lower Socioeconomic Classes; Young People Are at Greatest Risk

 Anglos have suicide rates higher than African-Americans or Hispanics although recent trends are showing increasing rates for these latter groups. Lower suicide rates tend to occur in the middle ranges for socioeconomic class, with higher rates at the upper and lower ranges. Elderly individuals continue to be a greatest risk for suicide. However, the rate of suicide has increased for young people over the past 40 years, and is now about at the overall population rate.

Most Suicides Occur Around Thanksgiving and Christmas

 Of the six major U.S. holidays, Christmas and Thanksgiving are the least risky. The incidence of suicide is fairly consistent year around, although it is lowest in Winter and highest in Spring. The reasons for these seasonal variations have not been adequately explained. 


 


 



 

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"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



  
 End of Jan. 2015 Newsletter

- Scroll to bottom of this page for other Articles and a full list of Back Issues



 

 

October 2013

“ SHARING AND HEALING ”

           October  2013

A QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER
Written & Edited By  :  Al & Linda Vigil

ARTICLE INDEX
Pg 1 :  Grieving Notes - Al V.
Pg 2 :  Handling The Holidays   
Pg 4 :  Karen : An 11-year-old
Pg 6 :  Is Your Child At Risk    
Pg 7 :  Suicide of a Brother    
Pg 8 :  Suicide of a Sister
Pg 11 :  Adopted Child
Pg 12 : About ABQ SOS
Pg 12 : WEB Site Addresses

 

 

“ GRIEVING NOTES ”
By Al Vigil


You really aren’t going crazy; it just seems that way.

After the loss of someone you love to suicide —there can be so many things going on in our lives, all at the same time, that our minds and hearts can jump around.   

“I don’t know what to think about next,”  is often heard at Survivors of Suicide meetings. Of course, especially at the early stages of grief work, the mind really is a jumble.
Your thoughts and emotions are changing from moment to moment. You really aren’t going crazy ...it just seems that way.

It’s been 30 years since our daughter Mia, at the age of 18, jumped to her death from the San Diego-Coronado Bay bridge.  Of course life still brings things about which we again have to ask ourselves, what should I think about.  Usually our lives are not about only one event going on at once.
So we have to try to learn to how handle and control our thoughts in a healthy and —somewhat sane manner.

We try to practice the five letter word   —‘focus.’ We work to focus on one and only one, particular aspect of our thoughts. Focus on the one subject that is the most important and the most meaningful at the time, and maybe thus achieve the best solution possible to that particular event.

Focusing works. We have been doing it for years —before we even gave it our particular definition. At the beginning of our grief after Mia’s death, we focused on getting through a day at a time. Later it became getting through the Mia Memorial Service. After that it changed to the dedication of the Torrey Pine Tree in her name. Sometime after that, it was the focus of relationships with other members in our family, and later even friends.

When things come up that seem like another mountain, we remind ourselves of that five letter word. We approach all situations, we work to discuss all of the aspects, the positive ones and the negative ones, and we try to focus on what the main and special reasons for our involvement to it are or will be.

That helps clear our attitude, our hearts and our minds, as we approach the positive solution to that situation. Deliberate focus helps us to see things better, perhaps even to solve those problems.

Can you imagine the impossibility of the woodsman if he was told to clear the forest and he was unable to focus on one tree at a time. Grief work, and yes it is work, can sometimes be handled the same way.

As survivors of suicide loss, we can focus so that we can change, develop or enhance the life that is still around us —even after the loss of someone you love to suicide.



Handling the Holidays
By Therese Rando, Ph.D.

     One of the most painful issues for you to deal with is how to survive the holidays after the death of the person you love.  Because holidays are supposed to be family times, and because of the extraordinary, although unrealistic, expectation that you should feel close to everyone, this time of year can underscore the absence of your deceased loved one more than any other time.  The important thing to remember is that you and your family do have options about how to cope with the holidays.  These are a few things to keep in mind:

Oct-Dec      As much as you’d like to skip from October to January 2nd, this is impossible.  Therefore, it will be wise for you to take control of the situation by facing it squarely and planning for what you do and do not want to do to get through this time. Realize that the anticipation of pain at the holidays is always worse than the actual day.

      Recognize that what you decide for this year can be changed next year; you can move to something new or back to the old way.  Decide what is right for, you and your family now.  Don’t worry about all the other holidays to come in years ahead.  You will be at different places in your mourning and in your life then. Recognize, also, that your distress about the holidays is normal. It doesn’t make you a bad person.  Countless other bereaved people have felt, and do feel, as you do right now.

     Ask yourself and your loved ones to decide what is important for you to make your holidays meaningful and bearable.  Then, through compromise and negotiation, see if everyone can get a little of what he or she wants and needs give-and-take is important here.

     Do something symbolic.  Think about including rituals that can appropriately symbolize your memory of your loved one.  For example, a candle burning at Thanksgiving dinner, the hanging of a special Christmas ornament, or the planting of a tree on New Years Day may help you to mark the continued abstract presence of your deceased loved one while still celebrating the holiday with those you love who still survive.  Remembering your deceased loved one in this fashion can make an important statement to yourself and others. Recognize that the holidays are filled with unrealistic expectations for intimacy, closeness, relaxation, and joy for all people —not just for the bereaved.  Try not to buy into this for yourself —you already have enough to contend with.

     Be aware of the pressures, demands, depression, increased alcohol intake, and fatigue that comes with holidays. As a bereaved person you may feel these more than others.  Take time out to take care for yourself during this time.  You will need it even more.

     Re-evaluate family traditions.  Ask yourself and your surviving loved ones whether you need to carry them on this year or whether you should begin to develop some new ones. Perhaps you can alter your traditions slightly so that you can still have them to a certain extent but don’t have to highlight your loved one’s absence more than it already is.  For example, you may want to have Thanksgiving dinner at your children’s house instead of yours.  Or you might open presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning.

     Recognize that your loved one’s absence will cause pain no matter what you do.  This is only natural and right.  After all, you are mourning because you love and miss this person.  Try to mix this with your love for those you still have and your positive memories of the past.  “Bittersweet” is a good word to describe this. You can feel the sweetness of the holiday but also the bitterness of your loved one’s absence. Together they can give you a full, rich feeling, marked with love for those present and those gone whom you will never forget.

     Plan ahead for your shopping tasks. Make a list ahead of time. Then, if you have a good day, capitalize on it and do the shopping you can. Try to consolidate the stores you want to visit. If you have trouble with shopping right now, do your shopping by catalog or mail order, or ask friends to help you out.

     Tears and sadness do not have to ruin the entire holiday for you or for others.  In yourself have the cry you need and you will be surprised that you can go on again until the next time you need to release the tears.  Facing family holidays in your loved ones absence are normal mourning experiences and part of the healing process.  Let your tears and sadness come and go throughout the whole day if necessary.  The tears and emotions you do not express will be the ones which are destructive to you.

      Ask for what you want or need from others during the holidays. One bereaved mother said that, as appropriate, she wanted to hear Xmas Candlesher dead daughter mentioned. She knew everyone was thinking of her daughter and wanted them to share their thoughts. You may find yourself reminiscing about other holidays you shared with your deceased loved one.  This is normal.  Let the memories come.  Talk about them. This is part of mourning and doesn’t stop just because it is a holiday. In fact, the holidays usually intensify it.

     Having some fun at the holidays does not mean you don’t miss your loved one.  It is not a betrayal. You must give yourself permission to have fun when you can, just like you must give yourself permission to mourn when you have the need. You may have to let your limits be known to concerned others who are determined not to let you be sad or alone.  Let others know what you need and how they can best help you.  Don’t be forced into doing things you don’t want to do or don’t feel up to solely to keep others happy. Determine what and how much you need, and then inform others.

Discuss holiday tasks and responsibilities that must be attended to —for example, preparing the meals, doing the shopping, decorating the house.  Consider whether they should be continued, reassigned, shared, or eliminated.

     Break down your goals into small, manageable pieces that you can accomplish one at a time. Don’t overwhelm or over-commit yourself.  The holidays are stressful times for everyone, not just the bereaved, so you will need to take it slow and easy.  Look at your plans and ask what they indicate.  Are you doing what you want or are you placating others?  Are you isolating yourself from support or are you tapping into your resources?  Are you doing things that are meaningful or are you just doing things?

     Do something for someone else.  Although you may feel deprived because of the loss of your loved one, reaching out to another can bring you some measure of fulfillment.  For example, give a donation in your loved one’s name. Invite a guest to share your festivities.  Give food to a needy family for Thanksgiving dinner.



        — Karen  :  An 11-year-old   —
           Re-Printed from - Albuquerque  Journal - By Joline Gutierrez-Kruger :  Fri, Aug 23, 2013 :

Jennifer Hodge needs to tell you about her daughter, her quiet, sweet, beautiful, girl —the way she smiled, the way she did cartwheels across the living room floor, the way she seemed so much wiser, so much older, than her 11 years.

The way she died.  The way she waited for the family to go shopping at Wal-Mart, scratched out a note in pencil on loose-leaf paper, wrapped an orange extension cord around her neck in the garage of her family’s home in Albuquerque and jumped.

She left the note on the garage floor next to a card she made for her mom.  “I am sorry,” she wrote. “I love you and all of my family but I Karen Hodgedo not like this world. I’m sorry. Happy Mother’s Day.”  

And, yes, it was Mother’s Day, though Hodge doesn’t think her daughter Karen Ward chose that day in particular. It was, she thinks, the first time Karen had the chance.

“How many times did she say, ‘I’m going to do this’ and something stopped her at the last minute?”  Hodge wonders.

“This time, there was nothing to stop her.”

 No one to stop her.

But how do you stop something so unthinkable when you don’t know it’s there?  How do you fight the monster when it doesn’t show itself? How do you imagine a world so dark and hopeless that an 11-year-old takes herself out of it?

“I didn’t see that she was having problems,”  Hodge said.  “I didn’t see she was falling apart.”
Hodge’s longtime boyfriend, Randy Caudell, a kindergarten teacher, psychology student and a father figure to Karen, didn’t see it, either.  “This is my line of study,” he said.  “And no, nothing. The signs weren’t there, except maybe in hindsight.”

Which makes Karen’s death all the more painful. And frightening. It’s scary what a smile can hide.  Karen, her mother said, was a silly girl, brilliant and beautiful. She learned to read by age 2.  She was a fifth-grader at Hodgin Elementary, where she earned good grades – so good she was tested for the gifted program. She was a gymnast. She had blond hair and blue eyes like her idol, Taylor Swift, to whom she devoted an Instagram account.

She had friends. She loved her family. She was in good health. She had dreams. “She wanted to be a doctor,” her mother said. “A cardiac surgeon to fix her grandfather’s heart.”

Any changes in mood were barely perceptible and attributed to the onset of puberty.  Karen Ward was beautiful, smart and kind and gave no indication she would take her life at age 11.  

Her mother, Jennifer Hodge, says parents need to be nosier and society needs to speak openly about suicide. Weeks after Karen’s death, Hodge opened her daughter’s Kindle and was shocked to find a secret her daughter kept in an account on Instagram  —a photo-sharing website.

The account was listed under the name  IM-DYING-INSIDE123  and contained troubling images of despair, bullying, pain and Karen’s inner thigh and belly covered with thin, bloody slashes from a razor blade.   “I am a cutter,” Karen wrote in her profile.  “I’m ugly, fat and depressed. My life will end someday.”

It was not the Karen her mother knew. Hodge had never seen the self-mutilation, the blades, the anguish, the bleakness, the bullying. But Karen’s 191 Instagram followers and the 178 people she followed had.

Here was a horrifying subculture of joyless, broken youths who instead of commiserating seemed to coerce each other to use that one ounce of power they had over their lives, and that was to end them.

But what had brought Karen to such a desperate place? Hodge said she suspects Karen was bullied after reading a note from a school chum that read, in part:  “Karen,  …you may have had enemies and haters they will regret what they did to you.”

But Karen never said a word about bullies, Hodge said.  “I thought she was happy,” she said.

So this is also what Hodge needs to tell you: that parents must be aware that their child’s despair may come without the signs mental health experts warn about, silently, secretly blooming in the bowels of toxic social media sites, spreading like cancer.

“What I would say to parents is, be nosy,” Hodge said.  “Even if you think you are already monitoring their cellphones or their Kindles or their Facebooks or Instagrams or whatever, know that it may not be enough. Keep looking.”

Hodge and Caudell also advocate for teaching children early on the skills of resiliency and problem solving.  “We teach our kids math and science but not emotional intelligence,” Caudell said.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for those ages 15 to 24 and the sixth-leading cause for those ages 5 to 14, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

“We are seeing more and more adolescent and younger suicides,” said Al Vigil, who with wife, Linda, run Survivors of Suicide, a volunteer support group in Albuquerque founded in 1978.  “This is not an anomaly. Just in the last year, we started working with four families who have lost children who were 11 and 12.”

One of those families is Hodge’s.

Talking to others whose loved ones committed suicide has helped, Hodge said. And now, she thinks, it is time to talk to you, time to urge you to hear those young ones who may silently be screaming.  

“We need to talk about this to erase the stigma of suicide, to find solutions,”  Hodge said.  “We need our kids to feel they can talk about this, too.”



Child at Risk

Every week there is news of yet another teen who has tragically committed suicide.
Bullying is usually cited as the culprit, —experts say the problem is much more complicated.
Here are some reasons behind teen suicide, and if your child is at risk, and what you can do about it.

BEHIND  THE  STATISTICS
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death in kids ages 15 to 24.  Suicide attempts are on the rise, from 6.3 percent in 2009 to 7.8 percent in 2011.  Although it Child helpseems like teen suicide is happening frequently, experts say it’s quite rare that they actually see it in their practices.

According to Dr. Jonathan Singer, professor of social work at Temple University and an expert for the National Association of Social Workers, because kids die less frequently than older adults, there’s actually a small percentage that die from suicide.  What’s more, the ratio of attempted suicides to completed suicides in teens is about 100 to 200:1 versus 4:1 in older adults, according to the American Association of Suicidology.

IS  BULLYING  ALWAYS  THE  CAUSE?
A recent study in the Journal of Adolescent Health showed that kids who are bullied are three to five times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or make an attempt than those who are not.
Social media intensifies bullying too, following kids wherever they are and showcasing information for everyone to see. “It brings up significant feelings of rejection, low self-esteem, and hopelessness,” said Dr. E. Waterman, a clinical psychologist at Morningside Recovery Center in Newport Beach, Calif.
And to be rejected or perceive rejection can be very painful, “especially for teenagers whose biggest need in their lives is peer acceptance,” she said.  Experts agree, however, that bullying isn’t always the only cause.
“Almost no kids die simply because they were bullied,” said Singer, who explained that for 90 percent of kids who die by suicide, there was an emotional, behavioral or cognitive problem.  “There are almost always other factors.”  Though, there are very rare situations when kids commit suicide for no apparent reason, and many times, it’s in response to a humiliating event.
“Somebody who is bullied and has a lot of coping skills, support in their family and in other friends, is probably more resilient than somebody who doesn’t perceive others as being supportive or has low self-esteem, identity issues, or depressed mood,” Waterman said.

WHY  TEENS  COMMIT  SUICIDE
Kids who have a mental illness, are extremely hopeless, lack parental support or have conflict with their parents are more likely to make a suicide attempt.  A recent trauma or death, especially if someone they knew committed suicide,  extreme impulsivity or substance abuse are also risk factors. And studies show that when there’s a gun in the home, children are significantly more likely to commit suicide.


Before Its Too lateKNOW  THE  SIGNS
If you think your teen is at risk, here are some of the warning signs to look for:
     •   Talking about death or has expressed a wish to die.
     •    Written about death or drawn images related to death.
     •   Changes in mood.
     •    Impulsivity and risk-taking.  

If you’re worried about your teen -
STAY  CALM
“You want to offer a lot of empathy instead of reacting with fear and anger,” Waterman said.
SHOW  EMPATHY
“What for you as an adult,  is not a big deal, might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for your kid,” Singer said.  So ask questions, show that you understand, and find out what you can do to help your kid through it.
TALK   MORE
Opening the lines of communication is crucial.  “The more experiences that they have of their parents responding in loving, supportive, protective ways, the more likely it is that they’ll go to them when things are really bad,” Singer said.
BE  SUPPORTIVE
“Let them know you’re going to stick with them every minute until things get better,” said Waterman, who added that if you can’t be with your kid all the time, make sure someone else is there to offer support and keep them safe.
DON’T  OVER-PARENT
You might check your kid’s Facebook page, but if you demand 24/7 access to his or her online life, then your child won’t feel comfortable confiding in you because there is nothing to share, Singer said.
WORK  WITH  THE  SCHOOL
If your kid is being bullied, find out what the school’s policy is on bullying and make sure it’s an environment where your kid will be supported.
GET  HELP
If your kid is extremely hopeless and has an intent to die, a plan, or access to weapons,—seek treatment immediately.        

 



 

SUICIDE OF A BROTHER :  BREAKING THE SILENCE

"You  would say the word suicide and they would act like it's something contagious," said Amanda Chaput, who lost her brother to suicide.

These women call themselves a family born from tragedy. Each has lost someone they love to suicide.

