Text Size

January 2012

  “SHARING AND HEALING”torrey-pines
                                    JANUARY  2012

Written & Edited By  :  Al & Linda Vigil

Pg 1 : Grieving Notes
Pg 2 : Forgiveness Quote    
Pg 2 : New Year Dangerous Time for Depressed
Pg 3 : Common Symptoms of Depression
Pg 4:  Book Review - “I Still Believe” - D. Woodland    
Pg 5 : Many Suicidal Teens Try Before High School
Pg 6 : Facebook Aims to Help
Pg 7 : Facebook Response
Pg 8 : Beloved Weathermans Suicide
Pg 9 : Recent Deaths Spur Suicide Discussion
Pg 11: Know Warning Signs
Pg 12 : WEB Site Addresses 


By Al Vigil

Three words,   -A New Year-  will always create a milestone of another time without the one we love that we lost to suicide.  There will never be a new  ‘New Year’  that doesn’t recall the special eighteen years that Linda and I, had with our Mia Lyn Vigil.

On this years January the 5th, it will be 28 years since our middle daughter Mia, jumped to her death from the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge.   January 5th of 1984 was on a Thursday.   An interesting incidence is that the 5th of January 2012 is also on a Thursday.

I mention that small irony of January Thursday’s, in order to remind myself, and you, that we sometimes measure the losses to death, by the little things that climb into the surface our thoughts when we least expect them to appear.  The same date, an anniversary,  a smell, a smile, a laugh, a song, a poem, or even a single word.  Our Mia loved to tease her sisters and then taunt them with her laugh and follow with a single word,  ...“Trick.”

Then there’s the most heart wrenching memory of all ...and that is the passing vision of someone that looks like the one we love that chose suicide as their way to leave us.  For the rest of our lives, we will remain connected to that person through love, through memories, and through our souls.

Of course we can laugh again.  We can love again. We do pass through that ‘valley-of-the-shadow-of death' —and we come out on the other side into a new normal. Choosing what is important to us is the healing value that we have with our hearts and our minds.  Happiness is a choice.  With time we can begin to focus more on the life-time of the one we lost and less on their death-time.

In Survivors of Suicide (SOS)  meetings we recognize the uniqueness of grief.  We share similar stories and similar circumstances, and we find that no two people grieve in the same way or at the same time.  Grief is a unique experience we all share as human beings.

There are 250+ SOS groups identified and working, in the United States at this time.  Let the New 2012 Year,  be the time that you attend a meeting, participate with them, help support yourself and others —on this traumatized heart journey.

We strongly believe:  "Know That You Are Not Alone -  Sharing Can Be Healing"
In Sharing & Healing,         
- Al Vigil

Forgiveness is letting go of the hope Forgiveness ribbon
that the past can be changed.

New Year Dangerous Time for Depressed and Suicidal
Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer

With every new year, it's murder and suicide for Neal Smither and his crew.

As owner of Crime Scene Cleaners, Smither's job is to clean up the messes left behind when people kill each other or themselves  —and those first few weeks after Jan. 1 are his busiest time of year.

2012All that holiday frivolity and togetherness may sound good in holiday songs and movies, and a lot of people do indeed get mighty joyful  —but experts say there is also a dark flip side of sadness, rage and depression that flares between Thanksgiving and the post-New Year's days.

Most people hold their feelings together during the run-up to the new year, but once the holiday letdown sets it in, calls to suicide hot lines nearly double and homicides hit their highest rate of the year. Police officers, crisis couselors and people like Smither put in some extra long days and nights.

"People have all kinds of reasons then for committing suicide or killing someone, and I've heard them all," said Smither, who with his Oakland-based crew cleans about 1,000 death scenes nationwide every year. "It can be, 'I'm really sad because I couldn't buy my kids the presents I wanted to,' or 'I'm alone,' or they're broke —so they hang themselves, slit their wrists or shoot themselves."

Nationally, the greatest number of homicides in any given year happen just after New Year's Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day, according to the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Index. Suicides spike right after New Year's.

"People tend to postpone getting any help for the blues during the holidays, when they need them the most, so they go into a sort of state of suspended denial," said Eve Meyer, executive director of the San Francisco Suicide Prevention hot line. "So the period leading right up to New Year can actually be kind of slow for us. But then it all sinks in. Right after the first football game on Jan. 1, the calls start pouring in," she said. "Our volume goes up by 20 percent right away and builds from there."

Pushed Over The Edge

Most people who start feeling suicidal during the holidays are dealing with depression already, and what pushes them over the edge is the conflict between grim reality and an anticipation of idyllic togetherness, bounteous presents and yuletide joy. Ceaseless ads of families showering each other with love and packages, and songs playing everywhere about this being "the most wonderful time of the year" don't help.

