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April 2007


By Al Vigil

As children we're told many times, "Wait until you get older. The years will fly by." As we do become older we find out that they were right, years and time really do fly by. I'm not meaning to be disrespectful of anything,
but the events of our lives (Linda's & mine) are now measured by 'Before Mia' & 'After Mia'.

Much of our lives revolve around those few seconds that it took for her to fall
to her death on January of 1984.

In 1994 we received an official looking letter addressed to Mia. Next to her name, was drawn a little cartoon character asking, "Do you know where this person is?" Thinking it must be some cruel trick I tore the envelope open. Inside was a 'form letter' written by a company that organizes high school reunions. It stated, "Mia, congratulations, your tenth high school reunion is coming up. Send us your current address so we can send the reunion information. We look forward to hearing from you."

The pain of not having our middle daughter is still there and though it only felt like yesterday, the following June of 1994 the class she graduated with was having their tenth reunion without her —and several others that have also died during those years.

All our years are a collection of the ages we have been. Each year we live after someone special has died, is another year of keeping their memory alive. Life long patterns are difficult to change. However, pain certainly motivates us into new behavior. After the death of a loved one we are forever changed.

Of course we laugh again, we love again, we celebrate again and we choose to live again, but the pain of loss leaves us with a 'before and after time' to remember events with.

We now have five grandchildren that were born after their Aunt Mia died. We celebrate the gifts our other two daughters, Melinda and Marlo, gave us with these five new lives. As we frequently tell people, we now miss Mia for all the good things that have happened in our lives and that she has missed. It isn't enough that we have courage to live the 'before and after' but that we understand that we do make it to peace and joy eventually.

We can testify for that. All tears —it makes no difference if they are of sorrow or happiness, they roll the same way down our cheeks. We just don't apologize for any of them. They leave marks on our face and they cleanse our souls and our hearts.


By Frank Pittman, M.D.


More women are thought to suffer from depression than men. I don't believe it: men are four to five times more likely to commit suicide, far more likely to get themselves killed accidentally, and notoriously more likely to do other self-destructive things. Women are more likely to feel depression, to tell others about it, to seek therapy for it -and to recover. Men, on the other hand, tend to be out of touch with feelings of hopelessness and emptiness and therefore cannot put their feelings into words. Instead, they seem to communicate their despair by behaving in ways that make life intolerable for themselves and for women they love. If they do eventually find the words with which to cry out for help, no one may be listening.

Men are raised to deny feelings and to take action instead; to try to act tough and manly, no matter what the circumstances. Take the story of Wayne, a well-known former athlete. He had tried many businesses, none of them very successful. After his restaurant closed and he lost his house, he began to drink, stay out all night, and get into fights in bars. He had a terrible automobile accident and almost lost his leg and afterward he lived on the disability insurance. He finally quit drinking but soon left his wife and moved in with another woman. However, she couldn't tolerate his temper tantrums and shot at him. Fortunately, she missed.

I heard about Wayne when his first wife, Faye, called me from a hospital emergency room to tell me that Wayne had just cut his throat, had been narrowly saved from bleeding to death, and had been told by the emergency room doctor that he needed a psychiatrist.

When I suggested the possibility that all the craziness of the past couple of years might be due to depression, Wayne and Faye were both baffled. Wayne insisted he didn't feel depressed and even made jokes about being able to grin ear to ear now that his throat was cut.

Depression is not just sadness. It is a chemical condition in the brain that makes it difficult for people to envision that their lives or anything they do will turn out well. Depression can occur because of chronic pain or daily alcohol use, because you've inherited a tendency toward it. But for men, the most likely cause of depression is your failure to be the man you think you should be, a situation that leaves you beating up on yourself and distrusting the love and other goodies you get, so your brain chemistry always registers more pain than pleasure.

Certain activities and feelings can trigger the brain chemicals that can repair a depression: sex, joy, and triumph. But the healing will only happen if the exercise is free of anger, the sex free of guilt, the joy free of danger, and the triumph free of shame. Bear in mind however, that triumph is not possible unless you set achievable goals and realistic expectations for yourself.

Alcohol is especially dangerous for depression : It's a burial chemical assault on the brain that may offer brief relief from pain but can ultimately deepen it to the point of suicide.