"Gage was 21-years-old," said Mary Butler, who lost her stepson. "The year before he died he had been up here visiting us... We thought he was doing well."

Yellow ribbon brotherAfter Gage killed himself, his stepmom discovered there weren't many resources in the Northeast Kingdom to help her deal with his death. Searching for an outlet, Butler channeled her grief into action, organizing Newport's first  Awareness Walk through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  254 registered walkers showed up.

"We felt like we had a lot of people who were in this club that no one wants to belong to," Butler said.

The walk is how she met the Chaputs and Barretts. Together these three families formed an informal support group, sharing their stories in an effort to heal.

"To be honest, without these people I don't think there would be any healing," Amanda said.

"It's hard work to keep your head above water," Betty Barrett said.

Barrett's son, Michael, took his life nine years ago. He was 34. "I was angry at God for a long time because he didn't give me enough time with my son," Barrett said.

"I wish I could do more." said Chris Barrett, Michael's stepfather.

Betty turned suicidal herself and her husband, Chris, didn't know how to help. "There was a battle in my head going on because I didn't understand and I was trying. I'd fight to understand, fight to be supportive," he said.

The Barretts are not alone. Vermont's suicide rate surpasses the national average by about 36 percent. Since 2001, more than 1,000 Vermonters have taken their own lives. One in five Vermont middle and high school kids say they've contemplated suicide. Now, these survivors, turned-advocates are sticking together to strip the stigma from suicide.

"Mental illness or depression is not different than a physical illness. Even though the world often says there's a stigma, there's nothing to be embarrassed about," Butler said.

The Vermont Department of Mental Health is also addressing the issue, calling suicide one of the state's most pressing public health concerns.

"It's the second leading cause of youths' deaths. That's really startling when you think of it," said Charlie Biss of the Vermont Department of Mental Health.

The state partnered with a Brattleboro group called the Center for Health and Learning. Through a federal grant they developed the UMatter campaign, an interactive suicide prevention platform geared toward suicidal youth and those trying to help. The state says outreach tools like these combined with the advocacy work of survivors will make a difference.

"That is what's going to change our state view and the public awareness of suicide. That's what's going to help," Biss said.

For these Newport parents, focusing on September’s  "Out of the Darkness Walk" helps them cope.

"With Michael's anniversary being September 30, usually in August I start subconsciously thinking about it," Betty Barrett said. "So, I was down last year. This year I'm highly pumped. I am just so excited about the walk."

"Everybody has a good sense of humor and it helps keep things light and if somebody's down, people are getting hugs," Chris Barrett said.

Loved ones taking small steps, hoping to make major strides toward suicide prevention.


Suicide of A Sister :  Breaking the Silence

Arianne Brown remembers a time when she thought suicide was something that only touched other people.  That was before Nov. 5, 2006, when Brown's older sister, Megan, went down into her parent's basement and committed suicide.

Yellow ribbon sister"It's been almost seven years, but it still feels fresh," she said. "You think, 'She knew we loved her and that we cared. Why wasn't that enough? … I know if my sister knew what it was like for us after, she wouldn't have done it."

Suicide impacts Utah families every year and the problem is growing worse. In 2005, the Utah Department of Health reported 350 suicides. Preliminary data from 2012 places that number at 540 for Utah residents and the trend has continued through the first quarter of 2013.

The number comes as no surprise to Utah's Chief Medical Examiner Todd Grey. "How many days do I have without a suicide? I'm thinking, maybe, zero most days?" Grey said. "I've had days where I've had five deaths downstairs and all of them were suicides."

But that doesn't mean everyone is talking about it.

"That's one of those dirty little secrets that doesn't get waved around, and every family goes through it as if they're alone," Grey said. "It's really sad. If there was a running tally in the paper you could bet by March people would say, 'Why aren't we doing something about this? And by November there would be an awful lot of people screaming that this is unacceptable."

He's the first to say it's a complex issue, made worse by one of its biggest obstacles: Stigma. "There's certainly a reluctance, at best, to discuss this issue publicly and widely," Grey said. "One of the very common responses I'll get from families is saying, 'You can't call this a suicide.'"

It's a stigma that becomes part of the memory of the suicide victim and with the family members left behind.

"And when you have that kind of reluctance to look at the issue, to admit that it exists, how are you ever going to try and solve this problem?" Grey said.

Brown said it was difficult to explain that her sister had taken her own life and that the news was often received with more judgment, and less compassion.

"Sometimes, too, you feel self-conscious. What did we do wrong? What's wrong with our family?"

Her sister Megan Einfeldt was quiet, but loyal, a beautiful, educated and talented woman who was a devoted mother to her three children. She was 26 years old when she moved to her parent's home in Utah with her three young children, Brown said. Her family had noticed a change in Einfeldt before she moved home, but felt something was really wrong when they saw her. She had lost weight and was rarely speaking. She seemed to lack confidence and was almost childish. She questioned herself as a mother and sister.

"You're kind of like, 'OK, snap out of it,'" Brown recalled. You're trying to build them up: 'You are beautiful, you are good, you are all these things.' And they don't believe you."  It never occurred to her that her sister might take her own life. She said it seemed like a worst-case scenario and that she didn't let herself go there.

"You know they're sad, different, that something is going on, but you think they're going to snap out of it," Brown said.  The night before the suicide, Brown talked to Einfeldt on the phone and her sister apologized for things Brown didn't even remember happening. Her brother said he had a similar conversation.

"We didn't put things together that she was trying to make things right, but she didn't need to," Brown said. "She was as perfect as they came."

Greg Hudnall, associate superintendent with Provo School District and executive director of the Utah County Hope Task Force, remembers the phone call he received from police asking him to identify the body of a student believed to have committed suicide. He went and made the identification. Then came the vomiting and then the sobbing. He started to investigate suicide in Utah and decided to organize a lunch to discuss suicide prevention. He called therapists, law enforcement, medical professionals, community leaders.

"I sent out 40 invitations and 42 people showed up," Hudnall recalled. "They were as concerned as I was, because everyone was being effected by suicide.”  “It takes a lot of work and a lot of effort and you have to have individuals who become Suicide Preventionpassionate about it," Hudnall said. "We have stayed true to it because we feel so strongly about it. We've made a commitment that we can't lose one more child and we have to do what we can to prevent that."

Between 1999 and 2005, Hudnall said the Provo School District averaged one to two suicides each year. Since 2005, there has not been a single suicide within the school system.

"We still have kids that threaten and still have kids that attempt and we get them immediate help and get them to the hospital," Hudnall said, noting there have been nine hospitalizations during the 2012-2013 school year and 15 to 20 suicide threats.  "We take every suicide threat seriously. We act immediately, contact the family and work with Intermountain Health Care to get them help and support."

He thinks the key to their success so far is the teamwork and partnership among those on the task force and in the community. But it's also the refusal to forget about the constant threat of suicide and commitment to keeping it as a focus. Hudnall does training for Boy Scout leaders, has conducted training at LDS Churches and for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.

"On the one hand, I go to sleep at night worrying about that next child," Hudnall said. "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't get a phone call from someone begging for help. But I'm also so amazed at what we've accomplished."

Providing information and support on suicide prevention to community coalitions is the goal of Kimberly Myers, who is the program manager of Prevention by Design for the National Alliance on Mental Illness — Utah. She said 90 percent of those who commit suicide have an underlying mental illness and that the data on suicide demanded action.

She is charged with going to local communities and educating them about resources in the area and helping them expand their prevention efforts. She usually starts by showing them the state data on suicide and how that is mirrored in their own communities.

"I would say that when communities sit down and look at the data, they're really surprised," Myers said. "And, for the most part, people aren't aware of how big of an issue it is." She, like Hudnall, talked about the importance of groups and individuals uniting and working together to tackle the issue. But there is also a responsibility for individuals to educate themselves to know how to help.

"I think that one of the most important things that people need to know and can take with them is that if you are worried about someone or if someone is showing warning signs of suicide, it's OK to talk to them about it," Myers said. “It's OK to ask.”

"There's a lot of fear about asking if someone is thinking of taking their own lives, because you don't want to plant ideas, but research shows that talking about it is good and saves lives. We have good crisis lines. Don't be afraid to ask. There's no research that says you're going to hurt anyone by asking."

She stressed the importance of be willing to talk with someone struggling with thoughts of suicide without judgment and with empathy.

"That's a really dark place to be and it's usually not because they want their life to be over, but because they want pain to end," Myers said. Usually, people who have suicidal thoughts and suicidal feelings, they’re not permanent. "They feel permanent  ...but suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

"We think that if we're strong, we can deal with it on our own, but strong people ask for help when they need help."   He said treatment for thoughts of suicide is effective if help is sought and that suicidal thoughts should be treated the same way any other ailment would be treated. Each individual should take care of their own mental health the way they would their physical health.

"There’s a sense that, 'Well this couldn’t happen to me or my family' and the reality is, we all probably know someone who has either been suicidal or has attempted suicide," Thomas said.   "It’s a delicate topic because we feel strongly about ... the sanctity of life and we want people to pull themselves up by their boot straps, but you wouldn't say that if their blood sugar was low and they had diabetes."



From Dear AbbyDear Abby

Adopted Kids Are Products of Love


While cleaning out my attic yesterday, I found a letter that my daughter wrote to  you a few years ago when she was 13. She was responding to a poem that had appeared in your column, “Legacy of an Adopted Child.” She was going through a very trying time ans was being bullied because she was adopted and looked at very different from her parents. My daughter is grown now and is a delightful, successful young woman. That poem helped her greatly.

“LEGACY OF AN ADOPTED CHILD”
- Author Unknown -
Once there were two women,
Who never knew each other.
One you do not remember,
The other you call mother.
Two different lives,
Shaped to make yours one.
One became your guiding star,
The other became your sun.
The first gave you life,
and the second taught you how to live it.
The first gave you a need for love,
and the second was there to give it.
One gave you a nationality,
and the other gave you a name.
One gave you the seed of talent,
and the other gave you aim.
One gave you emotions,
and the other calmed you fears.
One saw your first sweet smile,
The other dried your tears.
One gave you up —
It was all that she could do,
The other prayed for a child,
And God led her straight to you.
And now you ask me,
Through your tears,
The age old question.
Heredity or environment ?
Which are you the product of ?
Neither,  my darling —neither.
Just two different kinds of love.



About Albuquerque’s Survivors of Suicide :

Founded in 1978 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Survivors of Suicide, is a volunteer support group that serves the needs of people suffering the loss of someone they love by suicide.

With Four Meetings Every Month, that are free and open to all, SOS hosts presentations and discussions relevant to survivors of suicide throughout the Albuquerque area.

SOS 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.

Survivors of Suicide Inc., is a nonprofit, nonsectarian, self-help support group system for those who have lost a relative or friend through suicide. The Survivors of Suicide volunteers 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 grieving. 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.

"Know That You Are Not Alone - Sharing Can Be Healing"





Visit the Albuquerque SOS Web Site for Albuquerque, NM, Meeting Information at

www.sosabq.org



InternetVisit the Newsletter Web Site for the Entire Archive of past Issues at

www.sharingnhealing.org



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July 2013

SHARING AND HEALING ”  JULY  2013

               A QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER
          Written & Edited By  :  Al & Linda Vigil


ARTICLE INDEX
Pg 1 :  Grieving Notes - Linda V.
Pg 2 :  Suicide Prevention: 'Checking In'
Pg 4 :  That’s Men
Pg 6 :  Bullying for 17 Year Old
Pg 7 :  Lithium Reduces Suicide Risk
Pg 8 :  Prevention Signs on Bridge
Pg 9 :  Veteran’s Struggle With Suicide
Pg 11 : Apple’s “Suri”  -A Search Assistant
Pg 12 : Site Addresses  


                     “GRIEVING NOTES”
                                 By Linda Vigil
                             "Families In Grief"mia tree

Our lives as a family were Forever Changed, on January 5, 1984, when our 18year old daughter Mia, chose to end her life by suicide.
 
Our family received professional counseling and attended Survivors of Suicide
meetings that met once a month.
 
My oldest daughter also attended counseling and Survivors of Suicide meeting for about 6 months.  Our youngest daughter attended for approximately one year.  Through that 1st year SOS seemed to become a mission for Al and I.  Mia gave us the strength and courage to begin to help others.  We also became a voice for suicidal prevention and support to the many people left behind after the loss of someone they love to suicide.
 
Our oldest daughter began running from her pain. She stopped going to meetings and counseling —sharing with us that it was just to painful!  She soon started trying to mask her pain?  And our youngest daughter continued to be very angry at Mia.
 
Al and I continued to seek help for our family, and so we could be healthy enough to help others.  In reflection, I wanted us all to be safe, close, and enjoy life as a family.
What I didn’t realize is that we could not go back to where we were, before this terrible tragedy struck our family, extended family and our friends. More than not being able to go back, I soon found out that I could not control Al’s grief, or each of my daughter’s grief recovery!  I wanted so badly to take their pain away, even when my pain was devastating!  What I soon found out was that every family member has their own way and time with their grief recovery!
 
Sometimes people carry their anger and grief into relationships, blaming others for their pain, or not feeling that they deserve happiness, so they try to destroy with self destruction.  Some mask their pain and neglect getting help.  Some have to hit bottom with their addictions, drinking, drugs, and abusive relationships —anything to cover their pain.  Believe me when I say that the pain is so deep, you wonder how you can feel such pain and still be alive!
 
I have seen people after years of unending pain, reach out for help because what they used to try to cover the pain, no longer worked for them.  Finally realizing they had to Face, to Feel, and to Deal, with their pain, so they could be healthy, happy, and make good choices for their lives!
 
In Survivors of Suicide meetings I have come to realize that no matter how much you love someone, you are not responsible for their happiness, their well being, or their choices.  You may want those things for your loved one, but it is their journey, and they are responsible for their happiness and well being!
 
Al and I chose to be happy —and part of our happiness is helping grieving people, letting them know that happiness is a choice —and when they walk through the door of their first SOS meeting, they are telling Al and I, somehow, somewhere, they want to find meaning in their lives, in the midst of their tragedy and the deepest pain they will ever feel.
 
I describe the tragedy of suicide for the people left behind, as the worst roller-coaster ride they will ever be on.  But the hardest thing they have ever done is walk through our doors!  One of the most positive things we have ever done is to choose to work with such positive people and observe how very hard they work at putting meaning back into their lives!   

                            "Know That You Are Not Alone - Sharing Can Be Healing"



Suicide Prevention:  'Checking In' Can Cut Deaths in Half
                             By SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES

A preliminary study of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reveals that follow-up calls to those who threaten suicide can cut deaths in half.  ABCNews has been exploring not only what motivates people to kill themselves, but highlights those who survive suicide attempts, witness them or work to prevent them. Suicide is never painless. It not only robs family members of loved ones, but affects all of American society when otherwise productive individuals see no worth to their lives.

A federal study shows, 8.3 million Americans —3.7 percent of all adults —have serious thoughts of suicide each year; 2.3 million make a plan and 1.1 million attempt suicide, resulting in an estimated 37,000 suicide deaths each year.  In some ways, that's the good news, according to John Draper, director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Most who consider suicide do not follow through. "People with the highest probability of killing themselves have tried before," he said. "The data shows about 7 percent who try to kill themselves will later die by suicide."

"The important thing is that 93 percent go on to live their lives," he said. "It's saying that even though this is a high-risk scenario, the overwhelming majority are doing OK, or better, and find ways to turn it around. How do they do that?"

Acts as simple as "checking in" with someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression can be an effective deterrent to suicide, according to Draper. Early research shows that follow-up calls to those who have contacted the suicide lifeline can cut deaths in half.  "First and foremost is the sense of meaningful connection in life," Draper said. "Someone or somebody who makes them feel they are cared about."

Suicide hotline boxes on the structures proved to be a failure, so an advocacy group pushed Washington state to erect barriers last year, and now the number of suicides has dropped. "We are very aware of how hotlines can prevent suicide and emotional distress, but there is a limitation on every intervention," said Draper. "You can't apply the same medical procedure for every problem."

According to Dr. Joseph Shrand, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who treats at-risk youth at the CASTLE program in Boston, barriers cannot address all the causes of suicide. In an interview this week, he said barriers are a "metaphor."  "It is really quite stunning to try to put up a structure to prevent suicide," he said. "The real barriers to people not getting help has to do with the entire stigma of mental illness — treating people as if they have a deviation and must pull themselves up by the bootstraps instead of a tie around their neck."

His novel approach, is based on a simple theory that, "It all starts with respect."  The underlying sense of trust and caring are at the root of other interventions that show promise, according to John Draper.

From a biological standpoint, suicidal tendencies can be seen as a coping mechanism to external influences, or domains  —family, social groups, environmental influences, as well as a person's own biology  —over which people have no control.  "It is always remarkable that people are not doing worse," Shrand said.

Preliminary research from a  team at Columbia University and NY State's Psychiatric Institute shows that follow-up calls with consenting Lifeline callers at suicide risk can help keep them safe. More than half of the persons at risk who were contacted after suicide threats reported that the calls "kept them from killing themselves," according to the study.

