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October2017

"Survivors of Suicide Loss" 

Two Meetings every Month

 Shepherd of the Valley Presbyterian Church 

1801 Montano Rd NW, Albuquerque

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

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

 


 


 

" SHARING AND HEALING  "

-   October 2017


A Newsletter For  "SURVIVORS OF SUICIDE LOSS"
Written & Edited by  :  Al & Linda Vigil

 

       IN  THIS  ISSUE

Pg 1 :  Grieving Notes - Linda V.   

Pg 2 :  Suicide Loss : Handling the Holidays

Pg 3 :  Not All Gun Deaths are Murders

Pg 4 :  Suicide and the Holidays : Myths

Pg 6 :  Suicide Clusters

Pg 8 :  Holidays - How Do Your Cope

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

Pg 10 : About Survivors of Suicide Loss - NM 

 


 

GRIEVING NOTES

By Linda Vigil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Open site code to view ...

https://vimeo.com/227815365?utm_source=email&;utm_medium=vimeo-cliptranscode-201504&utm_campaign=28749

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

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

-   In Sharing and Healing,  Linda V.   - 


         Suicide Loss : Handling the Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


                     Not All Gun Deaths are Murders

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

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

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

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

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

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

  


                   THE TRUTH ABOUT SUICIDE & GUNS

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

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

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

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

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

 


   Suicide and the Holidays  - Myths

                       Suicide Rates Spike During the Holidays and Other Suicide Myths

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

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

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

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

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

 Myth:  Minorities are most likely to commit suicide.

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

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

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

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

 Myth: Suicide victims always leave a note.

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

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

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

 Myth: Suicide is selfish.

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

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

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

Myth: Anyone who attempts or commits suicide is depressed.

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

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


       Suicide Clusters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Holidays - How Do You Cope?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Adolescents More Likely to Die From Suicide

  ...Then From Traffic Accidents

                                             By SABRINA TAVERNISE - WASHINGTON

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

 


     

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

 


 About  : "Survivors of Suicide Loss - NM"

Two (2) Meetings each Month at :

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

1st & 3rd Monday of Every Month

More information at  :  505 - 400 - 9942

 


 

E-Mail  :  Sharing & Healing - Newsletter

 al.vigil@comcast,net 

 


 

 

October 2011

 

 

“ SHARING AND HEALING ”torrey-pines   

OCTOBER  2011
A QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER
Written & Edited By  :  Al & Linda Vigil

                                  ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE
                                         “Grieving Notes”
                                  “Battle of Tears”    
                  O, yes! People Do Say Stupid Things
                          Book Review “Half In Love”    
                 Work for Prevention of Youth Suicide
                      Parents Sue School District
                       Coping With The Holidays

                           Rich Schwoebel Letter
                            WEB Site Addresses
    


“ GRIEVING NOTES ”
By - Linda Vigil

Al and I spent ten days in San Diego with our grandchildren, while our daughter and son-in-law took a cruise to Alaska. During this time we had made a decision to try and find out where Mia’s boyfriend was living. To our surprise, he was living only two blocks from our daughter’s home.

We took a walk one night, walked up to his front door and his wife answered. We asked to speak to her husband.  After a few moments, he came to the door with so much anger showing towards us. He said many hurtful things out of that emotion and the disbelief that we were standing in front of him. We told him that we were not here out of blame or our own anger, but that it had taken us twenty-eight years to walk to his door, and acknowledge his pain! We realized he not only had his pain, but if his love, and our love, for Mia had been enough, Mia would still be alive! We saw the anger disappear from his face. He started to apologize for his rude behavior when he had answered the door.  We told him, he had nothing to apologize for. He then asked us to tell Mia’s sisters that he said hello. Then he shook our hands and walked back into his into his house.

Al and I had a good cry. We were left with the feeling of peace. We not only turned him over to God, but
  ...we forgave him!

After a few more days in San Diego, we left for Payson, Arizona  ...searching for a few days of relaxation. We stopped at a grocery store, I picked up the Payson Newspaper.  Looking through it, I came across an article on suicide loss. A lady by the name of  Eizabeth Siller had lost her only daughter Kimberly, on September 14, 2009. Elizabeth questioned her storm of emotions in the midst of her grief. She was questioning, “why wasn’t my love enough to keep my daughter alive?” Elizabeth yearned for the connection with anyone who could relate to her loss, but there was no one in Payson.  Telling one’s story often offers the greatest relief after such a crushing loss.

Elizabeth Siller’s inability to cope with her daughter’s suicide, and her hunger to talk about her daughter led her off the little mountain community to the valley 100 miles away, to Phoenix, and to SOS meetings there.  Elizabeth attended the SOS meetings twice a week, just to listen and talk, to release emotions, and let it all out. But making the journey twice a week was too much, and Elizabeth knew Payson needed it’s own group.  In 2009, there were roughly 100 suicides in that Arizona county.

Elizabeth, along with Joanne Affeldt, a bereavement co-ordinator with hospice compassion, has started a support group in Payson by the name of  “Lost Lives” ... a place where people can talk openly. Elizabeth states “we want to help people get through this horrible, horrible time in their life.” She added, “I just needed someone to be my friend.”

Al and I called Elizabeth Siller and expressed how proud we were of her, that through her pain, she wanted to help other people. She shared her “Kimberly Story” and we shared our “Mia Story” and offered our newsletter if she thought it would help survivors.

Al and I are truly convinced that our mission in this life is  “Sharing and Healing”.
In Sharing & Healing,             
- Linda Vigil       
                       

 




teardrop
The battle is not to be strong alone,
the battle is be strong enough to shed tears with others
-without explanation or apology.
If they know you and love you, they will need neither.

-  Al V. -              



Oh, Yes!   People Do Say Stupid Things

I’m sure you’ve realized by now that many people don’t know what to say to a grieving person.
It will always be best to say nothing than some of these wrong things !

↝ Time heals all wounds.

↝ You’ll be stronger because of this.


↝ Don't you think It is time for you to move on with your life?can't fix stupi

↝ Don't worry you'll see him or her again someday.    

↝ He is or she is not hurting anymore.

↝ I know what you are going through.

↝ It was the will of God.  (As though the loss is some kind of punishment, retribution, or reward.)

↝ God wouldn’t give you more than you can handle.

↝ Maybe it was for the best.

↝ People die everyday.

↝ Stop dwelling on it.

↝ They are in a better place.

↝ When you get around to it, I would like to have this item or that item.

↝ When are you going to get rid of this stuff?

↝ You’re young. You’ll find someone else.

↝ You have other children  -or-  you can have another child.

↝ I know how you feel.
.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Unfortunately, a Lot of the Things Listed Above Are True,
But When Someone Is Grieving,
Those Are the Comments That They Least Want to Hear


Most people are well intentioned. They just truly don’t realize how phrases like these diminish your unique and significant loss. America’s poet, Maya Angelou, wrote, “You did what you knew how to do and when you knew better, you did better.” Perhaps, instead of getting angry at poor intentions, you can keep in mind that they really and truly are trying to help.