Some depressed people, often women, cry for help and reach out to someone who can ease the pain and offer hope. They amplify their cries for help until someone hears them. But other depressed people, mostly men, feel defeated if they acknowledge emotional pain or a need for someone else, so they try to mask their feelings by faking well-being and by desperately increasing the intensity of their activities.

Depressed people like Wayne may need therapy to get out of the emotional hole they're in. If depression is bad enough they may need anti-depressant drugs; which work. But the crucial first step is to tell somebody you're still alive. The ability to cry out can get us the help we need; the ability to grin and bear it is cutting our own throats.

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

Dr. Pittman, is a psychiatrist & therapist in Atlanta, and Author of "Private Lies: Infidelity And The Betrayal Of Intimacy"

"It's only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, that we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had."

— Elisabeth Kubler-Ross


By Television Reporter ALICIA CABRERA : WIBW- TV, KANSAS
(Printed With Permission)

Attorney General Paul Morrison and the State Child Death Review Board want parents to learn more about adolescent suicide. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 to 24. It is the fourth leading cause of death for adolescents between the ages 10 and 14.

Parents need to be aware of the certain warning signs, especially if the signs are matched with specific suicide risk factors.

1.) Depression
2.) Giving away possessions
3.) Abrupt changes in personality
4.) Chronic Anxiety
5.) Unwillingness to Communicate
6.) Previous suicide attempts

1.) A romantic breakup
2.) An unexpected pregnancy
3.) A serious illness or injury to oneself or to a loved one
4.) A major loss as a death or a divorce
5.) A stress due to new situations, such as relocating to a new community or school


When you get what you want in your struggle for self and the world makes you king for the day,
just go to a mirror and look at yourself and see what THAT man has to say.

For it isn't your father or mother or wife whose judgement you must pass,
the fellow whose verdict counts most in you life is the one staring back from the glass

Some people might think you're a straight shooting chum and call you a wonderful guy,
but the man in the glass says you're only a bum if you can't look him straight in the eye.

He's the fellow to please, never mind all the rest, for he's with you clear to the end,
and you've passed your most dangerous test if the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years and get pats on the back as you pass,
but your final reward will be the heartache and tears if you've cheated the man in the glass

- Author Unknown -


Grief occurs in response to the loss of someone or something. The loss may involve a loved one, a job, or possibly a role (student entering the workplace or employee entering retirement). Anyone can experience grief and loss. It can be sudden or expected; however, individuals are unique in how they experience this event. Grief, itself, is a normal and natural response to loss. There are a variety of ways that individuals respond to loss. Some are healthy coping mechanisms and some may hinder the grieving process. It is important to realize that acknowledging the grief promotes the healing process. Time and grief support facilitates the grieving process, allowing an opportunity to appropriately mourn the loss.

Individuals experiencing grief from a loss may choose a variety of ways of expressing it. No two people will respond to the same loss in the same way. It is important to note that phases of grief exist; however, they do not depict a specific way to respond to loss. Rather, stages of grief reflect a variety of reactions that may surface as an individual makes sense of how this loss affects them. Experiencing and accepting all feelings remains an important part of the healing process.

DENIAL, NUMBNESS, and SHOCK - This serves to protect the individual from experiencing the intensity of the loss. Numbness is a normal reaction to an immediate loss and should not be confused with 'lack of caring.' Denial and disbelief will diminish as the individual slowly acknowledges the impact of this loss and its accompanying feelings.

BARGAINING - At times, individuals may ruminate about what could have been done to prevent the loss. Individuals can become preoccupied about ways that things could have been better, imagining all the things that will never be. This reaction can provide insight into the impact of the loss; however, if not properly resolved, intense feelings of remorse or guilt may hinder the healing process.

DEPRESSION - After recognizing the true extent of the loss, some individuals may experience depressive symptoms. Sleep and appetite disturbance, lack of energy and concentration, and crying spells are some typical symptoms. Feelings of loneliness, emptiness, isolation, and self-pity can also surface during this phase, contributing to this reactive depression. For many, this phase must be experienced in order to begin reorganizing one's life.