"Our results highlight the role that crisis centers can play to enhance the continuity of care for individuals at risk of suicide," said author Madelyn S. Gould, deputy director of the Research Training Program in Child Psychiatry at Columbia University. "Crisis centers are well-positioned to provide this service to their own callers and patients discharged from emergency rooms," she said.

Draper added that post cards, phone calls and personal visits to those who are suffering from depression can help. "Check in with individuals who are trying to hurt themselves and ask, 'How are you doing? I'm still thinking of you.' "  He cited research in New Zealand that shows such communications from hospital emergency departments reduced suicide attempts "by 50 percent."

Beyond showing those who are troubled that they are valued, Draper said providing counseling and guidance is critical to recovery —"teaching them skills to manage their thoughts and feelings." Availability of lethal weapons can also make the difference between life and death. Substance abuse also "clouds" a person's ability to make good decisions.  "A person feels they are never going to recoup their sense of dignity, never hold their head up, or a loss in life that they will never recover from and imagine an unending future that is hopeless," he said.

"There is a difference between a person who is in crisis or has a precipitating event as opposed to people who are chronically depressed," said Draper. "A lot of people exposed to trauma or a history of mental illness or have not learned how to manage their emotions." Those who are bipolar or have schizophrenia are often predisposed to suicidal thoughts. In those cases, cognitive behavioral therapy in conjunction with medication have shown to be effective.

"We can get them to a place where they see hope," said Draper. "It can be the difference between rolling a boulder or kicking a pebble up the hill."

The Following Are Some Signs That Might Indicate the Risk of a Suicide Attempt

✓   Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves;
✓   Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun;
✓   Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live;
✓   Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain;
✓   Talking about being a burden to others;
✓   Increasing their use of alcohol or drugs;
✓   Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly;
✓   Sleeping too little or too much;
✓   Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
✓   Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
✓   Displaying extreme mood swings.        



That’s Men: Suicide a Sad and Lonely Act
- That Can Have Many Explanations or None at All -  
                                  By Padraig O'Morain   -  June, 2013

I have been hearing about more and more cases of suicide lately. Some are related to the recession, some to more traditional triggers such as depression and some have come out of the blue.

One of the conclusions I have come to is that it is impossible to make any statement about suicide that holds true for all cases. For instance, some people seem to withdraw before they take their lives but others have been fully engaged with friends and family before the dreadful event.

It seems to me that the only statements we can make about suicide begin with the word  “sometimes.”

HERE IS MY ‘Sometimes’  LIST:

Sometimes suicide is impulsive. We can be fairly sure of this from US research showing that sometimes the decision and the act of suicide are separated by minutes, not hours.  This, of course, is exacerbated by the gun culture in the US, but here in Ireland we sometimes hear of people taking their lives apparently impulsively.  This, it seems to me, is one of the most frightening aspects of suicide.

Sometimes people who die by suicide are ambivalent about taking their lives. Why else do people (thankfully) ring up helplines before they act? And why have many people interrupted in the act gone on to live full lives?

Sometimes suicide is completely inexplicable. We hear of these suicides all the time: people who have everything going for them, who seem to be in fine form and who go and take their lives to the utter dismay of all around them. I suspect a concealed depression or despair in many of these cases but I cannot know.

Sometimes suicide is motivated by shame. This has been suggested (by a psychiatrist who treated army veterans) as an explanation for the shocking levels of suicide among US veterans. But I suspect this is also at work in some of the suicides that arose from our own economic catastrophe.

Sometimes suicide seems the only way out. What seems to happen here is that a person gradually rejects every solution to their problems except suicide. The conclusion that suicide is the only way out is irrational. This is obvious to outsiders but not to the person who is trapped in this blinkered thinking.

Sometimes people who take their own lives also have a longing for life. This also is why many people heading towards suicide will, nonetheless, engage with counsellors, helplines and relatives or friends. It is also why acknowledging people’s suicidal intentions, by explicitly asking them if they are suicidal, can be very helpful and effective.

Sometimes people just can’t face what the future holds. I suspect this is often behind the suicide of older people afflicted by bereavement, loneliness or pain.

Sometimes suicide is meticulously planned. Many people think about suicide but it is those who actively plan their suicide who are at huge risk. That is why it is a good idea to ask a person who is talking about suicide if they have made plans. If the answer is ‘Yes’, the situation is very serious.

Sometimes suicide spreads like a virus. We have all heard of clusters of suicide that were never reported in the media. It is truly frightening that knowledge of the suicide of others whom one has never met, in some cases, can lead to the taking of one’s own life.

Sometimes  the culture increases the likelihood of suicide. Is it a coincidence that suicide has risen as concepts such as solidarity and community have been pushed back by rampant individualism, for example, I’m alright Jack, I’ve got my iPod here to connect with and I don’t need you? What does the traveler culture, especially the taboo on admitting to and discussing mental health problems, contribute to the high rate of suicide in that culture?

What is the use of all this? Perhaps if we are to get to grips with suicide, we need to acknowledge that this sad and lonely act can have many explanations.

And,  sometimes  no explanation at all.



Bulling For 17-year-old :  Even After Death

            Teen, 17, Who Committed Suicide Tormented by Bully Even after Death
                                                 By Sasha Goldstein / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS   June 26, 2013

Gregory Spring suffered from Tourette syndrome, Callosum Dysgenesis, a developmental disorder, and constant bullying —even on his obituary condolence page.

Even death couldn't spare Gregory Spring a bully's torment.

Driven to take his own life by years of constant teasing, the 17-year-old's obituary condolence page was hijacked by a mean-spirited peer who couldn't resist getting in one last jab.

"HAHAHAHAHAHA HE DIED!!!!!   I HOPE HE IS IN HELLLLLLL,"  the sick student wrote.

For Spring's mother, Keri, it was the ultimate insult after six years of incessant bullying that ended in such terrible tragedy. The New York teen suffered from Tourette syndrome, a developmental disorder that affected how he processed information and emotions.

This mean-spirited comment reminds Greg's mother, Keri, that her son was constantly tormented.

"He was just a very compassionate, very loving, very emotional person that just wanted to be accepted," Keri told a TV reporter.  "He was just distraught but never showed it to us," she added.

Though the bullying started in fourth grade, it reached its peak this year for the Allegany teen. Greg had recently broken up with his girlfriend and, worse still, was tormented by a new student who relentlessly teased Greg at the Allegany-Limestone School. That fraught schoolhouse relationship culminated in a fight that led to Greg's temporary suspension from the Western New York school.

Keri Spring wants schools to prevent future teen suicides by confronting bullying head-on. "There came an incident where Greg actually picked him up and said, 'Stop bullying, bullying isn't good. Bullying is only going to hurt people,'" Keri said.

Greg was just finishing his sophomore year of high school when he killed himself on June 17, 2013.Keri says she contacted the school several times about bullying, warning them that Greg's classmates were making life difficult for him.  The superintendent at Allegany-Limestone School said  'the untimely loss of this student's life may be attributed to a factor or factors altogether unrelated to bullying.'  The school has an anti-bullying policy, and in a statement, the school's superintendent said Greg had not been bullied.

"Based on information received from the police, the untimely loss of this student's life may be attributed to a factor or factors altogether unrelated to bullying," Superintendent Karen Geelan wrote.

But Keri disagrees.  The fact that someone so twisted would taunt Greg even in death is proof enough the teen was tormented.  She's hoping now she can advocate for stricter rules or legislation that would prevent such a suicide in the future.

"When a bully is brought to your attention, it need to be hit head-on and stopped immediately," Keri said.


/ Can Reduce Suicide Risk In People With Mood Disorders
               Edited from articles - June 2013 “Medical News Today” and “MedPage Today”

Mood disorders are a major cause of global disability -the two main types are unipolar, which is commonly known as clinical depression, and bipolar disorder, which can also be called manic depression.  Both conditions are severe and long-term and involve extreme mood swings.  Patients with bipolar disorder, however, also experience episodes of mania or hypomania.

Lithium can reduce suicide risk and help prevent deliberate self harm in people with mood disorders, according a new study in British Medical Journal.  "Lithium is the best established drug for the treatment of bipolar disorder and it is the only one whose primary indication is bipolar disorder," he said.  "So we need to find out exactly what it does and how it works.  This should be a target of new drug development."

The research showed that the drug appeared to lower the likelihood of death and suicide by over 60% compared with placebo.  The finding "reinforces lithium as an effective agent to reduce the risk of suicide in people with mood disorders," the scientists said.  Lithium has a specific effect in preventing suicide, but not self harm, in patients with major mood disorders, according to an updated systematic review and meta-analysis.

People affected by a mood disorder have a 30 times higher likelihood of suicide than the general population.  Mood stabilizing drugs, such as lithium, anticonvulsants or antipsychotics, used for the treatment of these conditions can help keep mood within normal limits.

However, experts have not known their role in suicide prevention, and therefore, researchers from the universities of Oxford, UK and Verona, Italy set out to examine whether lithium has a particular preventive effect for suicide and self harm in patients with unipolar and bipolar mood disorders.

Forty-eight randomized controlled trials consisting of 6,674 volunteers were examined.  The studies compared lithium with either placebo or active drugs in long-term treatment for mood disorders.  Results showed that lithium was more successful than placebo in lowering the number of suicides and deaths from any cause.

However, no clear benefits were found for lithium in preventing deliberate self harm compared with placebo.  The experts said:  "When lithium was compared with each active individual treatment, a statistically significant difference was found only with carbamazepine for deliberate self harm.  Overall, lithium tended to be generally better than the other active treatments, with small statistical variation between the results."

"This updated systematic review reinforces lithium as an effective agent to reduce the risk of suicide in people with mood disorders," explained the investigators.

The drug's anti-suicidal effects may be exerted by "reducing relapse of mood disorder," the authors said.  However, they pointed out "there is some evidence that lithium decreases aggression and possibly impulsivity, which might be another mechanism mediating the anti-suicidal effect."

Lithium has many side effects, the scientists pointed out. However, doctors "need to take a balanced view of the likely benefits and harm of lithium in the individual patient."   The authors concluded: "Understanding the mechanism by which lithium acts to decrease suicidal behavior could lead to a better understanding of the neurobiology of suicide."

The updated analysis offers some of the strongest evidence yet that lithium has a specific role in preventing suicides among patients with mood disorders.  However, he cautioned that "this is a fairly toxic drug, and it takes a good deal of compliance to stay on it."





Suicide Prevention Signs to Be Erected on Pasadena Bridge
                                                         By Joe Piasecki  

Two hundred thirty people have taken their lives at Seattle's Aurora Bridge, making it the second-deadliest "suicide bridge" in the United States, behind the Golden Gate Bridge. In 2006, a record nine people jumped to their deaths. Some studies, including those by the national Lifeline show that iconic bridges and other physical structures draw those with suicidal impulses, but if barriers are in place, many deaths can be prevented.

Pasadena, California officials plan to install signs, similar to the one on the left, along the Colorado Street Bridge in an effort to curb suicides.

Hoping to dissuade despondent people from leaping to their deaths from the Colorado Street Bridge, Pasadena officials plan to install signs that encourage those considering suicide to instead call for help.

City workers will install two 12-by-18-inch metal signs at each end of the century-old bridge sometime over the next two months, Assistant City Manager Steve Mermell said. The signs will include the number of a suicide prevention hotline.

“If we can save even one life with one reasonable step we can take, we should,” said Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison, one for four elected city leaders to endorse the signs during a public meeting last week.

More than 100 people have taken their lives by jumping from the Colorado Street Bridge, which at its highest point rises to 148.5 feet. Since 2006, 13 people have jumped to their deaths from the bridge, including two women this year, Pasadena Police Chief Philip Sanchez said. Officials considered hanging wire nets beneath the bridge as early as 1929. But it wasn’t until 1937 — when a distraught woman took her 3-year-old daughter with her in a deadly plunge over the side — that officials finally took action.

The girl survived without serious injury, her fall broken by tree branches in the Arroyo Seco below.

The bridge got a 7 1/2-foot woven-steel fence topped with barbed wire, which was replaced by a different barrier in the 1950s before the current wrought-iron fence went up during a seismic renovation 20 years ago.

Even today, city officials sought support from local preservationists before publicly discussing the suicide prevention signs.  Officials said the project was inspired by similar signs installed at emergency phones along the Golden Gate Bridge in 2005.  But signs alone are not enough to stop all who are bent on self-destruction, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Medical Director Paula Clayton said.

“It’s clearly better than nothing, but there’s no evidence that putting up signs changes the rate of suicide from a bridge. The only effective stoppage, really, is putting up barriers that people cannot get over,” she said.

Sanchez said the signs are “one piece of a very complex solution to addressing suicide” that must include expanded public mental health services.

Councilwoman Jacque Robinson, an initial advocate for the signs whose older sister died by suicide 16 years ago, said the city must balance preserving history and public safety.

“Hopefully, this is the beginning and not the end of that discussion,” Robinson said.

 

 

 


 


 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 


 

 


 

 

 




  

VETERANS' STRUGGLE WITH SUICIDE    :   By Steven Hurst / Associated Press  / June 2013

Five years ago, Joe Miller, then an Army Ranger captain with three Iraq tours under his belt, sat inside his home near Fort Bragg holding a cocked Beretta 40mm, and prepared to kill himself.

He didn’t pull the trigger. So Miller’s name wasn’t added to the list of active-duty U.S. military men and women who have committed suicide.  That tally reached 350 last year, a record pace of nearly one a day.  That’s more than the 295 American troops who were killed in Afghanistan in the same year.

‘‘I didn’t see any hope for me at the time.  Everything kind of fell apart,’’ Miller said.  ‘‘Helplessness, worthlessness.  I had been having really serious panic attacks.  I had been hospitalized for a while.’’  He said he pulled back at the last minute when he recalled how he had battled the enemy in Iraq, and decided he would fight his own depression and post-traumatic stress.

The U.S. military and the Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledge the grave difficulties facing active-duty and former members of the armed services who have been caught up in the more-than decade-long American involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The system struggles to prevent suicides among troops and veterans because potential victims often don’t seek counseling given the stigma still associated by many with mental illnesses or the deeply personal nature —a failed romantic relationship, for example —of a problem that often precedes suicide.  Experts also cite illicit drug use, alcohol and financial woes.

The number of suicides is nearly double that of a decade ago when the United States was just a year into the Afghan war and hadn’t yet invaded Iraq.  While the pace is down slightly this year, it remains worryingly high.
The military says about 22 veterans kill themselves every day and a beefed up and more responsive VA could help.  But how to tackle the spiking suicide number among active-duty troops, which is tracking a similar growth in suicide numbers in the general population, remains in question.  The big increase in suicides among the baby boomer population especially  —linked by many to the recent recession  —actually began a decade before the 2008 financial meltdown.

Jason Hansman, of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, says the problem among military men and women stems from a support system that falls far short of the needs of a military and its veterans.  ‘‘One of the big problems now is that we are trying to play catch-up on 10-plus years of war.  People have gone back and forth seven, eight, nine times. And now you have a force that is stretched to its limit,’’ Hansman said.

‘‘It’s not just people who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan who are killing themselves.  About 50 percent are people who've never deployed before.  So there’s this broader issue going on in the military.  Are there even the health services in the military to take care of the troops who have deployed, who have no first-hand knowledge of war and trauma?’’

Miller had plenty of first-hand experience.  ‘‘I was really good at combat.  I was really good at that job. It was when I was in the States that I had a problem,’’ he said from his home in Old Town, Maine, where he and his second wife are working toward doctorates in history at the University of Maine.

He said symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome began building as did the effects of a number of concussions that caused mild traumatic brain injury. He had gone through elite Ranger training twice and became a jump-master in the 82nd Airborne. He ignored his symptoms because he didn’t want to leave combat and his job as a platoon leader. When he finally sought help from the military during his last rotation in the United States, he found what he said was a ‘‘19th century’’ attitude.

‘‘I remember a psychologist telling me ‘officers don’t get PTSD.’ It was a real affront.’’

A few days after he nearly killed himself on July 3, 2008, Miller mustered out of the service and resumed treatment for PTSD at a VA facility in Richmond, Virginia. The treatment was helpful but his feelings about the VA are ‘‘really mixed.  My take is they are a bunch of really well-meaning people.  I don’t know that it’s resourced for the tasks.’’ Also huge numbers of veterans —a tiny portion of the larger population —live in small towns, far from the cities where veteran services are available.

The American public, largely untouched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because an all-volunteer military did the fighting, is gradually becoming aware of the problems faced by active-duty troops and military veterans.  Now, some in Congress and President Barack Obama, are trying to improve on the country’s ability to take care of those who have signed up to fight.

None of that, however, undoes the anguish of such people as Ashley Whisler, whose brother Kyle killed himself Oct. 24, 2010.  He had been driving convoys of supplies to U.S. troops from Kuwait shortly after the American invasion in 2003.  He hanged himself in his home in Brandon, Florida, seven years after leaving the military.  He had returned to his family in Michigan then moved to Florida, married and had a daughter.  He and his wife separated before reconciling.  He worked in a tattoo parlor, tended bar and began showing increasing signs of PTSD. He hanged himself while his wife and daughter slept.