Most widows and widowers just need a hug or someone to be there even if they don't utter a word and just listen.  Divorce is not the same as the death of a spouse. Yes, in divorce you are shhhhmourning the loss of a life together, hopes and dreams that have ended but that person is still on this earth walking, talking and breathing. You still have that choice if you want to talk with them. Death takes that choice away.

The depth of pain associated with the death of a child is inmeasureable. We are conditioned as we grow up to realize that mom, dad, grandma and grandpa will more than likely die first. After the loss to suicide you are forever changed.

Delaying the grieving process not only prolongs your healing time, it can be worse for you in the long run. Holding it all in to "be strong" for everyone else can affect your own health, mental status and well being.

If you are the one dealing with a death, seek support from your family and friends. Enter into an honest and frank discussion about your loss, your pain, and your fears. Find a support group locally or even on the internet.

If you are a family member, a friend or coworker of someone dealing with a loss, just be there for them. Let them talk, ramble, rant, rave or whatever they need to do. There are only two things that they can do wrong —and that is to hurt themselves or anyone else.

Most of the time all that is necessary is a gentle squeeze of the hand, a light kiss, an earnest hug, and your presence.
If you just have to say something   ...let it be a simple,  "I'm sorry and I truly care."




BOOK REVIEW
                

                    “HALF IN LOVE : Surviving the Legacy of Suicide”
                               By Linda Sexton  (- A Holder of Hope for the Depressed)

Author Linda Gray Sexton learned about depression the hard way. When she was 21, her mother, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anne Sexton, committed suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide in the garage of their Boston home.

Her mother's death was a shock for Sexton, who was in college at the time. But an even greater shock came in the next few years, as Sexton realized that she, too, was seriously ill. She descended to the depths of depression, eventually making multiple attempts to end her own life.

It was a brutal experience, and Sexton now says that one of the worst aspects was the knowledge that she was following in her mother's footsteps. She writes about her illness  —and the long process of recovery  —in her new memoir,  "Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide" (Counterpoint Press, $25, 320 pages). It's a powerful, often harrowing tale, and Sexton tells it with insight and unflinching honesty.

One thing Sexton didn't know at the time of her mother's death was that depression, and suicidal tendencies, can be hal in loveinherited. In a recent interview in Berkeley, the Redwood City-based author, 57, said that her own illness came as a surprise.

"At 21, I was in denial," says Sexton. "At the time my mother died, I kind of resolved that I would never have a mental breakdown; that it would never happen to me the way it had happened to her. It really took me by surprise when I found myself faltering and unable to deal with life in exactly the same ways that she had been unable to deal with hers. It was only later that I began to realize the full ramifications of depression, how it is inheritable and how I was going to struggle in the same way she had."

Sexton recalls having dark feelings as a teenager and experiencing bouts of depression in college. But it wasn't until after she completed her first memoir, "Searching for Mercy Street"  —which, ironically, was about coming to terms with her mother's death  —that she became recognizably ill.

"In that book, I had talked about forgiving my mother for the kind of parent she was, and for the difficulty she had in parenting," says Sexton. "Then I began to realize that I really hadn't resolved my feelings about her death.”

"It was humiliating. In 'Mercy Street,' I wrote about feeling strong and not succumbing to depression  —about being able to conquer it. Here I'd written about it publicly, about how I'd overcome it. Now I was overwhelmed by it, completely unable to cope."

Sexton now knows that her experience wasn't unusual.  "Half in Love" outlines alarming statistics on depression and suicide compiled in recent years: Someone commits suicide every 17 minutes in the United States, and nearly a million people worldwide take their own lives each year. Ninety percent of people who commit suicide suffer from mental illness such as depression or bipolar disorder. Suicide is the third-highest cause of death among teenagers, and among adult children of depressed parents, rates of depression and anxiety disorders are three times higher than those of the general population.

Sexton, who has written four novels and a biography, "Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters," knew something was not right with her mother. Manic bursts of energy were followed by prolonged lows; repeated suicide attempts led to hospitalizations. In retrospect, says Sexton, her mother never was properly diagnosed.

Sexton's own depression started in the 1980s and crept up gradually. Although she was happily married with two small children, she began to experience long stretches of time "in a dark tunnel." One night, she locked herself in the bathroom and slit her wrists.

A bewildering series of events followed  —hospitalization, therapy with numerous doctors whose approaches, she says, were often at odds with each other. Despite medical care, her depression continued to worsen. She numbed the pain by self-mutilating (cutting), self-medicating (with alcohol) and, finally, simply sleeping for days at a time. Many friends and relatives drifted away. Her marriage unraveled. She attempted suicide two more times.

To meet her now, one would never guess that Sexton  —a petite, attractive blonde with a warm smile  —had been through such a crisis. She says that's one of the reasons she wrote "Half in Love." "Depression is still very much in the closet," she says, "and a lot of people don't want to let it out."

She attributes her recovery to three factors. She eventually found a therapist willing to treat suicidal patients (many won't, she notes.) With a combination of drug and "talk" therapy, the medications finally started to work. And Sexton started a new relationship, with a man she describes as wholly supportive. They married in 2009.

Today, she's feeling well. She's repaired relationships with family members; her sons, 26 and 28, are still in her life. She's on the board of Families for Depression Awareness,  a national organization providing education and outreach to families of depressed persons. She maintains a website  www.lindagraysexton.com with a message board and discussion groups and often speaks publicly about depression; the U.S. Army, in light of high rates of suicide among Iraq War veterans, has asked her to give a talk in Washington, D.C., this fall. "Mercy Street" has just been reissued in paperback.

And she gets mail from people who are depressed, many of whom have attempted suicide themselves.

"Half in Love" is for them, says Sexton. "I want them to know that survival is possible," she says. "That recovery is possible. One of the reasons I got better is that my therapist said, 'I will take hope and hold it for you until you're ready to take it and hold it yourself.' She offered me that possibility. I feel very hopeful now, but a lot of these people have no hope at all. And I want to hold hope for them."





Mothers Work for Prevention of Youth Suicide  :  2011

Aside from memories, all Laurie Munley has left of her 17-year-old son fits into a small shopping bag. Inside are photographs of Robert as a smiling fourth-grader, a freshman football player and a handsome flirt who had no trouble attracting female attention.

Beneath the photographs rests a manila envelope stuffed with four sheets of notebook paper. Scrawled with crude drawings and tortured thoughts, the papers were found on the passenger seat of Robert's car. He was in the driver's seat, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. No goodbye. No explanation. No dying declaration. Just four scraps of paper and a wound that will never heal.

In 2002, youth suicide was still a background topic in the American discussion — taboo in many families, schools and other institutions and too complicated for a news media focused on topics easily cast in black and white. A recent rash of youth suicides nationally and in Northeast Pennsylvania, however, has given the issue new cache with news organizations and new urgency with parents and public officials.