Lists the Most Common Symptoms of Depression As:

-difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
-fatigue and decreased energy
-feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
-feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
-insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
-irritability, restlessness
-loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
-overeating or appetite loss
-persistent aches/pains, headaches, cramps, digestive problems that do not ease with treatment
-persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
-thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

We should be aware of these symptoms and alert when working with others so if any of them seem to display multiple symptoms to a variety of degrees, we can check in with them, give them one-on-one attention to find out more details, and if needed, guide them to the appropriate resources for help.

Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately.




BOOK REVIEW                


  -Mental Illness and Suicide in the Light of Christian Faith-
By Desiree Woodland
(Xlibris Corp : ISBN# 978-1456853563)
Reviewed by Al Vigil - for Sharing and Healing

Every 16 minutes someone in America dies by suicide. There were more suicide deaths of young Americans in 1995 than deaths from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and lung disease combined.

In 2010, it is still the third leading cause of death of young people ages 15-24. Studies suggest that the great majority I Still believeof them suffered from a diagnosable mental illness, and that most of them received either no treatment or inadequate treatment.

In  “I Still Believe” the author shares the Ryan Story —a mother’s story about her son and the mental illness that changed him, his subsequent suicide, and what Christian faith means in the light of it all.

Published in Januay 2011, Desiree, uses only 138 pages to articulate her journey of confrontation with her mind, body and soul, literally asking herself  —if God has a plan, why did it include the suicide death of my son?

Of course most suicide survivors, like Desiree and her husband Gary, and my wife Linda and I, and you, the reader of this review, question God’s purposes after this seeming unbearable, unending, grief journey that has been delegated to our own lives.

Theologian, C. S. Lewis wrote in “A Grief Observed,”  —“If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost, but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created.”

Author Desiree, with “I Still Believe” has written deep-heart invasive words that honor the life of her Ryan. Then because suicide didn’t stop her love for him, she brings into open light, the life situations that envelop us with the pervasiveness of ever existing mental illness in family, friends, and society.  

Desiree, has given herself a mission —she uses every opportunity available to her to speak up about the stigma of mental illness and suicide. She supports the Albuquerque-NAMI and Survivors of Suicide support groups.

The entire book can be an intimate reading and a healing study gift to yourself —for less than $25.00 from   www.desireewoodland.com   or Amazon Books.

Many Suicidal Teens Make First Try Before High School

Nearly 40 percent in study reported attempts in elementary or middle school.

About 40 percent of young adults who've attempted suicide made their first attempt before high school, which suggests that suicidal thoughts and behavior may begin much younger than previously believed, according to a new study.

As part of an ongoing survey, University of Washington researchers asked almost 900 young adults, ages 18 or 19, about their history of suicide attempts.

teen suicideNearly 9 percent (78) of the participants said they had attempted suicide at some stop teen suicidepoint. Of those, 40 percent said they made their first attempt before they started high school.

Rates of attempted suicide jumped at around the sixth grade (about age 12) and peaked around eighth or ninth grade. Of the 39 participants who reported multiple suicide attempts, their first attempt was much earlier (as young as age 9) than those who made a single attempt.

The study also found that suicide attempts during childhood and adolescence were linked to higher depression scores at the times of the attempts.

"This suggests that kids are able to tell us, by their depression scores, that things aren't going well for them," lead author James Mazza, a professor of educational psychology, said in a university news release. "We're likely not giving kids enough credence in assessing their own mental health, and this study shows that we can rely on self-report measures to help identify youth who may be at risk for current mental health concerns, including possible suicidal behavior."

Mazza said the study reveals that young adults "who end up having chronic mental health problems show their struggles early," and the findings suggest "that implementation of mental health programs may need to start in elementary and middle schools, and that youth in these grades are fairly good reporters of their own mental health."

The study appears in the November issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.

According to background information from the researchers, about one in nine youths attempts suicide by the time they graduate from high school.


         By Brooke Donald

Help is just a few clicks away on Facebook for people expressing suicidal thoughts.

The social networking site launched a new feature Tuesday that enables users to connect with a counselor through a confidential chat session triggered after a friend reports distressing content.

The new tool has several benefits, experts say, in the quest to reduce the number of nearly 100 Americans who commit suicide every day.

First, it brings quick intervention at times when it can be of most help. Second, it enables troubled people to start a chat over an instant messaging system that many find more comfortable than speaking on the phone with a counselor.