Ashley Whisler said her brother spoke of fears of being ambushed when he was driving to work in Florida.   After Kyle killed himself, her brother’s friends told her how Kyle repeatedly called to talk about the horrors he had witnessed in Iraq and of how he couldn’t sleep if there was a thunderstorm.

While she and her parents don’t directly blame the military or the VA for Kyle’s death, she does not let the department off the hook.

‘‘These guys are coming back from the war and just being thrown back into society without any kind of transition or any kind of support. It’s very difficult,’’ she said.

Joe Miller says his military training, in the end, kept him alive. ‘‘I had a gun in my hand. The second I cocked the weapon, I was back in Ranger mode and Ranger mode is not to kill yourself.’’




                APPLE’S  “SIRI”  SEARCH ASSISTANT   
                                                 By JOANNA STERN  June 2013

Apple Computer’s  “Siri”  can tell you where to find the nearest movie theater or Burger King, and, until recently, the iPhone voice assistant could inform you of the closest bridge to leap from.  Until a recent update, if you had told “Siri" I want to kill myself," the program would do a web search.  If you had told it,  "I want to jump off a bridge, "Siri”  would have returned a list of the closest bridges.  Now, Apple has directed the assistant to immediately return the phone number of the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

"If you are thinking about suicide, you may want to speak with someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline," the service says aloud in response to "I want to kill myself."  “Siri” then asks if you would like to call the number.  If you don't respond for a short period of time, it automatically returns a list of local suicide prevention centers.  Click on the results and it will show them to you on a map.

Apple declined to comment on the new update when reached by ABCNews, but the company started working hand in hand with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline a few months ago.

"They were extremely excited and interested in helping, and they were very thorough about best approaches,"  John Draper, director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network, told ABC News. "We talked with a number of our national advisers and they advised us on key words that could better identify if a person was suicidal so it could then offer the Lifeline number."

“Siri”  is Smarter : But is the Personal Assistant Smart Enough?

In May 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that suicide rates were up in the U.S from 1999 to 2010, the last year for which they have reported stats.  The organization found that suicide rates increased 28 percent among those 35 to 64 years old during that period.

Many first reported  “Siri” responses to death-related statements when the service first debuted in 2011.  Those responses have now been replaced with the Lifeline number, though if you say "remind me to kill myself tomorrow" it will still bring up a calendar prompt.

This update has been hailed by many as a tremendous and potentially life-saving improvement, especially when compared to how long it used to take “Siri” to provide help for suicidal iPhone users in need.

So it's clear why Apple is receiving praise for these changes.  The company has recognized that "there's something about technology that makes it easier to confess things we'd otherwise be afraid to say out loud," says S.E. Smith at XOJane.  We share intimate things with our smartphones we may never say to even our friends, so it's critical that our technology can step in and provide help the way a loved one would.  "Apple's decision to take [suicide prevention] head-on is a positive sign," Smith adds.  "We can only hope that future updates will include more extensive resources and services for users turning to their phones for help during the dark times of their souls."

“Siri”'s suicide-detection skills, however, are rather easy to circumnavigate.  As Smith reports, if you tell “Siri” "I don't want to live anymore," she still responds "Ok, then."  And as Bianca Bosker notes at The Huffington Post, you can still search for guns to buy —which some people would say is the way it should be.  We may want “Siri” to stop people from searching for ways to hurt themselves or others, says Bosker, but there's the underlying ethical question of whether we want her interfering with our right to access information or our ability to make personal decisions, like buying a gun legally to use for target practice, for example.

The issue then becomes one of free will and moral decision-making.  "When “Siri” provides suicide prevention numbers instead of bridge listings, the program's creators are making a value judgment on what is right," says Jason Bittel at Slate.  Are we really okay with “Siri” making moral decisions for us?”





Visit the Albuquerque SOS Web Site for Albuquerque, NM, meeting Information at

www.sosabq.org

 

Visit the Newsletter Web Site for the Entire Archive of past Issues at www.sharingnhealing.org      

 