Since 2005, 18 Lackawanna County youths ages 15 through 20 have committed suicide, six in 2010 alone, according to county coroner's office records.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24, and the sixth-leading cause of death among children ages 5 to 14, according to the American Academy Stop Youth Suicideof Child Adolescent Psychiatry. Nearly 5,000 American teens and young adults take their own lives every year. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death on college campuses, and self-inflicted injuries account for nearly half a million emergency room visits annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Suicide prevention advocates in the public and private sectors are determined to seize the moment and push for action. Some of the most determined advocates are the mothers of suicide victims. Like Munley, Faber, of Forest City, has teamed with Kathy Wallace, director of Advocacy and Community Mental Health Services for the Scranton-based Advocacy Alliance, to raise awareness for greater access to counseling for at-risk teens and their peers and families.

The Advocacy Alliance was selected as Lackawanna County coordinator of a pilot program to train primary care physicians to screen patients ages 14 to 24 for depression as part of routine physical examinations. Most people who commit suicide have a treatable mental illness, most commonly depression, but rarely seek treatment. Up to 75 percent have seen a primary care physician in the past 30 days, according to the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Untreated depression is especially damaging to children and teens, who are naturally impulsive and mentally and physically predisposed to magnify even the slightest setback, said Jean Rosencrance, director of trauma services for the Lackawanna County district attorney's office. "When teenagers are hungry, they are balls of hunger," she said. "When they are in pain, they are balls of pain. They can't see anything else but that. Coupled with depression, it causes you to focus on the negative, 'I am not worth anything and this will never end.'"

Feeling trapped in torment, dangerously depressed youths seek a "permanent solution to a temporary problem," Rosencrance said.

While bringing primary care physicians into the suicide prevention loop is a promising step forward, Wallace said schools remain reluctant to implement training programs for staff and faculty, which the Advocacy Alliance provides free of charge. School directors and administrators often cite liability concerns as reasons for rejecting suicide prevention training. If they address the issue and a student commits suicide, they fear being sued. School officials are also apt to downplay a student's suicide for fear of inspiring copycats.

Attitudes may be changing, however, and a recent spate of lawsuits filed across the country should be a wake-up call for school officials, Wallace said. While most of the suits center on bullying, a key component of many is the lack of suicide prevention training for administration, faculty and staff.

Scranton High School has recently taken the lead in addressing teen suicide, Wallace said. The November suicide of a student sparked multiple calls from parents asking what the administration was going to do. Principal Eric Schaeffer took the parents' concerns to heart, she said. Schaeffer said he is committed to making suicide prevention a priority, but the schools can't do it alone. Parents must get involved, Schaeffer added.  "I'm very encouraged by what he's trying to do there, and I'm committed to working with him," Wallace said.

"It's got to be a partnership," he said, expressing disappointment that only about 100 people turned out for a January panel discussion that included Wallace and representatives of the medical, legal and school communities. Faber attended the forum, which led her to Wallace.

"I was disappointed with the turnout, but I'm not going to give up," he said. "And I don't think the people I'm working with are going to give up, either."

Schools can be a "huge front line defense" against youth suicide, said Nancy Rappaport, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of school-based programs at Cambridge Health Alliance. Fear of inspiring copycats is overblown, and failing to train staff and students to recognize the signs of depression is asking for trouble.

"Talking about suicide doesn't make you commit suicide," she said. "In fact, it may be an opportunity to show them that you really care and want to help them find a better way."

If his fellow students and school administrators had been trained to recognize his deepening depression, Munley believes her son could have been saved. The signs were there, she said. On the ladder of suicide risk indicators, Robert's descent into self-ruin touched on nearly every rung.

At age 7, Robert witnessed the violent break-up of his parents' marriage over the Christmas holidays. When he returned from vacation, his kindergarten teacher noticed disturbing changes. The sweet, outgoing little boy who easily made friends suddenly became sullen, short-tempered and violent. Munley chalked the changes up to the divorce and figured Robert would adjust with time. Two and a half years later, she began dating Robert's eventual stepfather and became pregnant. The boy resented the new rival for his mother's attention and began acting out.

"His actions became more aggressive, especially toward his siblings," Munley says. "At one point, he tried to choke his brother with a belt and put tacks in his bed.

She took Robert to another therapist. And another. And another. Each offered the same diagnosis: sibling rivalry. Finally, a psychiatrist suggested medication. Robert refused to take it.
As he entered his freshman year of high school, Robert seemed to have turned a corner. His grades earned him a partial scholarship to Bishop O'Hara High School (now Holy Cross), and he went out for football.

When Munley picked up Robert's report card on parents' night, she was told he was disruptive and disrespectful in class. She was crushed and confronted her son. He claimed the teachers crowdwere bullies, and he was merely standing up for himself and his classmates. She had Robert evaluated again, and was told he was "intelligent, charming and possibly bored in class."

The slide worsened in his sophomore year. Robert's grades fell, and his fighting with other students led to mandatory anger management courses. The escalating battles with his stepfather created constant turmoil. "I was angry at him, thinking there was nothing wrong with him, that he was just a bad kid," Munley says. "He was grounded all the time."

In his junior year, Robert started a volatile relationship with a girl his age. His grades dropped again. He spent hours on the computer, had trouble sleeping and lost weight. He wore dirty clothes and always seemed agitated. Munley had him tested for drugs. A first test was positive; a second, negative. She took Robert to his family doctor and asked for a depression screening. After speaking with Robert privately, the doctor said the screening was unnecessary.

Soon after, Robert and his girlfriend broke up. He went to Lowe's and bought duct tape and a hose and drove to a spot in Scott Township, where they sometimes went to be alone. He ran the hose from the exhaust into the window and left the car running. A couple driving by spotted the car and called 911. Robert was taken to Community Medical Center and revived.

The attempt landed him in First Hospital Wyoming Valley in Wilkes-Barre for inpatient psychiatric therapy. He pleaded to come home, insisted he had made a mistake, nothing more, and had no intention of trying to harm himself again. After two weeks, the doctors agreed and he was released. Robert said he was going to live with his father, Munley told him she would rather he stay with her, but would not stop him. It was the last time she saw Robert alive. On June 25, 2002, Robert ended his own life with a hunting rifle.

"I tried to see him, but the police wouldn't let me in," Munley says. "I remember meeting with the funeral home counselor to pick out a casket. She said she couldn't fix him for an open-casket viewing."

"Every time I go back and relive it, the pain is as fresh as in 2002. I wish I had pursued the depression screening. I wish I had been a better mother. I wish I stood up to the psychologist in the hospital. I wish I had told him I loved him more. I wish I had shown him more support, so he had somewhere to come and talk."





PARENTS SUE SCHOOL DISTRICT AFTER TEEN'S SUICIDE
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla  -   2011

The parents of a 13-year-old American girl who hanged herself in 2009 after being ridiculed by classmates for texting a suggestive photo of herself to a boy have sued the school district. Hope Witsell's parents said Hillsborough County school officials failed to take appropriate action after learning the teen had suicidal thoughts, according to a lawsuit filed this week in federal court in Tampa, Florida.