ANGER - This reaction usually occurs when an individual feels helpless and powerless. Anger may result from feeling abandoned, naturally occurring in cases of loss through death. Feelings of resentment may occur toward one's higher power or toward life in general for the injustice of this loss. After an individual acknowledges anger, guilt may surface due to expressing these negative feelings. Again,these feelings are natural and should be honored to resolve the grief.

ACCEPTANCE - Time allows the individual an opportunity to resolve the range of feelings that surface. The grieving process supports the individual. That is, healing occurs when the loss becomes integrated into the individual's set of life experiences.
Individuals may return to some of the earlier feelings throughout one's lifetime.
There is no time limit to the grieving process. Each individual should define one's own healing process.

FACTORS THAT HINDER THE HEALING PROCESS - Avoidance or minimization of one's emotions. Use of alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. Use of work (over function at workplace) to avoid feelings.

GUIDELINES THAT MAY HELP RESOLVE GRIEF - Allow time to experience thoughts and feelings openly to self. Acknowledge and accept all feelings, both positive and negative. Use a journal to document the healing process. Confide in a trusted individual; tell the story of the loss. Express feelings openly. Crying offers a release. Identify any unfinished business and try to come to a safe resolution. Bereavement groups provide an opportunity to share grief with others who have experienced similar loss. If the healing process becomes too overwhelming, seek professional help.

"Death, The Final Stage of Growth" - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
"On Death And Dying" - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
"When Bad Things Happen To Good People" - Harold Kushner


ASSOCIATED PRESS (Jan. 5, 2007) —New government figures show a surprising increase in youth suicides after a decade of decline, and some mental health experts think a drop in use of antidepressant drugs may be to blame.

The suicide rate climbed 18 percent from 2003 to 2004 for Americans under age 20, from 1,737 deaths to 1,985. Most suicides occurred in older teens, according to the data —the most current to date from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By contrast, the suicide rate among 15-to19-year-olds fell in previous years, from about 11 per 100,000 in 1990 to 7.3 per 100,000 in 2003.

Suicides were the only cause of death that increased for children through age 19 from 2003-04, according to a CDC report. "This is very disturbing news," said Dr. David Fassler, a University of Vermont psychiatry professor. He noted that the increase coincided with regulatory action by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that led to a black box warning on prescription packages cautioning that antidepressants could cause suicidal behavior in children. Dr. Fassler testified at FDA hearings on antidepressants during 2003 and 2004 and urged caution about implementing black box warnings. The agency ordered the warnings in October 2004 and they began to appear on drug labels about six months later.

Psychologist David Shern, president of Mental Health America, called the new data "a disturbing reversal of progress." Other research has linked certain antidepressants with decreasing suicide rates, Shern said, adding, "We must therefore wonder if the FDA's actions and the subsequent decrease in access to these antidepressants in fact have caused an increase in youth suicide."

The advocacy group receives funding from makers of antidepressants, government agencies and private donations. The suicide data are in a report on vital statistics published in February's (2007) Pediatrics.

Antidepressant use among children decreased during the same time period. Data from Verispan show 3 million antidepressant prescriptions were written for kids through age 12 in 2004, down 6.8 percent from 2003. Among 13-to-19-year-olds, the number dropped less than 1 percent to 8.11 million in 2004. Steeper declines in both age groups occurred in 2005, according to the prescription tracking firm.

The suicide data are preliminary and don't show whether suicides might have been concentrated in one region or among one gender or ethnic group, said the CDC's Dr. Alexander Crosby.

"It's something that we want to look a little bit closer into," Crosby said. "It's probably too early to say" if declining use of antidepressants had anything to do with it, he said.

The CDC is expected to issue a more thorough report on the data in a month or two. The data are concerning, but it's too soon to know if they're anything more than a statistical blip, said Dr. John March, a Duke University psychiatry professor. He led landmark National Institute of Mental Health research linking antidepressant use with an increased risk for suicidal behavior, but also showing that getting psychotherapy at the same time canceled out that risk.



By Jim Gibson - Times Columnist - Monday, March 05, 2007

For a month after her 14-year-old son died, Nasima Nastoh would set a place for him at dinner, go to his room in the morning to wake him and once drove him —in reality, his photo, to school.

Her behavior —or, more precisely, her denial fuelled by devastation —might not seem extreme to any parent who has lost a child. But Hamed Nastoh did not die by accident —he jumped from Surrey's Pattullo Bridge.