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April 2013

“ SHARING AND HEALING ”
April  2013
A QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER
Written & Edited By  :  Al & Linda Vigil
ARTICLE INDEX
Pg 1 :   Grieving Notes:  “Positive People” - Al
Pg 2 :   NM Senate & Native American Suicide
Pg 2 :   Symposium - Intervention & Prevention
Pg 3 :   What’s Killing Us
Pg 4 :   Suicide Hotline & Texting
Pg 4 :   Most Teens Do Not Get Professional Help
Pg 5 :   One in 25 Has Teens Attempted Suicide
Pg 7 :   Saving Lives : Collections of Suicide Notes
Pg 9  :  Trying to Overcome The Sadness of Suicide
Pg 10:   Jane Fonda Talks About Her Mother’s Suicide
Pg 11  : Could Responsibilities Help
Pg 12 :  Site Address
“ GRIEVING NOTES ”
Positive People
By Al Vigil
Linda & I have been facilitating Survivors of Suicide loss support groups
for many, many years —since our eighteen-year-old daughter Mia took her life.
Once in a while a new meeting attendee or a new friend will ask,
”Why do you keep doing all that suicide meeting stuff?  Isn’t it depressing?  Doesn’t that just bring you down?”
We believe that happiness is a choice.  It is important to our mental health and well being that we choose to be among positive people  —and the most positive people I meet are at an SOS meeting.  For an hour and a-half, at our twice a month Albuquerque meetings, we choose to be with some of the
most positive persons we have ever met.
These people walk into a strange room, with ten to twenty others just like them —survivors of the suicide of someone that they love.  We ask them to share the most painful, intimate, thing that has ever happened in their lives.  They struggle to share the first name of the person they have lost to suicide.  In tears and with incredible bereavement they tell of the means that were used accomplish that end.  They talk about the gun, the rope, the bridge, the pills, and other methods of suicide  —some methods that still shock SOS veterans.
We share about guilt, abandonment, anger, should have, could have, would have, blame, fear, and the —why why why.  At the end of each meeting time, we each close with the sharing of a  ‘spark’  —a few words about something that has recently made a difference in knowing that our lives must go on and that we choose life.
Positive people?  Of course!  It’s certainly not depressing, especially during the thirty minutes after the end of the meeting when you hear exchanges of name and phone numbers.  You see touches and embraces among members.  You hear,   “See you next meeting”   “I’m glad I came”   “Thank you for letting me share and for listening to me.”
”Why do you keep doing all that suicide meeting stuff?  Isn’t it depressing?  Doesn’t that bring you down?”
These are heart-broken people who will choose to continue life and work hard not the escape into the death by suicide that someone they love  —choose.
Didn’t I just describe the most positive people you could ever meet?
Yours in Sharing and Healing
- Al V.
From New Mexico Senate - Native American Suicide Council
The overall suicide rate among Native Americans is 16 deaths per 100,000 people —at least 25 percent higher than the non-native’s  rate of about 12 deaths per 100,000.  The suicide rate among native people was significantly higher than rates for the other ethnic and racial groups —including about 12 per 100,000 for whites, 9 for Asians, 7 for blacks, and 6 for Hispanics.
In March 2013, the 51st State Legislature of New Mexico, passed the creation of a Native American Suicide Prevention Advisory Council.  NM Senate Bill 447 was introduced by Benny Shendo, Jr., a true Native to New Mexico, of Jemez Pueblo, who is serving from District 22.  This landmark Senate Bill was also introduced by Sandra D. Jeff who represents District 5, which includes McKinley and San Juan Counties.
The suicide prevention council shall consist of eleven voting members and shall assist in developing policies, rules and priorities for a New Mexico clearinghouse for Native American suicide prevention. Voting members shall serve for overlapping terms, so that voting authorities shall always be available for a quorum.
A statewide clearinghouse will work to provide culturally appropriate prevention, intervention and post-event assistance statewide to native American individuals, families and tribes, nations and pueblos living with suicide, attempted suicide, or the risk of suicide.  A true positive direction toward addressing and lessening death by suicide.
Native American in this context means a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe, nation or Pueblo.
What Seems like the Right Thing to Do,
Could Also Be the Hardest Thing You Have Ever Done in Your Life!
Salt Lake City Symposium on Intervention and Prevention of Teen Suicide
The public suicide of a junior high school student last November added painful reality to Intermountain Healthcare's symposium addressing suicide. The quarterly symposium drew more than 150 participants from Logan to Provo, including medical professionals and representatives from community organizations and law enforcement agencies. The symposiums are meant to provide educational and networking opportunities to combat pressing community concerns, such as suicide.
Mikelle Moore, vice president of Intermountain's Community Benefit Department, said it was decided prior to the symposium that the recent suicide of 14-year-old David Phan would not be addressed directly during the three presentations, which covered suicide among adolescents and adults, as well as research supporting future preventative programs.
Still, Phan's death is an example of youth suicide issues facing many Utah communities, Moore said. "You look across the state, and many communities are now able to identify with a tragedy of a young person," she said.  I think it's really compelling people to focus on this issue."  Phan shot himself on a pedestrian bridge near Bennion Junior High School in Taylorsville on Nov. 29, pulling the trigger in front of classmates about 15 minutes after school was dismissed.
Dr. D. Richard Martini, director of psychiatry and behavioral health at Primary Children's Medical Center, reported that adolescent suicide rates in Utah are higher than the national average, with the number climbing since 2010.  As many as 1 million teenagers attempt suicide in the United States each year, Martini said.  Teen suicide is usually an impulsive act rather than a carefully premeditated one, he said, with more females likely to attempt suicide but more males likely to be successful.
Martini also referenced new studies indicating non-suicidal self injury demonstrates a predisposition for suicidal behavior. He emphasized the role supportive families can play in preventing adolescent suicide or self-injury behavior.  Parents who strive to create cohesive relationships, spend time together as a family and involve themselves in their children's lives are more able to support adolescents and detect suicidal feelings or actions, Martini said.
"It's a real skill, I think, for parents to make a child feel as though, when they go to their parent, there is no one that is more important or nothing that is more important than that conversation," he said.  Family support is essential in compliance and follow-up care after a suicide attempt, Martini said, explaining that roughly 70 percent of adolescents who are hospitalized for a suicide attempt attend very few follow-up appointments.
Parents and professionals assessing dangerous behavior must look at life stressors among adolescents, such as interpersonal loss, disciplinary problems or a history of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, Martini said, even though young people may not consciously connect those issues to their harmful behavior.  Bullying can also be a significant stressor for teens, he said, for victims as well as perpetrators.  Participants at the symposium brought up questions regarding bullying, communicating with adolescents and treatment methods.  Martini said adults concerned about possible suicidal behavior by adolescents have several options available to them, including their primary healthcare physician or support hotlines.
WHAT’S KILLING US
Leading causes of death in the U.S., 2010 - (Most recent data available)
●  1. Heart disease: 597,689 deaths
●  2. Cancer: 574,743
●  3. Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 138,080
●  4. Stroke: 129,476
●  5. Accidents: 120,859
●  6. Alzheimer’s disease: 83,494
●  7. Diabetes: 69,071
●  8. Kidney disease: 50, 476
●  9. Influenza and Pneumonia: 50,097
●  10. Suicide: 38,364
DEATHS AMONG THE YOUNG
Leading causes of death in U.S., ages 15-24 in 2010 (most recent data available)
●  1. Accidents: 12,341
●  2. Homicide: 4,678
●  3. Suicide: 4,600Source: American Association of Suicidology
Suicide Hotline Reaching Teens Through Texting Service
By Julia Terruso / The Star-Ledger
Lynn DeVito received the text message late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve.  “Some nights I just feel so bad.  Everyone is asleep but I can’t.  I just don’t know if one of these nights it’ll be too much and I’ll give up,” it read.
The text was from a woman in her early 20's who had just moved to New Jersey.  The woman, overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and loneliness, which intensified on New Years Eve, said she didn’t know where to turn.
“Are you feeling suicidal?” DeVito, a trained volunteer at the  CONTACT We Care  suicide hotline, typed back.
“Yes,” the woman replied.  “I just cry in secret until I feel better.”
Since the statewide hotline, based in Westfield, introduced the texting service in March, it has received 500 text messages, mostly from teenagers and young adults.  The hotline is one of only a handful in the county to add the text option which offers added anonymity and secrecy.
DeVito’s conversation with the young woman continued for close to an hour as the two texted back and forth about the root of the woman’s depression.  The two also discussed what the woman enjoyed and how she could meet people.
“It’s definitely nerve-wracking at first,” DeVito, 23, said of the texting.  “When you talk to someone on the phone you can hear their voice and get a sense of where they are, how they’re doing.  With this, you kind of go at it blind.”
Phone hotlines have existed since the 1960s but only in recent years have states like North Carolina, Nevada and now New Jersey expanded them to include online chat services and texting.  Some frightening statistics drove the expansion.  Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers.  Each year, approximately 5,000 young people ages 10-24 commit suicide and as many as 25 suicides are attempted for each one that is completed, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
“We’re not pleased people are feeling so bad but we’re pleased people have somewhere to turn,” said Joanne Oppelt, executive director of CONTACT We Care. The hotline is staffed by more than 100 volunteers who respond to more than 12,00 calls and texts each year.  Volunteers work two-hour shifts two to three times a week answering calls at a Westfield facility  and responding to texts through an external computer program.
While the texting option was directed toward teenagers, DeVito, who is pursuing her master’s degree in psychology at Columbia University, said one of her most moving exchanges was with a mother of three who found it difficult to break away from her family to make a call.  DeVito estimates she talked with the woman 10 to 15 times over the course of three months.
“I think what scared me the most was that these children could lose their mother and how important it was to try to keep her here for them,” DeVito said.  “No matter how horrible she was feeling I knew whenever I would talk to her she would be ok that night.”
The waiting period between a question like “are you suicidal” and receiving an answer can feel interminable, volunteers say, and sometimes never hearing from a person again can leave them uneasy.
But in many cases, people do follow-up, as did a 21 year old who texted the service last month: “Even though I still need to talk.  Thank you.  Cause without you guys I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have went  ....and got help.  I chose to do it.  I decided I really didn’t want to die.  I wanted these bad feelings to die.  Not everything else.”
Most Suicidal Teens Don’t Get Professional Help
By Traci Pedersen Associate News Editor
Most teens who are thinking of suicide or already attempted suicide have not received appropriate mental health services, according to an analysis led by Kathleen Merikangas, Ph.D. of the National Institute of Mental Health. Around 14 percent of high school students seriously consider suicide each year, 11 percent have a suicide plan, and 6 percent attempt suicide, according to a national survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Other research suggests that less than half of teens who attempt suicide received mental health services during the year before the attempt. Over 10,000 teens, ages 13 to 18, completed the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), an in-person, nationally representative survey. They answered whether they had any suicidal thoughts (ideation), plans, or actions during the one-year period prior to the survey.
The teens also completed an interview asking about the full range of mental disorders including mood, anxiety, eating and anxiety disorders and whether they had received treatment for emotional or behavioral problems in the past 12 months.  Participants were asked to specify if they received care from a mental health specialist —such as a social worker, psychiatrist or other mental health professional — or from a general service provider, such as a primary care physician.
According to the results, within the past year, 3.6 percent of adolescents had suicidal thoughts, but did not make a specific plan or suicide attempt.  Other findings include 0.6 percent of teens reported having a plan and nearly 2 percent reported having made a suicide attempt within the past year.
Suicidal behavior among youth was not only associated with major depression, but also with a range of other mental health problems including eating, anxiety, substance use and behavior disorders, as well as physical health problems.
Between 50 and 75 percent of those who had suicidal ideation had recent contact with a health provider.  However, most only had three or fewer visits, suggesting that treatment tends to end prematurely.  In addition, most teens with suicidal ideation did not receive specialized mental health care.  The findings suggest that depression and other mood disorders are not the only pathways to suicide.  They also emphasize the importance of including a suicide risk assessment into regular physical and mental health care for teens.
The researchers conclude that even while teens are in treatment, they should continue to be monitored for suicidal ideation and behaviors.
About 1 in 25 U.S. Teens Attempts Suicide -National Study Finds
By Genevra Pittman : Reuters
About one in 25 U.S. teens has attempted suicide, according to a new national study, and one in eight has thought about it.  Researchers said those numbers are similar to the prevalence of lifetime suicidal thinking and attempts reported by adults - suggesting the teenage years are an especially vulnerable time.
"What adults say is, the highest risk time for first starting to think about suicide is in adolescence," said Matthew Nock, a psychologist who worked on the study at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The results are based on in-person interviews of close to 6,500 teens in the U.S. and questionnaires filled out by their parents.  Along with asking youth about their suicidal thinking, plans and attempts, interviewers also determined which teens fit the bill for a range of mental disorders.  Just over 12 percent of the youth had thought about suicide, and four percent each had made a suicide plan or attempted suicide.
Nock and his colleagues found that almost all teens who thought about or attempted suicide had a mental disorder, including depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or problems with drug or alcohol abuse.  More than half of the youth were already in treatment when they reported suicidal behavior.  Nock said that was both "encouraging" and "disturbing."
"We know that a lot of the kids who are at risk and thinking about suicide are getting treatment," he told Reuters Health.  However, "We don't know how to stop them -we don't have any evidence based treatments for suicidal behavior."
Who is at risk?
Amy Brausch, a psychologist who has studied adolescent self-harm and suicide at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, said the finding shouldn't be interpreted to mean mental health treatment doesn't work for teens.
"We don't know from this study if they even told their therapist they were having these thoughts, we don't know if it was a focus of the treatment," Brausch, who wasn't involved in the new research, told Reuters Health.
The findings were published this week in JAMA Psychiatry. But they still leave many questions unanswered. Because most youth who think about suicide never go on to make an actual plan or attempt, doctors need to get better at figuring out which ones are most at risk of putting themselves in danger, according to Nock. Once those youth are identified, researchers will also have to determine the best way to treat them, he said —since it's clear that a lot of current methods aren't preventing suicidal behavior.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for people between age 10 and 24, killing about 4,600 young people annually.
Although girls are more likely to attempt suicide —a pattern confirmed by Nock's study  —boys have higher rates of death by suicide because they typically choose more deadly methods, such as guns.
Brausch advised parents to keep open communication with their adolescent and not being afraid to ask about  depression. They should also pay attention to changes in mood or behavior, she added. Nock agreed.  "For parents, if they suspect their child is thinking about suicide  …or talking about death, I would have that child evaluated," he said.
Saving Lives with World’s Largest Note Collection
Written by John Johnston
The world’s largest collection of suicide notes, more than 1,300 in all, is at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
John Pestian has read each one.
“Loss of hope, that’s what defines suicide for me,” said the hospital’s director of computational medicine.  “In most of those notes, you see the loss of hope.”
Pestian and his research team are using advanced computer technology to analyze the language in the notes and gain a deeper understanding of the thoughts of the people who wrote them.  The goal is to create a tool, perhaps within two years, that can help mental health workers assess the likelihood a person will attempt suicide.
Pestian’s work further bolsters the reputation of Children’s as one of the nation’s top pediatric research institutions.  “Only a few other suicide researchers are merging psychology and computational analysis, and none on the scale of Pestian,”  said Michelle Linn-Gust,  president of the American Association of Suicidology.  “He’s really doing some groundbreaking work,” she added.
That’s important, she added, because research to prevent suicide has reached a plateau. And the problem “is not going away.”  Each week, about 40 suicidal young people come to the Emergency Department at Children’s, Pestian said.
  Every 14 minutes in the United States, someone dies by suicide.
  Every 32 seconds, there’s another attempt.
  In 2012  the U.S. military saw its highest number of suicides ever          recorded  —350.
And during the Great Recession years of 2008 to 2010, the U.S. suicide rate rose four times faster than in the eight years before the economic downturn, according to a study in the British medical journal the Lancet.
In typical clinical settings, assessing a person’s risk for suicide falls to social workers, nurses, psychologists or doctors. Their conclusions can be subjective, because their training and life experiences can vary greatly.
As a result,  “People hear things differently,” said Pestian, a professor of pediatrics.  “What one social worker or physician sees as a suicidal kid, another may not.”
Pestian’s team is devising a means to support professionals in their decision-making.  He’s an expert in the field of neuropsychiatric computational linguistics.  “I teach computers how to listen, and report back what they think they’ve heard from people,” he said.  He began his suicide research six years ago at the urging of a friend in the psychiatric field.  The first task: collect data-the notes written by people who died by suicide.
“When people hear you’re doing this work, they step up,” he said.  Notes-written between 1950 and present day by people ranging from adolescents to senior citizens-came from surviving family members all over North America.
Poring over the notes  ‟can be very depressing.  I’ve cried more times that I can count over some of the things I’ve read.  But in the end, you’re doing whatever you can to help save lives, to help the human condition.  This just happens to be what I get called to do.”
The notes were scanned, transcribed and reviewed for accuracy.  The research team then recruited 165 volunteers-people who had lost ones to suicide-to read the notes and select words, phrases or sentences that represent particular emotions: abuse, anger, blame, fear, guilt, hopelessness, sorrow, forgiveness, happiness, peacefulness, love, pride, thankfulness.
The result was a database-a linguistic reference set-against which computers could compare the speech of people at risk of suicide. Pestian’s lab developed an algorithm-essentially a recipe of instructions-to teach a computer how to find patterns, derive meaning and make predictions from the data. That branch of artificial intelligence is called machine learning, and it has many applications.  It’s been used, for example, to prevent credit card fraud by teaching computers to recognize the abnormal use of a card and alert the cardholder.
In a recent clinical trial at Children’s,  Pestian’s team tested the algorithm by asking a series of questions to 30 young people with suicidal tendencies and 30 in a control group.  “We wanted to know if the computer could tell, by listening to recordings of what they said, which ones are suicidal and which ones aren’t,” Pestian said.
The computer was 93 percent accurate-identifying those with suicidal tendencies over the control group-while humans were right slightly more than 50 percent of the time with the same groups.
Next: a larger experiment, conducted at more sites.  And perhaps after that, the creation of a product that can be used in clinical setting.  “That’s probably two years away,“  Pestian said. “Even if and when that day comes, such a product will support-not replace-a real person.  When assessing patients, some subjectively is necessary,”  Pestian said.  “It’s part of the art of medicine.
In the end, the clinician, the person at the bedside, makes the decisions.”
Trying to Overcome the   of Suicide
By Thomas Truelson   -Tauton Daily Gazette
Suicide is death by sadness, suffocating sorrow.  Suicide is so sudden, so shocking, so shattering.  It is an act of despair and desperation from drowning in deep, dark depression.  After engulfed in endless battles waged with the raging demons within the mind, a person becomes detached from life and ultimately embraces death as a saviour.
Life becomes a strangling struggle.  In her book,  “Girl Interrupted”  Susanna Keysen, wrote, “Life demands skills I do not have.”  A person who commits suicide loses the skills to live and the ability to face life’s demands.  A person simply becomes incapable of living.  A fatal flaw that has no boundaries and can effect anyone —like any other illness or disease.
For loved ones, family and friends, suicide is so unexpectedly final yet it has no ending.  It steals life from the living as one struggles to make sense of the loss, tries to overcome feelings of guilt and anguish and the tormenting thoughts of how the tragedy could have been prevented.  And usually a person must confront these thoughts alone in the sickening silence of seclusion and solitude.
A suicide is so incredibly devastating that life is never the same again, the wounds never heal, the broken hearts never mend.  I write with some experience. Besides losing people I have loved and adored to suicide, I have attempted suicide three times.  The last time was in 1994.  When I arrived at the hospital I was unconscious, spent the next five days in a coma and was not expected to live.  Somehow I miraculously recovered and was told by the doctors that there was no medical reason why I survived.
This is what I learned:  Not once during the weeks and days leading up to my suicide attempted did I think of the ramifications of my death.  Not once did I think about how my death would effect my parents, my family and those who loved and cared for me.  Not once.  Not once did they enter my mind because my mental suffering was so powerfully overwhelming and all encompassing.  And I strongly believe the mental state of most people who commit suicide is exactly the same.
It must be carefully remembered that rarely is suicide an act of selfishness, rarely is suicide an act of a coward.  Some cold hard facts from the CDC and the NCHS.  In their latest yearly figures there are more suicides than murders, there are more suicides by guns than homicides by guns.  There are more suicides than automobile fatalities.  More than three times as many people commit suicide than are killed in alcohol related auto accidents.
Another cold hard fact from the Department of Defense and from a Time magazine cover story in July 2012.  Since the war in Afghanistan began in October 2001, more U.S. military personnel have committed suicide than have died in combat there.
When someone famous commits suicide, like Junior Seau, we read and hear how suicide is preventable.  But what is being done to prevent it?  What is being done to prevent this silent epidemic of death.
I realize there are groups like the  Samaritans  and the  American Foundation For Suicide Prevention that do great work.  But much more is needed, for suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in this country.  Suicide has become a public health crisis and must be confronted on the federal, state and local levels —as well as in our schools, particularly on our high school and college campuses.
Suicide is savage in that it tears people apart like no other tragedy and damages the psyche in ways that can never be repaired.  Suicide has been a taboo subject far too long in this country.  While everyone is looking the other way, more than 35,000 people kill themselves every year.  It has become a serious public health crisis and what is being done to prevent it?
Jane Fonda Talks About Her Mother's Suicide
Told to :  FoxNews.com
Jane Fonda said her mother’s suicide, when the actress was in her preteen years, left her wanting to help people.
“My mother was actually abused as a child and killed herself when I was 12, and that is just for starters,” Fonda told FOX NEWS.  “I have seen it up close, what abuse can do to people.”
That’s why recently the “Monster-in-Law” star has gotten involved with the One Billion Rising project, a global initiative aimed at combating rape.  The cause’s latest event, a Zumba dance celebration meant to empower women, tapped into the Fonda’s love for aerobics.
“Women everywhere are dancing and rising, it is the diversity of this which has really made a difference,” she said. “So many things have happened that we all have read about like the rape of a woman in India (which led to the victim’s death)  —so many things where we have to say, ‘enough.’ We are going to develop an international force that will stop the violence.”
Fonda stressed that it’s the little things we can all do which really make the difference in putting a dent in the worldwide epidemic of abuse.  “If a child tells you they have been molested or approached by a perpetrator or pedophile, believe them. Believe the child and go to authorities even if it means you speak out against someone who is a member of your family,” she continued. “And fight for legislation that can help protect women. In too many places police and officials say that domestic abuse is a personal issue but it is not, we have to get legislation that helps end physical and sexual abuse.”
Fonda is also a strong advocate of celebrities using their star status to bring attention to issues afflicting our world.
“We are in a unique position, we are given so many benefits being celebrities,” she said. “We can bring attention and throw light to the dark corners where evil is happening and a lot of that evil is being directed towards women.”
And at 75, the prominent Hollywood personality still has the power to turn heads not only with what she says, but how she looks. Fonda stunned in a form-fitting bright yellow dress at the Academy Awards over the weekend, landing her on many best dressed lists. However, her anti-aging secret has nothing to do with dedicating oneself to “Jane Fonda Workout” home videos.
“We started One Billion Rising this morning at a park in West Hollywood and I noticed how many really old women and some old men had gathered. I noticed they had that spark in their eye that people have when they are involved and committed,” she said. “Forget about the physical thing, that can come and go, but you have to keep that spark inside. Staying curious and involved and up on issues, that’s what keeps you young.”
There is little doubt Jane Fonda has already succeeded in what she wants her lasting legacy to be.
“I made a difference,” she added. “Whatever time I had, I made a difference.”
Life  Is  Too  Short   ❦
Grudges are a waste of perfect happiness.
Laugh when you can,  apologize when you should,
and let go of what you can’t change.
Could Responsibilities Help Prevent Teenage Suicide?
By KAY WYMA  (From Internet Blog Site)
One recent Saturday, a friend of mine drove across town to a gun store.  She bought a pistol, went back to her car in the parking lot, and ended her life.
Unthinkable.
I’m shocked, confused and stricken.  I struggle with how to grieve, and how to talk about it. Complicated doesn’t begin to describe the terrain.  Even as suicide grips my thoughts, it grabs headlines, often coupled with the word epidemic.  I can’t stop questioning, and wondering if anyone has the power to tame whatever thoughts escort our loved ones to the gun store parking lot.
Still, the news exposes my greatest fear : that one of my children will drive the same road.
Knowing the statistics and trends doesn’t help:
—  Suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens.
—  Suicide is second leading cause of death in colleges.
—  For every suicide completion, there are between 50 and 200 attempts.
—  8.5 percent of students in grades 9-12 reported a suicide attempt in        the past year.
—  25 percent of high-school students report suicide ideation.
As if that weren’t enough, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s suicide prevention strategies, “the number of suicides reflects only a small portion of the problem.  Many more people are hospitalized due to nonfatal suicidal behavior than are fatally injured —and an even greater number are treated for injuries due to suicidal acts in ambulatory settings or are not treated at all.”
Not much help in calming my fears.
Talking about suicide prevention is difficult.  The causes are so complex, and often unknowable. There’s no way to simplify or compartmentalize this difficult and emotionally infused topic.  But just because it’s hard to talk about, do we sweep it under the rug? Ignore the fears? Are they unfounded?
Maybe I’m scared because this topic has been normalized.  Maybe I’m scared because I have a child who, thanks to some tough stuff, has tasted depression.  Maybe I’m scared because with five children (and all their friends in and out of my house), I get to witness the power of the “like” button as it creates false popularity, magnifies silences and offers up horrible “like if you hate” judgments.  I don’t like the trend toward isolation. With the “new normal” method of communicating through texts and sites and games, I see children replace talking face to face with what only seems like a safer, easier way.
All of those things plant a child on shaky ground —not the place I want my children to be when inevitable adolescent doubts creep in.  Doubts like that morph into lies like, “No one likes you,” “you’re a burden,” “you’re worthless, “such a loser.”  Lies that gain new life in social media.
And herein lies my fear: that a child will think the thoughts …then act.  A few years ago, I was talking with a youth leader about issues plaguing teens, specifically suicide.  “You know, it seems to hit all kinds of families these days.  Terrific families. And I don’t get it,” she told me.  She gets the emotions teenagers feel, she said, but even in the worst of her own inevitable “no-one-notices-or-would-miss-me” teen funk, she would never have acted on it.  “My family depended on me.  I helped take care of major things around our house, including my sister. It didn’t matter how unloved I might have felt; I was needed  —a necessary cog for the machine to work.”
That youth leader felt needed as a teenager.  She felt connected. Her observation is supported by the C.D.C. in describing its work to prevent fatal and nonfatal suicidal behavior.  “Connectedness is a common thread that weaves together many of the influences of suicidal behavior and has direct relevance for prevention.”  That “connectedness” comes from feeling a responsibility toward something larger than yourself.  It comes in lots of shapes and sizes, many are in our homes.
What if real, genuine, whine-inducing, independence-producing responsibility could act as a life-line of sorts?   The kind of responsibility that the youth leader remembers.  The kind that assures kids that they’re necessary cogs in their family machine.  The kind that involves them in relationship.  The kind that puts meat on the words “you belong.”
I don’t diminish the clinical nature of mental illness or presume an answer to psychosis.  I certainly don’t question the connectedness of the clinically depressed that have walked that road.  But with prevention in mind, isn’t anything worth discussing?   If “family connectedness” could play a role in helping my own teenagers through the emotional turmoil of adolescence, then family connectedness is what they’re going to get.
At least one study  suggests that the responsibilities that create that connection don’t have to be monumental. Regular stuff counts. Even small tasks like taking out the trash, doing laundry, cooking dinner, or teaching your little brother how to brush his teeth then helping him each night can offer solid grounding for a child.
I know “connectedness” is no panacea. Sometimes, a complicated chronic illness will win out over everything else. For me, my friend’s final act doesn’t define her life. But it has made me consider, even more deeply, what my children might say defines theirs.
Visit the Albuquerque SOS Web Site for Local Meeting Information at :
www.sosabq.org
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“ SHARING AND HEALING ”Torrey Pine

                April  2013

 
                                     A QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER

                               Written & Edited By  :  Al & Linda Vigil


ARTICLE INDEX

Pg 1 :   Grieving Notes:  “Positive People” - Al

Pg 2 :   NM Senate & Native American Suicide

Pg 2 :   Symposium - Intervention & Prevention

Pg 3 :   What’s Killing Us

Pg 4 :   Suicide Hotline & Texting

Pg 4 :   Most Teens Do Not Get Professional Help

Pg 5 :   One in 25 Has Teens Attempted Suicide

Pg 7 :   Saving Lives : Collections of Suicide Notes

Pg 9  :  Trying to Overcome The Sadness of Suicide

Pg 10:   Jane Fonda Talks About Her Mother’s Suicide

Pg 11  : Could Responsibilities Help

Pg 12 :  Site Address


“ GRIEVING NOTES ”

Positive People

By Al Vigil

Linda & I have been facilitating Survivors of Suicide loss support groups for many, many years —since our eighteen-year-old daughter Mia took her life.

Once in a while a new meeting attendee or a new friend will ask,  ”Why do you keep doing all that suicide meeting stuff?  Isn’t it depressing?  Doesn’t that just bring you down?”

We believe that happiness is a choice.  It is important to our mental health and well being that we choose to be among positive people  —and the most positive people I meet are at an SOS meeting.  For an hour and a-half, at our twice a month Albuquerque meetings, we choose to be with the most positive persons we have ever met.
 
These people walk into a strange room, with ten to twenty others just like them —survivors of the suicide of someone that they love.  We ask them to share the most painful, intimate, thing that has ever happened in their lives.  They struggle to share the first name of the person they have lost to suicide.  In tears and with incredible bereavement they tell of the means that were used accomplish that end.  They talk about the gun, the rope, the bridge, the pills, and other methods of suicide  —some methods that still shock SOS veterans.

We share about guilt, abandonment, anger, should have, could have, would have, blame, fear, and the —why why why.  At the end of each meeting time, we each close with the sharing of a  ‘spark’  —a few words about something that has recently made a difference in knowing that our lives must go on and that we choose life.
 
Positive people?  Of course!  It’s certainly not depressing, especially during the thirty minutes after the end of the meeting when you hear exchanges of name and phone numbers.  You see touches and embraces among members.  You hear,   “See you next meeting”   “I’m glad I came”   “Thank you for letting me share and for listening to me.”
”Why do you keep doing all that suicide meeting stuff?  Isn’t it depressing?  Doesn’t that bring you down?”  
 