The eighth grader killed herself in her bedroom on September 12, 2009. At the time, she was enduring harassment from other students over a sexting incident that occurred at the end of the prior school year. Her mother later discovered a copy of a "no-harm contract" in which her schooldaughter agreed not to attempt suicide and to call a school social worker if she was considering ending her life, the lawsuit said. It was signed the day before Witsell died.
Donna and Charles Witsell said the social worker did not tell them that she met with their daughter or share concerns about shallow cuts seen on the teen's thigh. They claim that the social worker also failed to involve the school psychologist, principal, school resource officer or Hope Witsell's assigned scholastic counselor.

The social worker "squandered the trust, confidence and critical knowledge bestowed exclusively upon her" by Hope Witsell, the lawsuit said. The parents accuse the school district of negligence and violating the teen's and their own constitutional rights. The school district does not comment on pending litigation, spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said Thursday.    



Coping With The Holidays

Holidays and special days, such as birthdays, anniversaries graduations, weddings, and Easter, to name a few, are all difficult days for the bereaved, but for many, the most difficult holiday of the year is Christmas. This day more than any other means family together. It is at this time we are so acutely aware of the death of someone we love. For many of us, the wish is to go quickly from Dec. 1st to Jan. 1st. We continually hear Christmas Carols, people wishing everyone, "Merry Christmas."  We see the perfect gift for our dead child, spouse, or relative and suddenly realize they will not be here.


Listed below are some ideas and suggestions that others have found helpful in coping with the Holiday holiday symbolSeason. Choose only the one(s) that will help you.

✓  Family get-togethers may be extremely difficult. Be honest with each other about your feelings. Sit down with your family and decide what you want and need to do for the holiday season. Don't set expectations too high for yourself during those days. If you wish things to be the same, you are going to be disappointed. Do things a little differently. Undertake only what each family member can handle comfortably.

✓    There is no right or wrong way to handle the day. Some may wish to follow family traditions, while others may choose to change.

✓    Keep in mind the feelings of your children or family members. Try to make the holiday season as joyous as possible for them.

✓    Be careful of the "shoulds." It is better to do what is most helpful for you and your family. If a situation looks especially difficult over the holidays, you may choose to not get involved.

✓   Set your limitations. Realize that it isn't going to be easy. Do the things that are very special and/or important to you. Do the best that you can.

✓    Once you have made the decision on the role you and your family will play during the holidays, let relatives and friends know.

✓   Baking and cleaning the house can get out of proportion. If these chores are enjoyable, go ahead, but not to the point that it is tiring. Either buy baked goods or go without this year.

✓   If you used to cut your own tree, consider buying it already cut this year. Let your children, other family members, neighboring teens, friends, or people from your church help with the decorating of the tree and house. If you choose not to have a tree this year —that’s ok too.

✓    Emotionally, physically, and psychologically it is draining. You need every bit of strength. Try to get enough rest.

✓    What you choose to do the first year you don't have to do the next.

✓    One possibility for the first year may be to visit relatives, friends, or even go away on a vacation. Planning, packing, etc., keeps your mind somewhat off the holiday and you share the time in a different and hopefully less painful setting.

✓    How do we answer, "Happy Holidays?"  You may say, "I'll try" or "Best wishes to you." Your response with a polite smile can be the best for you this year.

✓    If shopping seems to be too much, have your relative or close friend help you. Consider shopping through a catalogue.

✓    If you are accustomed to having Christmas dinner at your home, change and go to relatives, or even to a special restaurant. Some people do find it helpful to be involved in the activity of preparing a large meal. Serving buffet style and/or eating in a different room may help.

✓    Try attending religious services at a different time at your church, synagogue, or temple.


Some people fear crying in public, especially at religious services. It is usually better not to push the tears down any time. You should be gentle with yourself and not expect too much of yourself. Worrying about crying is an additional burden. If you let go and cry, you probably will feel better. It should not ruin the day for other family members, but will provide them with the same freedom.

✓    Cut back on your card sending. It is not necessary to send cards, especially to those people we will see over the holidays.

✓    Do something for someone else, such as volunteer work at soup kitchens or visit the lonely and shut-ins. Ask someone who is alone to share the day with your family. Provide help for a needy family.

✓    Donate a gift or money in your loved one's name.

✓    Share your concerns, feelings, apprehensions, etc. with a relative or friend as the holiday approaches. Tell them that this is a difficult time for you. Accept their help. You will appreciate their love and support at this time.

✓    Holidays often magnify feelings of loss of a loved one. It is important and natural to experience the sadness that comes. To block such feelings is unhealthy. Keep the positive memory of the loved one alive.

✓    Often after the first year the people in your life may expect you to be over it. We are never over it but the experience of many bereaved is that eventually they enjoy the holidays again. Hold on to HOPE.




sad smiley
  
Don't forget, anticipation of any holiday can be so much worse
than the actual holiday itself.






DEAR SOS MEMBERS
A few months ago, we asked you to write down your thoughts / words on how SOS and or how Rich Schwoebel have affected you and or what SOS has meant to you. He started SOS many years ago, and it is the longest running support group here in New Mexico.
Thank you for your participation on this project, the scrap book turned out very nice, and was given to Rich last month. It was a wonderful gift to give Rich. I know I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for these meetings.
Best wishes . . .

                              Dayna,  SOS volunteer

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

 

letter and penHere is the thank you note from Rich :


Dear Participants in Survivors of Suicide of New Mexico September 2011

A few weeks ago Linda Vigil and Dayna Anton visited to present to me your large volume of personnel recollections written by several of you participating in meetings of Survivors of Suicide in the Albuquerque area. I can’t thank you enough. I have read the wonderful heart felt thoughts that you have expressed, and I am deeply moved by your gratitude and many insights. It is truly a wonderful collection and I shall always cherish your expressions of thanks. Of course, we need always to thank one another for the insightful sharing that has moved all of us on our path toward wholeness and recovery as we minister to one another.

While our tragic losses remain with us, I think many of us have come to believe that wonderful things that can emerge from such devastating events. These are events that have irreversibly changed our lives into ones of greater sensitivity, and with perspectives that often encourage us to share them with others in their time of need. We have been forever sensitized by these sudden and unexpected losses. As survivors we can, perhaps better than any others, reach out with compassion and care to those with recent losses and help them find healing and new measures of understanding. We can walk with them as they find renewed trust and faith in their lives.

I know that many of you have found a personal ministry in reaching out to survivors not only in our midst, but also to those who have suffered other losses. We need one another as we move past such events and toward a new life that honors those very special people that we have lost and who will always mean so much to us.

An important expression of thanks can be found in assisting Marion, Al and Linda, and the many volunteers who support and nurture the important work of SOS. And indeed, support the broader effort to the prevention of suicide efforts that now are part of a national effort.

Thank you again for your thoughtful remembrance.