Nastoh left a five-page suicide note assuring his parents of his love for them. He did not mean to hurt them, he wrote. He then documented a history of homophobic bullying at school, something his parents knew nothing about. He also wrote that he had left hints he was considering suicide. The hint they missed was the death of a friend by suicide. He had lied to them, he wrote. No friend had died this way." Still, seven years later, I still feel guilty," Nastoh says in a phone interview. "Why did I miss the signs of suicide?"

That question gnaws at every parent of a teen suicide, according to the University of Victoria's Jennifer White, a published authority on youth suicide.

It's not just why did a parent miss a sign, but also why did the teen choose suicide? The why —questions never really disappear for parents, White says, but it remains largely unanswerable. "I don't think any of us can answer it so that it makes sense," says White, with nearly two decades of counselling experience and suicide research behind her.

A child might choose suicide as the perceived alternative to their anguish. After all, suicide is already "out there" —frequently portrayed in the media —as an available option, she says. "They don't necessarily want to die, but escape suffering," she says. For more than 25 years, Victoria loss and trauma counsellor Darrell Pacini has been quoting "suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem" in his practice. That widely used definition is something a teen doesn't always grasp.

Their inability to see past suicide as the only solution is typical of the black-and-white thinking of many teens, White says. "They're unable to see shades of grey," she says. "They have no sense of hope or that things will get better."

That was something Jude Platzer found when her 15-year-old son Josh was trapped in his depression. "They don't understand that it isn't forever," says the Vancouver mother. Josh hung himself in 1999.

Teens still lack the life experience that lets them look past the immediate situation, says Steve Silvers, a Victoria Hospice grief counsellor. For example, he says "when you have lost in love before, you [know you] can live through this one."

Not only do they lack experience, their brains literally are not fully developed, says Pacini, citing research developed over the past five years. The death of a child by any means is excruciating for a parent, but a child's death by suicide comes with tremendous guilt, White says. Their tragedy "could be perceived as preventable," says Silvers, not just by the parent but by others. Ultimately, parents blame themselves for not recognizing something was wrong and intervening. "I feel guilty because I didn't see. I was so blind that this kid was in so much pain, from bullying at school," says Debbie Lawless in a phone interview from rural Manitoba. "I wasn't there to carry her pain. I didn't see the pain."

Five years ago, daughter Alicia, 18, hung herself in the family barn. She left a note telling them what wonderful parents they were, but "I can't take the hurt anymore." Not only do parents question their ability as parents, but they suspect others are thinking "what kind of parent are you?" says White. When Nastoh ran unsuccessfully in 2005 for school trustee, it got back to her that some were questioning her qualifications by suggesting she couldn't help her own son.

Something similar happened to Platzer when manning a youth suicide information table at Granville Island. "Youth suicide? Bad parenting," she overheard someone conclude. Apart from the weight of blame, there are additional coping problems for parents. In part this comes from "the sense of intentionality" about the act, says Silvers. Simply, their child chose to die by his own hand.

"Your child didn't feel loved enough and love you enough to carry on with life," says Lawless, elaborating on how a parent might feel. Parents are plagued by the child's emotional and physical pain up to and including the suicide. For a long time, when Lawless closed her eyes to sleep she pictured Alicia hanging in the barn. Later, she learned Alicia was actually found in a kneeling position. "It looked like she could stand up and walk away," says Lawless.

But there is no recipe for a parent's recovery. One parent can progress while the other stays withdrawn, Pacini says. Nastoh's husband had trouble working, fights depression and weeps weekly by his son's grave.

"What does help is having the opportunity to make sense of it with other parents," White says. "People feel the need to be understood, not judged."

This can come through professional help, but also in support groups. Some can be found on the Internet, particularly helpful for those living far from major centres. Lawless benefited by talking to others online enduring the same harrowing experience.

"You realize you're not crazy; you're going through the same thing," says Lawless. Last month, she and husband Dwain started a suicide-survivor group in their small rural community after a suicide memorial service for survivors they organized drew 30 people.

Almost daily, Nastoh cries for her son and tears still come easily to Platzer. Eventually parents do move on, believes Silvers, but he doubts that any really put their child's suicide behind them. "I think at the end of your life, you could still go over it again."


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