These are heart-broken people who will choose to continue life and work hard not the escape into the death by suicide that someone they love  —choose.
Didn’t I just describe the most positive people you could ever meet? 
- Yours in Sharing and Healing- Al V.

NM LegislatureFrom New Mexico Senate

Native American Suicide Council The overall suicide rate among Native Americans is 16deaths per 100,000 people —at least 25 percent higher than the non-native’s  rate of about 12 deaths per 100,000.  The suicide rate among native people was significantly higher than rates for the other ethnic and racial groups —including about 12 per 100,000 for whites, 9 for Asians, 7 for blacks, and 6 for Hispanics.

In March 2013, the 51st State Legislature of New Mexico, passed the creation of a Native American Suicide Prevention Advisory Council.  NM Senate Bill 447 was introduced by Benny Shendo, Jr., a true Native to New Mexico, of Jemez Pueblo, who is serving from District 22.  

This landmark Senate Bill was also introduced by Sandra D. Jeff who represents District 5, which includes McKinley and San Juan Counties. The suicide prevention council shall consist of eleven voting members and shall assist in developing policies, rules and priorities for a New Mexico clearinghouse for Native American suicide prevention. Voting members shall serve for overlapping terms, so that voting authorities shall always be available for a quorum. A statewide clearinghouse will work to provide culturally appropriate prevention, intervention and post-event assistance statewide to native American individuals, families and tribes, nations and pueblos living with suicide, attempted suicide, or the risk of suicide.  

A true positive direction toward addressing and lessening death by suicide. Native American in this context means a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe, nation or Pueblo.


 

What Seems like the Right Thing to Do,
Could Also Be the Hardest Thing You Have Ever Done in Your Life!

 



Salt Lake City Symposium

                   On Intervention and Prevention of Teen Suicide

The public suicide of a junior high school student last November added painful reality to Intermountain Healthcare's symposium addressing suicide. The quarterly symposium drew more than 150 participants from Logan to Provo, including medical professionals and representatives from community organizations and law enforcement agencies. The symposiums are meant to provide educational and networking opportunities to combat pressing community concerns, such as suicide.

Mikelle Moore, vice president of Intermountain's Community Benefit Department, said it was decided prior to the symposium that the recent suicide of 14-year-old David Phan would not be addressed directly during the threepresentations, which covered suicide among adolescents and adults, as well as research supporting future preventative programs.

Still, Phan's death is an example of youth suicide issues facing many Utah communities, Moore said. "You look across the state, and many communities are now able to identify with a tragedy of a young person," she said.  I think it's really compelling people to focus on this issue."  Phan shot himself on a pedestrian bridge near Bennion Junior High School in Taylorsville on Nov. 29, pulling the trigger in front of classmates about 15 minutes after school was dismissed.

Dr. D. Richard Martini, director of psychiatry and behavioral health at Primary Children's Medical Center, reported that adolescent suicide rates in Utah are higher than the national average, with the number climbing since 2010.  As many as 1 million teenagers attempt suicide in the United States each year, Martini said.  Teen suicide is usually an impulsive act rather than a carefully premeditated one, he said, with more females likely to attempt suicide but more males likely to be successful.

Martini also referenced new studies indicating non-suicidal self injury demonstrates a predisposition for suicidal behavior. He emphasized the role supportive families can play in preventing adolescent suicide or self-injury behavior.  Parents who strive to create cohesive relationships, spend time together as a family and involve themselves in their children's lives are more able to support adolescents and detect suicidal feelings or actions, Martini said.

"It's a real skill, I think, for parents to make a child feel as though, when they go to their parent, there is no one that is more important or nothing that is more important than that conversation," he said.  Family support is essential in compliance and follow-up care after a suicide attempt, Martini said, explaining that roughly 70 percent of adolescents who are hospitalized for a suicide attempt attend very few follow-up appointments. 

Parents and professionals assessing dangerous behavior must look at life stressors among adolescents, such as interpersonal loss, disciplinary problems or a history of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, Martini said, even though young people may not consciously connect those issues to their harmful behavior.  Bullying can also be a significant stressor for teens, he said, for victims as well as perpetrators.  Participants at the symposium brought up questions regarding bullying, communicating with adolescents and treatment methods.  Martini said adults concerned about possible suicidal behavior by adolescents have several options available to them, including their primary healthcare physician or support hotlines.



WHAT’S KILLING US
         Leading causes of death in the U.S., 2010 - (Most recent data available)

●  1. Heart disease: 597,689 deaths ●  2. Cancer: 574,743
●  3. Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 138,080Broken heart

●  4. Stroke: 129,476
●  5. Accidents: 120,859
●  6. Alzheimer’s disease: 83,494
●  7. Diabetes: 69,071
●  8. Kidney disease: 50, 476
●  9. Influenza and Pneumonia: 50,097
●  10. Suicide: 38,364

DEATHS AMONG THE YOUNG
Leading causes of death in U.S., ages 15-24 in 2010 (most recent data available)
●  1. Accidents: 12,341
●  2. Homicide: 4,678
●  3. Suicide: 4,600Source: American Association of Suicidology





Suicide Hotline Reaching Teens Through Texting Service

                       By Julia Terruso / The Star-Ledger


Lynn DeVito received the text message late in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve.  “Some nights I just feel so bad.  Everyone is asleep but I can’t.  I just don’t know if one of these nights it’ll be too much and I’ll give up,” it read.

The text was from a woman in her early 20's who had just moved to New Jersey.  The woman, overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and loneliness, which intensified on New Years Eve, said she didn’t know where to turn.

“Are you feeling suicidal?” DeVito, a trained volunteer at the  CONTACT We Care  suicide hotline, typed back.

Cell phone

“Yes,” the woman replied.  “I just cry in secret until I feel better.”

Since the statewide hotline, based in Westfield, introduced the texting service in March, it has received 500 text messages, mostly from teenagers and young adults.  The hotline is one of only a handful in the county to add the text option which offers added anonymity and secrecy.

DeVito’s conversation with the young woman continued for close to an hour as the two texted back and forth about the root of the woman’s depression.  The two also discussed what the woman enjoyed and how she could meet people.

“It’s definitely nerve-wracking at first,” DeVito, 23, said of the texting.  “When you talk to someone on the phone you can hear their voice and get a sense of where they are, how they’re doing.  With this, you kind of go at it blind.”

Phone hotlines have existed since the 1960s but only in recent years have states like North Carolina, Nevada and now New Jersey expanded them to include online chat services and texting.  Some frightening statistics drove the expansion. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers.  Each year, approximately 5,000 young people ages 10-24 commit suicide and as many as 25 suicides are attempted for each one that is completed, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

“We’re not pleased people are feeling so bad but we’re pleased people have somewhere to turn,” said Joanne Oppelt, executive director of CONTACT We Care. The hotline is staffed by more than 100 volunteers who respond to more than 12,00 calls and texts each year.  Volunteers work two-hour shifts two to three times a week answering calls at a Westfield facility  and responding to texts through an external computer program.

While the texting option was directed toward teenagers, DeVito, who is pursuing her master’s degree in psychology at Columbia University, said one of her most moving exchanges was with a mother of three who found it difficult to break away from her family to make a call.  DeVito estimates she talked with the woman 10 to 15 times over the course of three months.

“I think what scared me the most was that these children could lose their mother and how important it was to try to keep her here for them,” DeVito said.  “No matter how horrible she was feeling I knew whenever I would talk to her she would be ok that night.”

The waiting period between a question like “are you suicidal” and receiving an answer can feel interminable, volunteers say, and sometimes never hearing from a person again can leave them uneasy.

But in many cases, people do follow-up, as did a 21 year old who texted the service last month: “Even though I still need to talk.  Thank you.  Cause without you guys I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have went  ....and got help.  I chose to do it.  I decided I really didn’t want to die.  I wanted these bad feelings to die.  Not everything else.”




Most Suicidal Teens Don’t Get Professional Help

           By Traci Pedersen Associate News Editor  

 
     Most teens who are thinking of suicide or already attempted suicide have not received appropriate mental health services, according to an analysis led by Kathleen Merikangas, Ph.D. of the National Institute of Mental Health. Around 14 percent of high school students seriously consider suicide each year, 11 percent have a suicide plan, and 6 percent attempt suicide, according to a national survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

     Other research suggests that less than half of teens who attempt suicide received mental health services during the year before the attempt. Over 10,000 teens, ages 13 to 18, completed the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), an in-person, nationally representative survey. They answered whether they had any suicidal thoughts (ideation), plans, or actions during the one-year period prior to the survey.

     The teens also completed an interview asking about the full range of mental disorders including mood, anxiety, eating and anxiety disorders and whether theyhad received treatment for emotional or behavioral problems in the past 12 months. Participants were asked to specify if they received care from a mental health specialist —such as a social worker, psychiatrist or other mental health professional —or from a general service provider, such as a primary care physician.

     According to the results, within the past year, 3.6 percent of adolescents had suicidal thoughts, but did not make a specific plan or suicide attempt.  Other findings include 0.6 percent of teens reported having a plan and nearly 2 percent reported having made a suicide attempt within the past year.

     Suicidal behavior among youth was not only associated with major depression, but also with a range of other mental health problems including eating, anxiety, substance use and behavior disorders, as well as physical health problems.

     Between 50 and 75 percent of those who had suicidal ideation had recent contact with a health provider.  However, most only had three or fewer visits, suggesting that treatment tends to end prematurely.  In addition, most teens with suicidal ideation did not receive specialized mental health care.  The findings suggest that depression and other mood disorders are not the only pathways to suicide. They also emphasize the importance of including a suicide risk assessment into regular physical and mental health care for teens.

     The researchers conclude that even while teens are in treatment, they should continue to be monitored for suicidal ideation and behaviors.



About 1 in 25 U.S. Teens Attempts Suicide

     - National Study Finds By Genevra Pittman : Reuters

About one in 25 U.S. teens has attempted suicide, according to a new national study, and one in eight has thought about it.  Researchers said those numbers are similar to the prevalence of lifetime suicidal thinking and attempts reported by adults - suggesting the teenage years are an especially vulnerable time.

"What adults say is, the highest risk time for first starting to think about suicide is in adolescence," said Matthew Nock, a psychologist who worked on the study at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.helppuzzlepiece

The results are based on in-person interviews of close to 6,500 teens in the U.S. and questionnaires filled out by their parents.  Along with asking youth about their suicidal thinking, plans and attempts, interviewers also determined which teens fit the bill for a range of mental disorders.  Just over 12 percent of the youth had thought about suicide, and four percent each had made a suicide plan or attempted suicide.

Nock and his colleagues found that almost all teens who thought about or attempted suicide had a mental disorder, including depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or problems with drug or alcohol abuse.  More than half of the youth were already in treatment when they reported suicidal behavior.  Nock said that was both "encouraging" and "disturbing."

"We know that a lot of the kids who are at risk and thinking about suicide are getting treatment," he told Reuters Health.  However, "We don't know how to stop them -we don't have any evidence based treatments for suicidal behavior."       

  Who is at risk?

youth-at-riskAmy Brausch, a psychologist who has studied adolescent self-harm and suicide at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, said the finding shouldn't be interpreted to mean mental health treatment doesn't work for teens. 

"We don't know from this study if they even told their therapist they were having these thoughts, we don't know if it was a focus of the treatment," Brausch, who wasn't involved in the new research, told Reuters Health.

The findings were published this week in JAMA Psychiatry. But they still leave many questions unanswered. Because most youth who think about suicide never go on to make an actual plan or attempt, doctors need to get better at figuring out which ones are most at risk of putting themselves in danger, according to Nock. Once those youth are identified, researchers will also have to determine the best way to treat them, he said —since it's clear that a lot of current methods aren't preventing suicidal behavior.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for people between age 10 and 24, killing about 4,600 young people annually. 

Although girls are more likely to attempt suicide —a pattern confirmed by Nock's study  —boys have higher rates of death by suicide because they typically choose more deadly methods, such as guns.

Brausch advised parents to keep open communication with their adolescent and not being afraid to ask about  depression. They should also pay attention to changes in mood or behavior, she added. Nock agreed.  "For parents, if they suspect their child is thinking about suicide  …or talking about death, I would have that child evaluated," he said.

 


Saving Lives with World’s Largest Note Collection

Written by John Johnston

The world’s largest collection of suicide notes, more than 1,300 in all, is at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.   

John Pestian has read each one.

suicide note-03Loss of hope, that’s what defines suicide for me,” said the hospital’s director of computational medicine.  “In most of those notes, you see the loss of hope.”

Pestian and his research team are using advanced computer technology to analyze the language in the notes and gain a deeper understanding of the thoughts of the people who wrote them.  The goal is to create a tool, perhaps within two years, that can help mental health workers assess the likelihood a person will attempt suicide. 

Pestian’s work further bolsters the reputation of Children’s as one of the nation’s top pediatric research institutions.  “Only a few other suicide researchers are merging psychology and computational analysis, and none on the scale of Pestian,”  said Michelle Linn-Gust,  president of the American Association of Suicidology.  “He’s really doing some groundbreaking work,” she added.  

That’s important, she added, because research to prevent suicide has reached a plateau. And the problem “is not going away.”  Each week, about 40 suicidal young people come to the Emergency Department at Children’s, Pestian said.

  Every 14 minutes in the United States, someone dies by suicide.

  Every 32 seconds, there’s another attempt.  

In 2012  the U.S. military saw its highest number of suicides ever recorded  —350.

And during the Great Recession years of 2008 to 2010, the U.S. suicide rate rose four times faster than in the eight years before the economic downturn, according to a study in the British medical journal the Lancet.

In typical clinical settings, assessing a person’s risk for suicide falls to social workers, nurses, psychologists or doctors. Their conclusions can be subjective, because their training and life experiences can vary greatly.

As a result,  “People hear things differently,” said Pestian, a professor of pediatrics.  “What one social worker or physician sees as a suicidal kid, another may not.”

Pestian’s team is devising a means to support professionals in their decision-making.  He’s an expert in the field of neuropsychiatric computational linguistics.  “I teach computers how to listen, and report back what they think they’ve heard from people,” he said.  He began his suicide research six years ago at the urging of a friend in the psychiatric field.  The first task: collect data-the notes written by people who died by suicide.

“When people hear you’re doing this work, they step up,” he said.  Notes-written between 1950 and present day by people ranging from adolescents to senior citizens-came from surviving family members all over North America.
Poring over the notes  ‟can be very depressing.  I’ve cried more times that I can count over some of the things I’ve read.  But in the end, you’re doing whatever you can to help save lives, to help the human condition.  This just happens to be what I get called to do.”

The notes were scanned, transcribed and reviewed for accuracy.  The research team then recruited 165 volunteers-people suicide note-02whohad lost ones to suicide-to read the notes and select words, phrases or sentences that represent particular emotions: abuse, anger, blame, fear, guilt, hopelessness, sorrow, forgiveness, happiness, peacefulness, love, pride, thankfulness.

The result was a database-a linguistic reference set-against which computers could compare the speech of people at risk of suicide. Pestian’s lab developed an algorithm-essentially a recipe of instructions-to teach a computer how to find patterns, derive meaning and make predictions from the data. That branch of artificial intelligence is called machine learning, and it has many applications.  It’s been used, for example, to prevent credit card fraud by teaching computers to recognize the abnormal use of a card and alert the cardholder.

In a recent clinical trial at Children’s,  Pestian’s team tested the algorithm by asking a series of questions to 30 young people with suicidal tendencies and 30 in a control group.  “We wanted to know if the computer could tell, by listening to recordings of what they said, which ones are suicidal and which ones aren’t,” Pestian said.

The computer was 93 percent accurate-identifying those with suicidal tendencies over the control group-while humans were right slightly more than 50 percent of the time with the same groups.

Next: a larger experiment, conducted at more sites.  And perhaps after that, the creation of a product that can be used in clinical setting.  “That’s probably two years away,“  Pestian said. “Even if and when that day comes, such a product will support-not replace-a real person.  When assessing patients, some subjectively is necessary,”  Pestian said.  “It’s part of the art of medicine.

In the end, the clinician, the person at the bedside, makes the decisions.” 



Trying to Overcome the sadness  of Suicide
                                                                                                           By  Thomas Truelson   -Tauton Daily Gazette

Suicide is death by sadness, suffocating sorrow.  Suicide is so sudden, so shocking, so shattering.  It is an act of despair and desperation from drowning in deep, dark depression.  After engulfed in endless battles waged with the raging demons within the mind, a person becomes detached from life and ultimately embraces death as a saviour.

Life becomes a strangling struggle.  In her book,  “Girl Interrupted”  Susanna Keysen, wrote, “Life demands skills I do not have.”  A person who commits suicide loses the skills to live and the ability to face life’s demands.sad-face

 A person simply becomes incapable of living.  A fatal flaw that has no boundaries and can effect anyone —like any other illness or disease.

For loved ones, family and friends, suicide is so unexpectedly final yet it has no ending.  It steals life from the living as one struggles to make sense of the loss, tries to overcome feelings of guilt and anguish and the tormenting thoughts of how the tragedy could have been prevented.  And usually a person must confront these thoughts alone in the sickening silence of seclusion and solitude.