Rich Schwoebel,   (Albuquerque)










Visit the Albuquerque SOS Web Site for Local Meeting Information at

www.sosabq.org

computer mouse Visit the Newsletter Web Site for the Entire Archive of past Issues at

www.sharingandhealing.org


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April 2011

“ SHARING AND HEALING ”

torrey-pines                         APRIL  2011

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



“ GRIEVING NOTES ”
By -  Linda Vigil

“ The Irony Of Grief  ... On The Other Side Of  Forgiveness ”

I have experienced much grief and pain, along with many others on my Journey of Life.
In the last four months I have once again been put on a path full of pain, but this time my path has opened my heart and my eyes to the ‘Irony of Grief.’

When we lost our Mia twenty seven years ago to suicide, we experienced the roller coaster ride of grief !  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance, and not all in that order.  But with a lot of hard work, we finally reached the place of Acceptance.  But believe me, we felt the emotions of anger and blame, and it was towards Mia’s boyfriend.  He did not push her off that bridge, but we blamed him
for breaking her spirit.

Four months ago we were put on a very different path of Forgiveness.
Our beautiful 18 year old grand-daughter was driving a car with two of her dear friends.  All three girls had just graduated from high school and had their entire lives ahead of them —with promises of hopes and dreams for their future!  Our grand-daughter was wearing her seatbelt, but her dear friends were not.

In just a few seconds their lives were Forever Changed !  Taking a freeway exit, our grand-daughter lost control of the car.  The car overturned and her two friends were ejected through the rear window.  One girl was hurt and one girl was killed  —she died in my grand-daughters arms.  In those few seconds, her family, her friends, her siblings, were Forever Changed.

I cannot begin to share with you what an impact on my life this has been.  My beautiful grand-daughter who blames herself, is going through such deep grief, depression, and trying to make sense of a horrible tragic accident!  Our grand-daughter has made a video (Posted on YouTUBE) speaking about the importance of wearing a seatbelt.  Already she has made a choice of Sharing and Healing.

Once again, we are going through the Grief Stages, none of us on the same path at the same time.  But, this path has already given me the gift of forgiving my daughter Mia’s boyfriend and praying that my grand-daughter will be able to forgive herself.  It was a horrible, tragic accident!

I know only too well what the family of the girl that was killed is going through and I realize what our grand-daughters family is going through,  Al and I, pray everyday that our grand-daughter will choose life, and that she and her surviving friend will someday, not have any more nightmares, and that the vision of this tragic accident will diminish with time!  I pray in time they will feel peace and serenity and give the gift of sharing this experience with others  —in hopes of saving lives and all the pain that comes with losses.

The Irony, is that I am now on the other side of another tragedy  ...praying that in Sharing and Healing,  our grand-daughter will Forgive herself and reach Acceptance!  She has no idea how much she has helped me in my own grief process  ...I had turned forgiveness of Mia’s boyfriend over to God.  I had been very satisfied with that choice.  But I now understand what part of the grief process I had left out.

He  now  has  my  FORGIVENESS !

In Sharing & Healing,                                            
- Linda Vigil 
             
                                       


Blue Ribbon
A  SPECIAL   ARTICLE SunRise
DEDICATED  TO

RICHARD  SCHWOEBEL 

Rich is the Founder of the SOS Group in New Mexico and is also
                          accredited by the American Association of Suicidology
as one of the initial founders of SOS Groups in the United States


What  SOS  Has  Meant  To  Me


      By -  Lola Blackwell   

Rich is a steady, consoling presence, accepting us, advising us without rejecting anything we say.  He affirms us as individuals, and really pays attention to us.  He acknowledges our feelings, showing that he knows what we go through.  His calm, gentle way of speaking reassures us that we can trust him with our pain.  Rich gives our SURVIVORS group wise, sensitive guidance, helping us cope with our life-changing losses.


     By  -  Andrea McEneny  

     Dear Rich,
Even before my little brother, David took his life in 2000, your Survivors of Suicide support group was in a way, a support to me because I knew from the newspaper that such a group existed. When my world stopped on that September day, I knew there was a place for me to run to...and I was not alone.  Even though that was of consolation, I believed no one there could’ve had a loss as huge, as consuming, tragic, and as unbearable as mine.  After all, David was my delight, my drug of choice and the most cherished person in my life.  But soon I met people who had suffered multiple losses, who had lost children to the darkness or had been the one to discover their wife’s lifeless body...people who had no answers for that burning question “why”?  I had in many ways, been spared.  If these people could put one foot in front of the other, so could I. 
SupportGroupsNot only was a group available, but it was strong standing, stable group that was there for me and many others before me.  The location, time and format were reliable because you were there and those years to see it through. For three years I didn’t miss a meeting unless I was out of town.  It was a lifeline for me.  I was like a crumbling, boiling pot that needed to leak out some steam by talking about what had happened and what a cavern had been left behind.

Now, ten years later I still benefit from my less frequent but regular meetings.  Retelling my story, each time with a new perspective, maybe, a new insight or understanding of things...revisiting the grief in a positive way...sticking my finger back in that socket, hearing other peoples stories and blotting away the tears allow me to heal in a deeper way, beyond marking time.

The statistics show that survivors who attend a group such as ours recover, more fully from a suicide loss than do survivors who haven’t had such a group available.

It’s been a real community service you’ve provided Rich. Thanks so much from all of us.



       By   -     Marion Waterston  

It's hard to feel alone. Never have I felt more alone than when I lost my husband to suicide in 1973. No one in my circle of family and friends had experienced loss in this manner and I found myself feeling susceptible to what they might be thinking of me. Suicide bears that stigma. Did they feel I had driven him to this?
Fortunately, I had marvelous family support. My brother comforted me by saying "Marion, if he couldn't get along with you, he couldn't get along with anyone." I repeated those words to myself many times when I felt I needed bolstering. My sister-in-law, a physician who had experience working with patients having mental problems, insisted on sleeping with me that first tormented night of separation. My mother came and stayed with me for many weeks, Butterflyselflessly caring for my three and four year old children. Close friends whom I called when I discovered the body offered their wisdom and support and were a source of strength. Still, with all this help, a feeling of isolation and emptiness persisted. When my husband's graduate school called and asked the cause of his death, I did not level with them and muttered something about "a breathing problem." There were no support groups for suicide survivors that I could locate in New York at that time, although I did find one group in Los Angeles. I became active in a group of widows and widowers in the county in which I lived but found I was the only one who had lost someone to suicide. I felt somewhat of an enigma, since suicide left me feeling both widowed and divorced at the same time.
Sixteen years later I was still living in New York, when my nineteen year old son also took his life and there I was, back on the treadmill again. Fortunately, there was a group for suicide survivors in existence at that time, run by a trained leader. I joined, was fortunate to meet a wonderful friend, and we have remained close for twenty years. She, too, had lost a son to suicide. For that and other reasons, we bonded.
I moved to Albuquerque, NM in 1995, five years after my son's death, and was able to find the group called  "Survivors of Suicide" or "SOS."  It was run by a man named Rich Schwoebel and I called him. At the other end of the phone, I discovered a warm, compassionate, understanding human being who has been my friend for fifteen years. I learned that Rich had been instrumental in starting SOS and had been its leader since its inception in the seventies.
I joined SOS and felt I had come home. Here I was able to continue sharing the legacy of suicide - the pain, bewilderment, guilt, and anger - with others who had been through the same experience I had. And I learned that it is possible to move beyond these feelings. Being a "survivor" permits you to make a choice as to how well you choose to survive. It does not mean forgetting your loved one. Rather, it incorporates your loss into re-evaluating your own purpose in living, without guilt associated in being a survivor. It also helps to develop a sense of deeper values regarding what's really important in life and what's insignificant. It's interesting that many who have joined SOS often choose, at some later date, to tell their stories and lead the group discussion that follows. They want to give back and help newcomers take the steps they need to take for their own recovery. There is never any requirement to speak, only to listen, and boxes of tissue are generously placed throughout the room. Members of SOS are not afraid of tears.
Two members who have gone on to share their stories and also lead the evening groups of SOS, are Linda and Al Vigil. Additionally, they publish four times a year, a remarkable newsletter called "Sharing and Healing" —which is intended for survivors of suicide. I admire the title because I have found from my experience that sharing is healing.
These are just a few of my thoughts as I think about the impact SOS has made in my life. I know it has helped many others besides me and will be there to help others in the future. Thank you, Rich Schwoebel, for making this possible.