A suicide is so incredibly devastating that life is never the same again, the wounds never heal, the broken hearts never mend.  I write with some experience. Besides losing people I have loved and adored to suicide, I have attempted suicide three times.  The last time was in 1994.  When I arrived at the hospital I was unconscious, spent the next five days in a coma and was not expected to live.  Somehow I miraculously recovered and was told by the doctors that there was no medical reason why I survived.

This is what I learned:  Not once during the weeks and days leading up to my suicide attempted did I think of the ramifications of my death.  Not once did I think about how my death would effect my parents, my family and those who loved and cared for me.  Not once.  Not once did they enter my mind because my mental suffering was so powerfully overwhelming and all encompassing.  And I strongly believe the mental state of most people who commit suicide is exactly the same.

It must be carefully remembered that rarely is suicide an act of selfishness, rarely is suicide an act of a coward.  Some cold hard facts from the CDC and the NCHS.  In their latest yearly figures there are more suicides than murders, there are more suicides by guns than homicides by guns.  There are more suicides than automobile fatalities.  More than three times as many people commit suicide than are killed in alcohol related auto accidents. 

Another cold hard fact from the Department of Defense and from a Time magazine cover story in July 2012. Since the war in Afghanistan began in October 2001, more U.S. military personnel have committed suicide than have died in combat there.

When someone famous commits suicide, like Junior Seau, we read and hear how suicide is preventable.  But what is being done to prevent it?  What is being done to prevent this silent epidemic of death.

samaritansI realize there are groups like the  Samaritans  and the  American Foundation For Suicideamerican-foundation-for-suicide-preventionPrevention that do great work.  But much more is needed, for suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in this country.

Suicide has become a public health crisis and must be confronted on the federal, state and local levels —as well as in our schools, particularly on our high school and college campuses.Suicide is savage in that it tears people apart like no other tragedy and damages the psyche in ways that can never be repaired.  Suicide has been a taboo subject far too long in this country.  While everyone is looking the other way, more than 35,000 people kill themselves every year.  It has become a serious public health crisis and what is being done to prevent it?




Jane Fonda Talks About Her Mother's Suicide     

                                                        Told to :  FoxNews.com


Jane Fonda said her mother’s suicide, when the actress was in her preteen years, left her wanting to help people.

janefonda“My mother was actually abused as a child and killed herself when I was 12, and that is just for starters,” Fonda told FOX NEWS.  “I have seen it up close, what abuse can do to people.”

That’s why recently the “Monster-in-Law” star has gotten involved with the One Billion Rising project, a global initiative aimed at combating rape.  The cause’s latest event, a Zumba dance celebration meant to empower women, tapped into the Fonda’s love for aerobics.

“Women everywhere are dancing and rising, it is the diversity of this which has really made a difference,” she said. “So many things have happened that we all have read about like the rape of a woman in India (which led to the victim’s death)  —so many things where we have to say, ‘enough.’ We are going to develop an international force that will stop the violence.”

Fonda stressed that it’s the little things we can all do which really make the difference in putting a dent in the worldwide epidemic of abuse.  “If a child tells you they have been molested or approached by a perpetrator or pedophile, believe them. Believe the child and go to authorities even if it means you speak out against someone who is a member of your family,” she continued. “And fight for legislation that can help protect women. In too many places police and officials say that domestic abuse is a personal issue but it is not, we have to get legislation that helps end physical and sexual abuse.”

Fonda is also a strong advocate of celebrities using their star status to bring attention to issues afflicting our world.

“We are in a unique position, we are given so many benefits being celebrities,” she said. “We can bring attention and throw light to the dark corners where evil is happening and a lot of that evil is being directed towards women.”

At 75, the prominent Hollywood personality still has the power to turn heads not only with what she says, but how she looks. Fonda stunned in a form-fitting bright yellow dress at the Academy Awards over the weekend, landing her on many best dressed lists. However, her anti-aging secret has nothing to do with dedicating oneself to “Jane Fonda Workout” home videos.

“We started One Billion Rising this morning at a park in West Hollywood and I noticed how many really old women and some old men had gathered. I noticed they had that spark in their eye that people have when they are involved and committed,” she said. “Forget about the physical thing, that can come and go, but you have to keep that spark inside. Staying curious and involved and up on issues, that’s what keeps you young.”
There is little doubt Jane Fonda has already succeeded in what she wants her lasting legacy to be.
“I made a difference,” she added. “Whatever time I had, I made a difference.”


 

               Life  Is  Too  Short   ♦ 

❦    Grudges are a waste of perfect happiness.

Laugh when you can,  apologize when you should,  

and let go of what you can’t change.

 

 



Could Responsibilities Help Prevent Teenage Suicide?             

 

                 By KAY WYMA  (From Internet Blog Site)   

One recent Saturday, a friend of mine drove across town to a gun store.  She bought a pistol, went back to her car in the parking lot, and ended her life.

Unthinkable.

I’m shocked, confused and stricken.  I struggle with how to grieve, and how to talk about it. Complicated doesn’t begin to describe the terrain.  Even as suicide grips my thoughts, it grabs headlines, often coupled with the word epidemic.  I can’t stop questioning, and wondering if anyone has the power to tame whatever thoughts escort our loved ones to the gun store parking lot.

teen_suicide-girlStill, the news exposes my greatest fear : that one of my children will drive the same road.
Knowing the statistics and trends doesn’t help:

—  Suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens. 

—  Suicide is second leading cause of death in colleges. 

—  For every suicide completion, there are between 50 and 200 attempts. 

—  8.5 percent of students in grades 9-12 reported a suicide attempt in the past year. 

—  25 percent of high-school students report suicide ideation.

As if that weren’t enough, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s suicide prevention strategies, “the number of suicides reflects only a small portion of the problem.  Many more people are hospitalized due to nonfatal suicidal behavior than are fatally injured —and an even greater number are treated for injuries due to suicidal acts in ambulatory settings or are not treated at all.”

Not much help in calming my fears.

Talking about suicide prevention is difficult.  The causes are so complex, and often unknowable. There’s no way to simplify or compartmentalize this difficult and emotionally infused topic.  But just because it’s hard to talk about, do we sweep it under the rug? Ignore the fears? Are they unfounded?

Maybe I’m scared because this topic has been normalized.  Maybe I’m scared because I have a child who, thanks to some tough stuff, has tasted depression.  Maybe I’m scared because with five children (and all their friends in and out of my house), I get to witness the power of the “like” button as it creates false popularity, magnifies silences and offers up horrible “like if you hate” judgments.  I don’t like the trend toward isolation. With the “new normal” method of communicating through texts and sites and games, I see children replace talking face to face with what only seems like a safer, easier way.

All of those things plant a child on shaky ground —not the place I want my children to be when inevitable adolescent doubts creep in.  Doubts like that morph into lies like, “No one likes you,” “you’re a burden,” “you’re worthless, “such a loser.”  Lies that gain new life in social media.

And herein lies my fear: that a child will think the thoughts …then act.  A few years ago, I was talking with a youth leader about issues plaguing teens, specifically suicide.  “You know, it seems to hit all kinds of families these days.  Terrific families. And I don’t get it,” she told me.  She gets the emotions teenagers feel, she said, but even in the worst of her own inevitable “no-one-notices-or-would-miss-me” teen funk, she would never have acted on it.  “My family depended on me.  I helped take care of major things around our house, including my sister. It didn’t matter how unloved I might have felt; I was needed  —a necessary cog for the machine to work.”

That youth leader felt needed as a teenager.  She felt connected. Her observation is supported by the C.D.C. in describing its work to prevent fatal and nonfatal suicidal behavior.  “Connectedness is a common thread that weaves together many of the influences of suicidal behavior and has direct relevance for prevention.”  That “connectedness” comes from feeling a responsibility toward something larger than yourself.  It comes in lots of shapes and sizes, many are in our homes.

What if real, genuine, whine-inducing, independence-producing responsibility could act as a life-line of sorts?   The kind of responsibility that the youth leader remembers.  The kind that assures kids that they’re necessarymental-illness-awareness1cogs in their family machine.  The kind that involves them in relationship.  The kind that puts meat on the words “you belong.”

I don’t diminish the clinical nature of mental illness or presume an answer to psychosis.  I certainly don’t question the connectedness of the clinically depressed that have walked that road.  But with prevention in mind, isn’t anything worth discussing?   If “family connectedness” could play a role in helping my own teenagers through the emotional turmoil of adolescence, then family connectedness is what they’re going to get.

At least one study  suggests that the responsibilities that create that connection don’t have to be monumental. Regular stuff counts. Even small tasks like taking out the trash, doing laundry, cooking dinner, or teaching your little brother how to brush his teeth then helping him each night can offer solid grounding for a child.

I know “connectedness” is no panacea. Sometimes, a complicated chronic illness will win out over everything else. For me, my friend’s final act doesn’t define her life. But it has made me consider, even more deeply, what my children might say defines theirs.



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July 2012

“ SHARING AND HEALING ”torrey-pinesJULY  2012

A QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER
Written & Edited By  :  Al & Linda Vigil


ARTICLE INDEX
Pg 1 : Grieving Notes - Al V.
Pg 2 : In The Valley of the Shadow of Suicide   
Pg 5 : Addiction to Suicide
Pg 6 : Book Review “The Final Leap”
Pg 8 : When A Parent Commits Suicide
Pg 9 : Tragedy of Native American Suicide
Pg 11 : Focus on Suicide Signs
Pg 13 : Site Addresses    



“  GRIEVING NOTES ”
By Al Vigil

The milestone for events that measure our lives always become the ‘Before’ and the ‘After.’  Long patterns of all humans measuring their lives this way are difficult to change.  ‘Before’ and the ‘After’ become the measured steps of our time here on earth.

Conveniently, we remember and we mark our calenders as BC (Before Christ), and our personal lives as  ‘Before and After 9-11'   ‘Before and After Kennedy’   ‘Before and After Vietnam’   ‘Before and After WW’  –and etc.  Linda and I, remember much of our days as —a camping vacation, a rock concert, a mountain ski-trip, a wedding, the birth of a grandchild, and we always remind ourselves of that time as a  “Before and After Mia.”  Much of our own lives was been forever changed to measure around those few seconds that it took for Mia to fall 240 feet to her death from the San Diego-Coronado Bay bridge.

After the death of someone we love, we are forever changed.

All of our lives are a collection of all the ages we have been.  The grief of not having our middle daughter to share our current lives, is always with us.  Of course we laugh again, love again, celebrate again, and choose life again.  The loss of our Mia to death, leaves us with a ‘Before and After’ time to remember and to mark the now on-going days of our lives.  We now have five grandchildren that were born after their tiá  Mia died.  Of course we celebrate the gifts of these children, given to us by our other two daughters, Melinda and Marlo.

We tell other Survivors of Suicide loss that we now meet —that we miss Mia for the good things that happen to us and that she is missing.  Those survivors nod their heads in agreement —because they understand that grief.  They now mark their own lives with the Before and After of —a son, a daughter, a spouse, a parent, a friend.  It isn’t enough that we have the courage to live with the “Before and After —”  but we also understand that eventually we have, or will, make it into a new life of
acceptance, joy, —and yes, even peace.  Yes, there is life after suicide loss.

Our own, many years of work with Survivors of Suicide testifies to that healing.  Sometimes tears of sorrow and grief still roll down all of our cheeks.  And, we never apologize for those tears.  They leave fresh marks on our “Before and After” face and they serve to cleanse
our souls and our hearts.

The words you are now reading here are  written for you, —not only ‘After Mia,’  but ‘Because of Mia.’  We hope that they can help you heal with a renewed perspective of your very own “ Before and After  —.”  
"Know That You Are Not Alone -  Sharing Can Be Healing"



In the Valley of The Shadow of Suicide
        -A Mother Catches Glimmers Of Hope After Losing A Son


By Christine A. Scheller  /  ‘Christianity Today’ (April 2009)

When he was 13 months old, my son Gabriel had his first life-threatening asthma attack.  As my Valleymom and I put finishing touches on dresses and party favors for my upcoming wedding, Gabe grew listless, and his breathing increasingly labored. Throughout that busy day, we blindly took turns calling the doctor and soothing Gabe with home remedies.  By nightfall we were in a hospital emergency room being introduced to the miracles that can be wrought with adrenaline and oral steroids, Gabriel spent the next five days, including the wedding day, recovering in an oxygen tent.

This memory reminds me that joy and pain and illness have always mingled to shape my family, Gabriel is the half-Tanzanian child of a failed college romance.  As I wrote in “A Laughing Child in Exchange for Sin”  there was no hiding the circumstances of his birth after I married a man white like me, There was also no remedy for the pain of those circumstances, other than the salve of love.

For nearly two decades, love gave rein to Gabriel, his brother, my husband, and me as we galloped prettily through life.  Then we hit a rough patch.  By this time Gabe graduated from college, we were barely recognizable to ourselves and to each other.  In “Sorrow But No Regrets”  I wrote that our church experiences alone had left my husband and me limping and our sons jaded.  Again I told myself that home remedies and time would heal us.  I told others that I would prove the supremacy of love in my children’s lives.  Just about the time I thought we might regain our family stride, Gabriel died by suicide.  He was 23.

GRIEF  AND  GUILT
The prenuptial flashback soothes amid relentless waves of grief and guilt.  It reminds me that I am not God; I cannot know or see everything.  It reminds me also of the many times when I got my child the help he needed before it was too late.  My sanity and faith demand such reminders.

Early on the suicide felt like a cruel cosmic joke.  It was as if God, or the Devil, or some job-like combination thereof, was mocking and toying with us.  Had my husband and I not been devoted, if imperfect, parents? And what kind of awful irony was it that our boy with the sunny disposition, the one whose story embodied the pro-life message, would take his own life? Would his legacy be reduced to symbols of social stigma instead, in birth and death? Had I not the previous day submitted a story about Psychiatry and Spirituality Forum at the University of California-Irvine to a new outlet, my interest having been piqued by parental concern?  I had blogged about a forum lecture on suicide prevention.  Surely I should have recognized the warning signs.

And yet I did see what only God and Gabriel knew-that he was in such anguish, he saw no way out, save death.  All it took was a few triggers, a good deal of alcohol (as is the case in many suicides), and easy access to means.

In a diabolic twist, those who exhibit the most pronounced warning signs of suicide tend to choose lethal means, while those who act on impulse generally display fewer symptoms and employ deadly means-like firearms or jumping from a precipice.  Less than 10 percent of suicideGrief attempt survivors go on to take their own lives.  For more than 90 percent, the crisis passes.

Shortly after the police came and went the night of Gabriel’s death, I called not a pastor or a friend but Aaron Kheriaty, the psychiatrist who directs the Psychiatry and Spirituality Forum.  He patiently assures us that Gabriel’s death was not our fault, and gently but firmly insisted that the death would never make sense; suicide is inherently an irrational act.  Kheriaty was a safe person to invite into our moment of horror, unlike some pastors who later described the suicide as an “unwise choice” and simple spiritual failure.

We survivors replay final conversations with the deceased in our minds —like the one Gabriel had with a friend days before he died in which he made passing reference to the means he would employ.  Or the one I had with him before he walked out the door that evening:”Gabe honey,” I had said. “What’s going on?  Your eyes look dead.”  He had simply shrugged, and I let him go.

It’s possible that Gabriel was suffering from bipolar disorder.  In An Unquiet Mind.  A Memoir of Moods and Madness, Kay Redfield Jamison, Johns Hopkins University professor of psychiatry, describes her experience:

A floridly psychotic mania was followed, inevitably, by a long and lacerating, black, suicidal depression; it lasted more than a year and a half.  From the time I woke up in the morning until the time I went to bed at night, I was unbearably miserable and seemingly incapable of any kind of joy or enthusiasm.  Everything —every thought, word, movement —was an effort.  Everything that once was sparkling was now flat. The wretched, convoluted, and pathetically confused mass of gray worked only well enough to torment me with a dreary litany of my inadequacies and shortcomings in character, and to taunt me with the total, desperate hopelessness of it all.  Death and it’s kin were constant companions.

Depression affects not just a person’s moods and emotions; it also constricts a person’s thinking, often to the point where the person feels entirely trapped and cannot see any way out of his mental suffering. Depression can “destroy a person’s capacity to reason clearly” and “severely impair his sound judgement, such that someone suffering in this way is liable to do things that, when they are not depressed, they would never consider.”  He concluded : “Gabriel’s death issued from an unsound mind that was afflicted by a devastating disorder.”

Gabe, like nearly half of all college students, became depressed when he left home.  Intermittently I had urged him to take advantage of the school’s counseling services.  In hindsight, I wish we had issued an ultimatum: “Get help or come home.”

Only in the final weeks did his symptoms become increasingly pronounced.  He became uncharacteristically withdrawn, jumpy, and irritable, such that his emotions seemed out of proportion to events.  Overdraft and delinquency notices arrived in the mail almost daily.  He wore dirty clothes to work, slept erratically, and displayed little appetite.

However, days before his death, Gabriel performed at a stand-up comedy club.  On the day he Group Peopledied, he joked with coworkers and publicly professed his love for Jesus.  Experts describe this contradiction as the “suicide calm” that sets in once someone has decided finally, to end the mental torment.  The vacant look I had noted in his eyes had been a function of both suicidal depression and detachment.  In mind and spirit, he had already left us.

COMING  TO  TERMS
Suicide survivor literature is full of cliche’s for banishing guilt, such as, “If love could have saved your family member, they’d still be alive.”  It’s a Band-Aid approach that helps in the short run but offers little lasting relief.  I am convinced that Gabriel’s death represents communal failure.  His personal foundations had continually eroded over several years.  Some of that erosion was his own fault; much of it was beyond his control.  At the heart of my guilt is the fact that I was exhausted and distracted by ongoing trials.  I wasn’t there for him in the way he needed.

In Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman writes:            

Beyond the issues of shame and doubt, traumatized people struggle to arrive at a fair and reasonable assessment of their conduct, finding a balance between unrealistic guilt andTrauma Book denial of all moral.  In coming to terms with issues of guilt, the survivor needs the help of others who are willing to recognize that a traumatic event has occurred, to suspend their preconceived judgments, and simply to bear witness to their tale.  When others can listen without ascribing blame, the survivor can accept their own failure to live up to ideal standards at the moment of extremity.  Ultimately they can come to a realistic judgment if their conduct and a fair attribution of responsibility.
 

Survivors need time and space to come to a realistic self-assessment.  I trust that for me, the crucible will forge a better person, and lead to peace.

Kheriaty closed his message with a mediation on the Prince of Peace.
  On the cross and in his agony, our Lord suffered not just our physical afflictions, but our mental anguish as well.  Out of the depths we cry to him.  God knows the depth of our suffering.  He knows our fragile heart.  And Christ’s own heart, a heart of flesh, a heart both      human and divine, is merciful beyond measure.  It is in this mercy that we place our hope.  It is into these hands stretched out on the cross in a gesture of love that we entrust Gabriel.  Amen.
 

When I think of all that Gabriel suffered in this life, I do not understand.  I find it difficult to trust God or engage him with the intimacy I once enjoyed.  And yet every day, I inhale moments of grace.  I am immeasurably grateful for the privilege of being Gabriel’s mother.  By faith, I now see my serendipitous meeting with Aaron Kheraty not as a cosmic joke, but as evidence of God’s immanence.




Together They're Recovering from Addiction to Suicide
     April 2012  :  By Kevin Riordan, Inquirer

In a compact conference room in Westmont, four men and three women talk 12 Step programsabout not killing themselves. They are members of Suicide Anonymous, a '12-Step' group for people seeking recovery from an addiction to self-destruction.

"I long for death," a gray-bearded man says quietly, as several people nod around the table. This weekly gathering at the Starting Point counseling center, and another at Hampton Behavioral Health Center in Westampton, are among only five regularly scheduled SA meetings in the United States.

The others are in Tennessee, where the self-help group was founded in 1996 by a psychiatrist who repeatedly tried to take his own life. Every year about 35,000 Americans commit suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I believe that underneath suicide is rage," says Janet, who along with her partner, Phil, founded the South Jersey meetings in August 2010. "It's murder . . . of the self."

I met Janet, 54, and Phil, 47, at the Burlington County home they share with a mutt named Banana. The place is packed with artwork, books and inspirational doodads - such as the uplifting aphorisms on the bathroom mirror. Phil is a bookkeeper, and Janet, works as an artist and mime.  They have both have been treated for depression and other behavioral health issues. Both have found their calling in suicide-prevention work.

At one time, "I wanted to rid the world of me," says Phil, who swallowed pills and slit his wrist three years ago. The scar is still visible, a pale filament across the skin. "I would never have attempted it if I'd had the SA group," he adds.

Modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, the originator of the '12-Step' approach, SA is not a crisis center or a professional counseling service. Rather, it encourages personal responsibility, mutual support, prayer, and belief in God or another "higher power" of one's own conception.

Members share personal failings and feelings, including those about suicide. "We have no secrets!" Janet observes, and indeed, the talk around the Westmont table is painfully frank. The SA members, who range in age from their 20s to 50s, speak passionately about their emotional problems  —most are or have been consumers of mental-health services  —and their physical ailments, too.

They're smart, articulate, and caring, but they're also angry, and deeply sad. It's a relief, they say, to talk to other people without having to explain themselves.




BOOK REVIEW 

“The Final Leap: Suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge”
                                                     Written by by John Bateson

In the long list of publications dealing with the Golden Gate Bridge, “The Final Leap”  — written by John Bateson, a longtime suicide prevention activist  —is the first book to be devoted exclusively to the continuing problem of suicide off the San Francisco Bay bridge. Published by the University of California Press, "The Final Leap" signals a coming of age, indeed a crisis point, for this problem.


Final Leap bookThe appearance of the publication of this sensitive and humane book,  signifies the continuing struggle for maturity and depth in an American civilization capable of creating such a breath taking path of sculptured steel across the entrance to a beautiful bay and an enchanting city so evocative of life.

Since its construction, the Golden Gate Bridge has always conveyed a certain mystique. Its orange vermillion towers rise above the ragged rocks and chilly waters of  San Francisco Bay. The bridge’s beauty is matched by its functionality, carrying nearly 2 billion vehicles since opening in 1937.  But did you know that more people have used the Golden Gate Bridge to attempt suicide than any other bridge, landmark, or building in the world?

“The Final Leap: Suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge,”  a 309 page book by John Bateson,  details the history of the bridge’s construction and outline the various attempts and failures by concerned citizens to erect a suicide barrier. A sad but thought-provoking read for anyone interested in bridges, politics, or social responsibility.

In August 1937, a 47-year-old bargeman by the name of H.B. Wobber, a veteran of the First World War, was walking along the newly opened Golden Gate Bridge alongside Trinity College Professor Lewis Neylor, whom Wobber had met on the bus to the bridge.  "This is where I get off," Wobber suddenly informed Neylor midway across the span.  "I’m going to jump."  Neylor grabbed Wobber’s belt and tried to stop him as he headed toward the barrier, but Wobber pulled away and hurled himself over the 4-foot-high railing and thus became the first of the current  estimate of 1,500 suicides off the span.

This story of the first suicide, moreover, contained within itself the prophetic pattern, the DNA code, of the 1,499 suicides to follow. Wobber was white, as have been 80 percent of the suicides, and male, as have been 74.2 percent. He was in his 40s in a group whose average age is 41. He was single in a group in which 56 percent have never married. His demise was witnessed, as has been the case in 76 percent of suicides from the bridge.

Whether Wobber’s suicide was planned or executed on impulse, will never be known. In looking into Wobber’s life history, there is the probability that he would not have tried a repeat performance.  Author Bateson points out, that those few who have survived leaps from the bridge, state that in the very first second of their four & one-half second fall down 220 to the water, they regretted their decision.

Bateson writes about important statistical evidence that suicide, if intervened or prevented, has a statistical probability of not happening again. Suicide, in short, is preventable, and should be prevented, if at all possible by a caring society committed to a humane and effective program of preventive health care.

“The Final Leap — ”  communicates the horror, waste and ripple effects of suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge.  Bateson presents us with vignettes of some of the most horrific suicides since August 1937.  A father throwing an infant off the bridge then following, and another father urging his 4-year-old to jump, then following, are the most horrible examples Bateson presents.

In a concluding appendix of his book, Bateson lists all known suicides by name, with their gender, age and date of self-destruction;  and this list  stripped of creative narrative, possesses a silent eloquence of its own.

Suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge used to be reported in full detail.  Columnist Herb Caen GoldengateBridgewould keep track of how the bridge was doing in comparison to other favored suicide venues.  Today, bridge suicide is treated as a tragic problem to be addressed alongside an array of public health issues.  When exactly the proposed net will find its funding remains an open question, given the competing priorities of our era.

This book is easily readable and very accessible  —its organization and presentation will take the reader through the history, the personal, and the political issues that surround the bridge.  It clarifies questions and serves as a fair indictment of the small group of individuals who, as the ‘bridge district,’  have ignored the need for a suicide barrier for 75 years.




When a Parent Commits Suicide: A Psychiatrist’s Advice
                                    May 2012  ( Reprinted  -From U.S. News)

When a parent dies, it’s always painful for a child. And a parent’s death by suicide—especially, research shows, a mother’s suicide—has an even more painful and potentially disturbing effect.

As with all traumatic events, the way in which kids are supported in processing their feelings about the loss affects how successfully they will recover. Children are very resilient, and while a
Mother & Childparent’s suicide will never stop being an important event in their lives, with help they can recover their emotional health and vitality.

When children experience the sudden death of a parent, they go through what we call traumatic grieving. This kind of death is not just a painful thing to assimilate; it triggers an emotionally complicated or conflicted process.

On the one hand, when a death is shocking and disturbing it generates frightening thoughts, images, and feelings a child may want desperately to avoid. In the case of a suicide, children may have feelings toward or about their parent that they feel are unacceptable, that they want to deny. So they try to block them out, by not talking or thinking about the person they’ve lost, who they may feel has betrayed them, or rejected them. But to grieve in a healthy way, it’s necessary to think about the person you’ve lost, and allow yourself to feel sadness and pain. They need to be able to remember her as a loving mom, before she succumbed to the disease —depression, that caused her death.

Even more than an accidental death, a suicide generates horror, anger, shame, confusion, and guilt —all feelings that a child can experience as overwhelming. The biggest risk to a child’s emotional health is not being able, or encouraged, to express these feelings, and get an Girl Depressedunderstanding of what happened that he or she can live with. When a mother who has been depressed commits suicide, we want that understanding to be that she suffered from a mental illness, a disorder in her brain that caused her death, despite the efforts of those who loved her to save her.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center found that children who are under 18 when their parents commit suicide are three times as likely as children with living parents to later commit suicide themselves. The likelihood increases when the parent who commits suicide is the mother. This highlights the vital importance of providing support to children who are grieving. Not only are we treating the trauma of sudden parental loss, we are also trying to break the suicide cycle in families.

What do children need most in the aftermath of a suicide? First, they require simple and honest answers to their questions. They need to know that their feelings are acceptable: anger at a mother who killed herself is normal, and it doesn’t mean a betrayal of the love you feel for her, or the terrible loss you may be feeling. If the person who died has been mentally ill for a long time, a child might actually feel relieved at the death, and that, too, he or she needs to be allowed to feel.

After a suicide, children need to know that they’re not to blame. Being natural narcissists, kids tend to put themselves at the center of the narrative: If I had behaved better, if I had come home right after school, if I had tried harder to cheer Mom up, etc., she wouldn’t have done this.

What we want them to understand is that mom was ill. We did our best to help her, but it didn’t succeed. This isn’t an understanding that’s achieved in one conversation; it’s something that has to be worked on over time.



 

TRAGEDY OF NATIVE AMERICAN YOUTH SUICIDE
                                                  - Edited from current articles in various Publications

Indian FeathersLast week’s death of Daffodil Princess Alexandria Cole will fall into the numbers that health experts use to alert us to risks. It will be swept into the statistics that governments use to allocate resources to the understanding and prevention of the things that kill us.

Those statistics have helped Western Washington Indian tribes build an extensive array of suicide-prevention programs. It’s good, even essential, that they have those programs. In 2008, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measured the suicide rate of Native American young people ages 15 to 24 as higher than any other age or ethnic group in the nation.The statistics also alert suicide-prevention professionals to another danger: the contagion effect. History shows that one high-profile suicide can lead other young people to try to kill themselves.

Cole, who was 18, a member of the Quinault tribe, lived with her mother in a Puyallup Tribal Housing Authority apartment in Tacoma. Both tribes, Quinault and Puyallup, have a broad range of programs to help their young people not merely survive, but succeed.

Suicide prevention is a complex endeavor that can involves mental health, family relationships, stress, drugs, crime, alcohol, abuse, money, history, hope and despair. Addressing all those elements means developing programs with a broad range and easy access.

CDC data from 2005 show the rate of suicide for American Indian and Alaska Natives is far higher than that of any other ethnic group in the United States—70% higher than the rate for the general population of the United States. American Indian and Alaska Native youth are among the hardest hit. They have the highest rate of suicide for males and females, ages 10 to 24, of any racial group. This crisis is about more than numbers. It’s about people, wonderful young people with everything ahead of them, who take their own lives. It’s also about the traumatized and grief stricken families and the communities left behind. Too often, Native young people simply fall through the cracks of a broken medical system that does not detect their mental health problems and, when they are detected, often fails to adequately treat them.

Puyallup’s tribal health authority and Kwawachee Counseling Center offer free treatment to young people with problems from dental work to depression. When school’s out, the tribe offers day camps where kids get a
second layer of protection. The camps teach cultural values through arts, activities and interaction with role models. They address bullying and substance abuse. Recreation programs offer sports and help young people connect to their cultural and spiritual heritage through language classes, making drums, carvings and regalia.

“Getting back to Native American spirituality is a huge protective factor,” said Terri Card, CEO of Greater Lakes Mental Healthcare in Lakewood. Card began her career working with tribes and on suicide-preventionIndian medicine programs. “Holistically, anything they can do to improve parenting, decrease substance abuse and increase spirituality will move them in the right direction,” she said.

But, occasionally, a huge risk factor blows through good policy. Cole’s suicide brings the threat of the contagion effect not just to the tribe and her school, but to all of Pierce County. The community has the power to blunt that effect. “How it’s handled in the community is huge,” Card said.

Dolores Biblarz of Tacoma is a national authority on the contagion effect of suicide. This is the time, she said, for the community to muster its prevention resources, to reach out to people who may be in crisis, and to use our words carefully.  “It’s very important to speak of this young woman for the wonderful person she was and the wonderful things that she did,” Biblarz said. “It is important to say that she was deeply emotionally disturbed. That way, you have some sort of balance, and you are not glorifying suicide.”  The line between honoring Cole and making her final act seem possible for other troubled kids is critical. “Don’t say things like, ‘Now she’s at peace.’ That means she’s solved her problem,” Biblarz said. This, she said, is the time to pay attention, to listen –especially to young people.

“Tell them you love them. Give them a hug,” she advised. “Ask them if they want a cup of hot chocolate, and, without emotion, without panic, ask ‘Have you ever thought of killing yourself?’ ”

The incidence of youth suicide has reached catastrophic levels in Indian Country. There is an urgent need for increased access to quality mental health care services and suicide prevention for Native American youth. To
begin to combat these trends, the federal government must fulfill its trust responsibilities to provide federally recognized tribes with health care by fully funding IHS programs and making prevention efforts and mental health programs a priority. In turn, all of us —policymakers, clinicians, researchers, and Indian communities must collaborate. A successful effort to prevent youth suicide in Indian Country requires a comprehensive view of the numerous disparities and contributing factors.

We must develop innovative solutions and outreach efforts to overcome the immense barriers of a troubled history, rural settings, limited resources, and many other barriers, which hinder access to appropriate mental health care for Indian youth. The lack of preventive efforts and the rationing of health care we provide to Native Americans are simply unacceptable. Native Americans deserve much better. Native youth are particularly at risk. Meeting their mental health needs must become an urgent priority for everyone.



FOCUS ON SUICIDE SIGNS,

     EXPERTS SAY AFTER WEST DES MOINES DEATH  

 April  2012  by Mary Stegmeir  

Des Moines-area teenagers have mourned the death of 14-year-old Carson VandeVenter throughout this week during impromptu gatherings at area schools and churches.

The West Des Moines boy killed himself at his home Sunday. Parents and others gathered Thursday night at the West Des Moines school district’s central office and discussed this question: How can we prevent this from happening again?

“I’m begging you to really zone in — really think about what our middle school kids are going though, and how rapidly their perspective of being OK can become diffuse, disintegrated, compromised, gone for various reasons, not the least of which is social media,” said West Des Suicide PreventionMoines psychologist Jeff Kerber, one of two featured speakers during a nearly two-hour discussion about suicide prevention. “Please bear in mind that’s a very important piece between the lines.”

The death of VandeVenter, a student at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School who was active in athletics, drama and music, was a tragedy, Kerber said. But his passing also provides an impetus for the community members to take a greater role in prevention.

“The fact of the matter is, most of the time when kids are thinking about hurting themselves or
killing themselves, they’ll say something,” said Kerber, who is the clinical manager of Iowa Health Counseling Centers and also manages the Des Moines Employee Assistance Program. “In many ways, they’ve already given us signs, but we’re going to be better-skilled and better-equipped in how to see them and how to read them.”

Depression, mood swings and attempts to isolate themselves from friends and family are warning signs teens maybe in danger of harming themselves, Kerber said. Increased risk-taking or use of drugs and alcohol can also be a cry for help. Several parents at the meeting, including Matt Stralacki, encouraged district officials to find more ways to talk about mental health and suicide prevention with students.

“We teach them sex-ed and about drugs, but there still seems to be a stigma about talking about mental health,” said Matt Stralacki, who has three children in the district, including a ninth-grader who was friends with VandeVenter.

Bryan Stearns, associate vice principal at Valley Southwoods and the district’s crisis coordinator said the school system would continue to reach to students and community members in the coming months. “This is just the beginning of this conversation,” he said. “This issue is important. It’s not something we’re just going to close the book on.”




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