     By - Jennifer Lind 

Dear Rich,   I don’t know you well, but I am certain that you have touched and helped many people of your many years of service to Survivors of Suicide. You met me at the door on my first time to the support group, and it was obvious that you cared and knew my pain and how hard it was for me to simply walk down that long, long hall.
I nearly did not make it, I wanted to turn around. Your kindness was a great comfort to me, and I’m sure to the many others who are, both fortunate and unfortunate at the same time, to find their way to you.
Thank you for your work to SOS.    God’s blessing to you !




torrey-pinesBy    -  Al & Linda Vigil  

When our middle daughter, Mia, took her life in 1984, we were given a blue business card that read,  “Survivors of Suicide - Support Group for Those Who Have Lost a Loved One to Suicide.”  The card also had a name and a telephone number to call for meeting information.

After several weeks, we called that telephone number and spoke to Virgil. Like us he too, had lost a daughter to suicide. We quickly understood that he understood our pain and our grief. We weren’t talking to a counselor, or a therapist, or a mental health professional, or to someone who had learned about the grief process in Psychology 101. The following Monday, we, with our other two daughters, went to our first SOS Meeting.

SOS has become the pathway that has moved us into sharing and healing with our survival stories, our pain, our growth, and our tears, with hundreds of others just like us -surviving the loss of someone we loved by suicide. That healing and grief work in San Diego took us through 15 years after Mia’s death.


Six years ago (in 2005) we retired and moved to Albuquerque, our original home. We wanted to be physically closer to family of origin —mother, sister, nephews, nieces, cousins, etc. Then in 2008, Patty, Linda’s sister, took her life with a drug overdose. We understood the power of sharing and healing to help us with the loss of another suicide in our family.

We checked around and with special thanks to Richard Schwoebel, two SOS Meetings a month, at four o’clock in the afternoon, were going on right here in Albuquerque. Rich, had initiated and started the meetings after the death of his wife to suicide.

There was never a moment of hesitation.  To SOS—Albuquerque we trekked. Every meeting we attend, we go as survivors of suicide loss. Then after several month of attendance there, we decided to add to the valuable viability of survivor support. With the approval and blessings of Rich, Marion, and the SOS-ABQ Board of Directors, we were able to add two more SOS meetings a month, at 7 o’clock in the evening.

Any seed for grief healing always needs nurturing from someone to sprout. In Albuquerque, that seed was planted, fed, cared for, maintained, and groomed by  Richard Schwoebel.

Thank you Rich!  Your work has moved un-numbered hundreds of suicide survivors, and once again, Linda and Al, through the road to healing by making available sharing and healing in New Mexico, through your Survivors of Suicide.



                                                                    By   -   James  and  Linda Baca

ReachingHands Rich Schwoebel   :   The Man With A Mission      
Thank you. For a man so dedicated to helping others in his quiet, confident manner these two words don’t seem enough. I first met Rich in late 1999 at an SOS meeting. My head was in a fog and my thoughts were disjointed as so many of us are when faced with the tragedy of the loss of a loved one to suicide. His quiet demeanor instilled a sort of comfort in Linda and me. He welcomed our infant grandson who we cared for while his mother was at work.  His understanding and friendly acceptance of us and our situation were not to be found anywhere else.

Rich had been welcoming people like us since the 1970’s and he personally kept SOS together without outside help or financial support other than the use of a meeting room provided by the church. It would be interesting to know how many people were enriched by his calm support. The meetings are a revolving door of attendees with new survivors present at almost every meeting. He personally facilitated every meeting and I could always count on seeing him on the second and last Monday of every month.

He started the meetings with a few simple rules. Don’t judge, don’t offer advice and don’t repeat things that are said in confidence. Speak if you wish, but it is not required. A few unspoken rules were cry if you feel like it, be angry if you wish, say what is on you mind without fear of judgment or reprisal. This was a place to be at ease with distress and acute emotions. This was a safe place.

Rich, you set an example for us that is impossible to follow. We think about you with great respect and admiration for your commitment to a cause that few will undertake. We will never forget you and what you have done for us. We came through a dark time in our lives and have emerged as better people. We are indebted to you for giving of yourself so that others can heal. Thank you.



     By  :  Carol Argue    

Rich  Schwoebel  and  Survivors  of  Suicide

I remember November 10, 2004, as though it was yesterday.  When I came home from work, I discovered the body of my husband, John, in the garage, the blue and white nylon rope around his neck, wrists, and legs.  Shockwaves went through my being as I summoned the strength to call 911 for help; I was forever changed from that moment forward.  

Almost immediately, I began to attend grief counseling sessions and soon learned about the existence of Survivors of Suicide.  I called for information about SOS and could only listen to Rich Schwoebel’s voice as I was unable to speak through my sobbing.  I agreed to attend the nextgrief person meeting of SOS; Rich said he would meet me outside at the entrance of the church.  

Rich greeted me by name as I approached him which triggered more tears and sobbing.  His hug and comforting words will never be forgotten.  I was met by Marion Waterston as I walked into the meeting room;  she sat by me and comforted me during the meeting.  While I was too upset to talk about my loss, I listened to stories of the profound pain and agony of losing children, spouses, friends, and relatives to suicide.  Although there were a few tears, I noticed laughter and humor as people shared stories about their struggles, hope, change of lifestyle, sadness, anger, and much more.  What I also heard were stories about moving on, accepting the loss, coping with unspeakable circumstances, and making lifestyle changes in order to survive.

Attending SOS meetings, quite frankly, saved my life.  I was able to go on after my husband’s suicide and embrace my new life as a survivor.  SOS and my association with Rich gave me the strength to continue on with my life and to help others who have come after me.  

We each have our own story to tell as to why we became members of SOS, but the feelings and understanding common to us all bind us forever and help make our lives so worthwhile.



     By  :  Dayna Anton    

I'm so grateful that SOS exists, after my fiancé killed himself I was left feeling empty, confused, hurt, sad, angry, broken, mad and lost.  I sought counseling and was put on antidepressants, and I tried to return to as normal of a life as possible, but was still left with so many questions that my therapist was not able to help me with.  I wasn't comfortable and had little faith in the expertise of someone who had not experienced losing someone of such significance to them —to suicide.  My fiancé was so much a part of my life, my existence, myBroken Hedart future, my past, my best friend.  It's very different than having someone die of old age, illness, or of a tragic accident —he chose to kill himself.  I felt that I had noone to talk to that could truly understand what I was feeling, or that could help me get through this.
It was at a counseling session at OMI where I asked if they knew of some other people that had lost someone to suicide that I could contact.  I was given a flyer for SOS, and shortly after I began attending meetings regularly. They have given me more help, insight and support, than anything else I've encountered. Without those meetings I don't feel that I would be here today. Having people to talk to that truly understand what you're going through has been the best thing for me.  It's a place of non judgement, openness, sharing and healing.  My life will never be the same, but I now know that it will go on, and I can and will survive.
Thank you so much Rich, for starting SOS.  It is my rock, my safe place, and has given me the strength to go on and to move forward.   Best wishes!  



     By  :  Joe Thompson

In 2005 I found my wife dead in our garage. We had been together for almost twenty years. I was devastated. Heartbroken. After a few months of walking about in a daze I tried to get some help dealing with my grief.
A friend suggested a grief class hosted by an area hospital. I will never forget that first meeting. All of the attendees in the room took turns introducing themselves and the person they had lost. Cancer, a car crash and murder were the causes of death described. When my turn came I explained that my wife had taken her own life. I will never forget the look of contempt I received from people. Their loved ones had been taken and mine had left. I felt shame. I didn’t belong there.
Puzzle heartSometime later I went to my first SOS meeting. The leader of the group, Rich Schwoebel took a special interest in me for he too had lost his wife to suicide. Finally I had found someone who knew how I felt. In the coming months Rich and I had many conversations. I was so lost and I had no skill articulating my feelings. And then one day I found my voice. Thanks to Rich I was able to explore and embrace the flood of emotions. By sharing those feelings with Rich and others I was able to fully experience my grief. Despite my fear that I would never be healthy or happy again I started to make progress. After about a year in the group I discovered that the program really worked. I also realized that a big part of my healing was the product of my helping others. Rich taught me these things  —he taught me that I needed to focus on serving others.
But for Rich Schwoebel and the SOS Group he founded I would not be here today. I still have days of incomprehensible sadness  —days that I can't believe my wife is really gone. But even on the worst of days I am able to connect with the gratitude I feel toward Rich and SOS. I am grateful that I have found my voice and the tools to deal with life's greatest challenges. I am grateful for the realization that we have an obligation to help one another and it is through the unity of common experience that true healing is possible.


      By  :  Eilene Vaughn-Pickrell

Dear Rich,
As a recent survivor of suicide, I would like to thank Rich and everyone who is part of this great healing and helping group.  When I lost my son, Sam, last April, I was a lost soul searching for answers and ways to deal with the enormous pain I was experiencing.  I visited with a grief counselor at the Medical Examiner’s office who had a flyer in her office for your group meetings.  Then one day, I was talking to my neighbor, Laura, who I met when the tragedy occurred, who strongly recommended your group to me.  She is the Executive Director for the Coalition to Prevent Suicide and she said SOS was a tremendous help to her when she lost a friend to suicide a few years ago.
Hearing about SOS more than once seemed like a sign to me that I should at least check it out.  It was really hard making the first call.  I was very emotional, but thankfully, Rich answered the phone.  In a very calm and soothing voice, he told me about the meetings and suggested I attend one.  He said there was no obligation and nothing was expected of me.  It was his sincere, no-strings-attached, but interested in helping invitation that brought me to the first meeting.alone on boat
After attending meetings for the past few months, I am so grateful now for the healing I have gotten from your meetings.  Everyone I have met truly cares about each other and empathizes with each other’s pain.  While I did see a grief counselor for a while, it is the wonderful people involved in SOS and going to the meetings that are helping me to get through the most painful and difficult experience of my life.  I know I’ll be going to these meetings for a long time because they help me so much.  It is my hope that eventually, I’ll be going to these meetings more to help support others through their grief than to help myself. In the meantime, thank you for being there for me and all the other survivors you have helped.


                                             Thank  You!  ♥  Rich  Schwoebel





REASONS FOR SUICIDE ARE AMPLIFIED FOR NATIVE AMERICANS
Lorna Thackeray   :  Gazette :  February  2011

All the reasons that put young people at risk of suicide in the country at large are amplified on Indian reservations. Indian children are more likely to be abused, see their mothers being abused and live in a household where someone is controlled by drugs or alcohol. They have the highest rates of emotional and physical neglect and are more likely to be exposed to trauma.

“The unfortunate and often forgotten reality is that there is an epidemic of violence and harm directed toward this very vulnerable population,” Dolores Subia BigFoot, director of the Indian Country Trauma Center at the University of Oklahoma, testified  before the Senate Committee of Indian Affairs during hearings on the Indian Youth Suicide Prevention Act of 2009.

indian headdress“American Indian children and youth experience an increase risk of multiple victimizations,” she said. “Their capacity to function and to regroup before the next emotional or physical assault diminished with each missed opportunity to intervene. These youth often make the decision to take their own lives because they feel a lack of safety in their environment. Our youth are in desperate need of safe homes, safe families and safe communities.”

Safety can be an elusive commodity on isolated, remote reservations where poverty and its offspring — substance abuse and violence —are self-perpetuating.  In states with reservations, an estimated 75 percent of suicides, 80 percent of homicides and 65 percent of motor vehicle deaths among Native Americans involve alcohol. Violent death accounts for 75 percent of all mortality in the second decade of life, BigFoot said.

Poverty is generational and community deep. High unemployment rates are the norm. Good-paying jobs —or the prospects of any employment at all —are often off the reservation. Leaving the reservation means entering an alien culture that may not always be welcoming, and where there are no grandmothers, aunts and cousins to watch your back. About 50 percent of Montana's native population lives in urban areas. Suicide rates among urban Indian youth are higher even than those on the reservations.

“We don't know what goes on behind closed doors at home,” said Shawn Silbernagel, who is youth coordinator for Planting Seeds of Hope, a suicide prevention program sponsored by the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Association.  “The average Indian child has a lot of adult things, negative adult things, they have to deal with at a very young age,” he said.

Funerals and grief are common to children in tribal cultures where large extended families are essentially the same as the immediate family in the general population, he said. Teaching children how to deal with the trauma in their lives is the theme of many programs throughout Indian Country aimed at reducing suicides among Native Americans. The Tribal Leaders Association has one year left on its second three-year grant to bring a comprehensive suicide prevention plan to Montana's seven reservations and the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

“We have eight partnering tribes,” said Stephanie Iron Shooter, manager of the program. “Each tribe has a youth council or committee as a way for kids to address the tribal councils and community.”

Through the “Honoring Your Life Project,” the tribes fashion a grassroots program based on tribal creation stories and philosophies of life and death, she said. Tribal elders play a key role and many of the projects seek to restore the bonds between elders and tribal youth. Weakening of those bonds and loss of culture and spirituality are among the reasons young people cannot find their way, she said.

Others describe historical and cultural trauma that remains ingrained in the Native American psyche. Colonization and racism and the abrupt end to traditional life still reverberate in new generations, said Clayton Small, a Cheyenne, who works in a nonprofit suicide prevention program.

Generational trauma weighs heaviest on the male population, he said. They commit suicide at a far higher rate than female Native Americans. “In Indian Country the role of our men has been significantly altered,” Small said. “Then throw in poverty and violence and it descends into drug and alcohol abuse.” He said one out of three Native American males end up incarcerated at some time during their lives, in part because their cases are brought in the relatively unforgiving federal system. With a criminal record, employment is nearly Indian potteryimpossible to find and they suffer the indignity of not being able to support their families, Small said. “We have to teach kids that they don't have to continue this cycle,” he said. “We have to teach them to cope with the stress and trauma they see every day.”

When Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau last spring initiated her “Schools of Promise” program to transform the state's lowest-performing schools — all of them on Indian Reservations in the eastern half of the state — she looked at what it would take to change failing schools on the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Fort Peck Reservations.  “We learned very quickly that it went far beyond academics,” she said. “There is a lot of trauma in these communities”

OPI in partnership with the tribes, BIA, IHS and the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Association formed a plan to provide “wrap-around” services for schools that include health, mental health and social services needed to keep children alive and in school. Juneau said a $600,000 grant to implement the program will provide training, coordination and support to “knit services together in a comprehensive, systematic and cohesive system” over the next three years.

The state superintendent said the first step will be community-based meetings to get a perspective on the local problem. Much of the project will be aimed at teaching students how to help each other.

Changing the climate at schools is another piece of the agenda, said Sara Casey, administrator of OPI's Special Education Division.  “There are a lot of people in our schools working on climate issues in a very big way,” Casey said. Among those issues are bullying, safety, self-discipline and other behavioral problems. “We're doing everything we can,” said Karl Royston,  Montana's suicide prevention coordinator.

A “Talk to Youth” training program is available at no cost to schools, he said. It teaches how to question, persuade and refer someone who may be at risk. Another free program, “Signs of Suicide” has been sent to 144 schools statewide. It teaches how to talk to at-risk students.

Last year, Rosston did 43 training programs for a total of 1,500 people, including 440 teachers. Many of the tribes have worked to provide safe places for at-risk children when home is not a good option. When a child who has attempted or is contemplating suicide is referred for additional help, BIA tries to find a foster family specially trained to deal with at-risk children, she said. But foster homes for these children are hard to find.

“If we have to remove a child, we have difficulty placing them,” she said. Some are referred to New Day Inc. in Billings, a residential therapeutic program.

Resources have always been a stumbling block and are likely to continue to be. But efforts to coordinate anti-suicide programs, end duplication and streamline services, combined with new emphasis on peer-to-peer support, may knock a few obstacles away.




HIGH  SCHOOL  SUICIDE  QUESTIONS

A  paper handed to each freshman at Oak Lawn Community High School  (Los Angeles) was filled with blunt and uncomfortable questions. Had they lost interest in everything? Did they feel they weren't as smart or good-looking as most other people? Were they thinking about killing themselves?
A squad of counselors stood by to interview those who, based on their answers, might have been struggling with depression or contemplating suicide. By the end of the day, more than 50 teenagers had come to see them.
High SchoolNot long ago, some educators say, teen suicide was enveloped in silence, a subject too perilous to discuss. But candor has begun to gain strength in area high schools, where a new state law is promoting prevention training for teachers and staff. Some are going further, screening their students for signs of trouble or bringing in consultants for specialized instruction.
While it's not clear that these initiatives affect suicide rates, some experts say they fight the negative feelings that can lead the vulnerable to desperate acts. "Most of those who suffer from serious suicidal (thoughts) do not seek help from mental health professionals, and one of the major reasons is stigma," said Philip Rodgers, who evaluates programs for the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. "By decreasing that stigma, we feel that those who are at risk might be more likely to seek help."
For all the community trauma a teen suicide can produce, it is an exceedingly uncommon act. In Illinois, state figures show that about 1 in 17,000 teens of high school age takes his or her own life, a rate that has remained constant over the last decade.
The rarity of completed suicides makes it difficult to figure out how to stop them, Rodgers said. But about 1 in 16 high school students in 2009 reported that they had made an attempt, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and some approaches have been shown to reduce the risk factors leading to that step.
Winnetka-based Erika's Lighthouse, formed in memory of a girl who took her life at 14, focuses on teen depression, a mental illness closely tied to suicide. The group has offered a program at 54 middle schools from Antioch to Chicago, that aims to help students spot and respond to signs of the illness.
"The number of kids who are going to take their lives is so tiny compared to the number of kids who are struggling with depression," said Executive Director Peggy Kubert. "This helps them realize this (should not be) part of normal teenage development. It gives them a vocabulary to talk about depression, and to know where to go for help or to get help for others."    
Some schools touched by suicide in recent years have responded with a barrage of programs. Barrington High School, which over the last three years endured the self-inflicted deaths of five students and two staffers, started a community group focused on mental health, updated its health curriculum with the help of Johns Hopkins University and engaged medical researchers to evaluate its efforts.
A sabbatical, not a student's suicide, prompted Oak Lawn Community High School's expansive program. Social worker Carol Gustafson used the break to research the delivery of mental health services, hoping to have help at the ready when a crisis emerged.HighSchoolKids
Three years ago, the school took it a step further, screening all freshmen for signs of depression or suicidal thinking. In late January, 270 students filled out a short questionnaire in their health classes, and a fifth of them were referred to counselors for follow-up interviews. About half of those teens were offered free in-school therapy or referrals to outside counselors, Gustafson said. She added that the screenings almost always result in at least one student being hospitalized for a psychiatric emergency.
Parents are kept informed throughout, she said, and although they can excuse their children from the screening, only a handful do.  "I think it's an absolutely wonderful idea," said parent Maria Vanderwarren, who has one child at Oak Lawn and another about to enter. "You're showing the child that you care. If they can write (their problems) down, they know that there's someone there that can help them."
A day after the evaluation, a Chicago-based advocacy group, gave the teens a presentation to help them recognize the hallmarks of a coming suicide attempt, from social withdrawal to a burst of inexplicable happiness. The students listened attentively, but later some said the program had been unsettling, particularly the screening form.  One boy said its questions were intrusive and "not really anyone's business."
Others saw it differently.  "If you don't ask," said a 15-year-old student,  "you're not going to get an answer."

 




Visit the Albuquerque SOS Web Site for Local Meeting Information at
 
www.sosabq.org  
ComputermouseVisit the Newsletter Web Site for the Entire Archive of past Issues at
 
www.sharingandhealing.org
 
 
 
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