"We've heard from many people who say they want to talk to someone but don't want to call. Instant message is perfect for that," said Lidia Bernik, associate project director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

facebookThe service is the latest tool from Facebook aimed at improving safety on its site, which has more than 800 million users. This year, it announced changes to how users report bullying, offensive content and fake profiles.

"One of the big goals here is to get the person in distress into the right help as soon as possible," said Fred Wolens, Facebook's public policy manager.

In recent years, distressed people have posted their final words on Facebook.

In one high-profile case in September 2010, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate allegedly used a webcam to spy on his intimate encounter with another man.

Clementi had posted on his Facebook account: "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry."

Last month, authorities in Pittsburg, Calif., said a man posted a suicide note on Facebook before he killed his wife and in-laws, then himself.

In July, police in Pennsylvania said they believed they were able to help prevent a man's suicide after his friend in California alerted police about a distraught Facebook posting. Police met with the man, who was then admitted to a hospital.

Google and Yahoo have long provided Lifeline's phone number as the first result when someone searches for "suicide." Through email, Facebook directed users to the hotline or encouraged friends to call police if they perceived someone was about to do harm.

The new service goes a step further. Here's how it works:

A user spots a suicidal comment on a friend's page. He then clicks on a "report" button next to the posting that leads to a series of questions about the nature of the post, including whether it is violent, harassing, hate speech or harmful behavior.

If harmful behavior is clicked, then self-harm, Facebook's user safety team reviews it and sends it to Lifeline. Once the comment is determined to be legitimate, Facebook sends an email to the user who originally posted the thoughts perceived as suicidal. The email includes Lifeline's phone number and a link to start a confidential chat session. The recipient decides whether to e-mailrespond.

Facebook also sends an email to the person who reported the content to let the person know that the site responded. If a suicide or other threats appear imminent, Facebook encourages friends to call law enforcement.

The vetting process guards against any misuse and harassment and keeps the experience within the user's control, Wolens said.

Facebook, however, has not created any software that searches the site for suicidal expressions. It would be far too difficult with so many users and so many comments that could be misinterpreted by a computer algorithm, Wolens said.

"The only people who will have a really good idea of what's going on is your friends. So we're encouraging them to speak up and giving them an easy and quick way to get help," he said.

The Lifeline currently responds to dozens of users on Facebook each day. Crisis center workers will be available 24 hours a day to respond to users selecting the chat option.


Facebook Suicide Intervention Tool Response Mixed
By Dan O’Brien

A new Facebook feature that lets users report “suicidal content” to website administrators is raising big brother concerns, but experts and educators say it could be a powerful tool to combat suicides.

“Anything like that would help,” said Bridgewater/Raynham Superintendent Jacqueline Forbes, whose district is reeling over the suicides last week of two recent graduates of Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School. “It’s a good, positive outreach to people in need.”

The feature launched this week allows Facebook users to report content characterized as a cry for help. helpOnce Facebook’s “safety team” is alerted, it immediately sends a private message to the user in distress, providing a link to a live chat with a mental health professional and phone numbers for suicide prevention hotlines.

“That’s when they’re at the highest risk, in that moment (when suicidal comments are made),” said Dr. Mark Schechter, chairman of the psychiatry department at North Shore Medical Center. “If you can get someone through a suicidal crisis, there’s a 90 percent chance they’re not going to kill themselves.”

The new feature is praised by suicide prevention advocates, but some social media experts are questioning whether it’s too invasive.

“I think this will change people’s outlook on what Facebook is,” said Mina Tsay, assistant professor of mass communication at Boston University. “Basically, our spaces aren’t private anymore.

“There’s room for misinterpretation. In some cases, receiving something like this could be an invasion of privacy,” Tsay added.

That’s true, said David Gerzof Richard, professor of social media and marketing at Emerson College, but he said the positives outweigh the negatives.

“When you think about someone alone in a room, they used to pick up the phone if they were in trouble. Now, they’d probably go on Facebook,” he said. “If that person has 100 (Facebook) friends, the potential to save that person has increased 100 times.”

Beloved Weatherman's Suicide
Leaves Kansas City Stunned, Grieving

Kansas City's weather forecasters occupy a conflicting position in the public psyche: They're at once adored cult figures and targets of wrath, cheered for their personalities and accosted for misfires on predicting the oft-dramatic storm systems that traverse America’s mid-section.

Often longtime residents, the forecasters are such local fixtures that theirweather lives are subject to rampant casual scrutiny and gossip in a town where sometimes it can be a little hard to hide.

So when local FOX 4 weatherman Don Harman committed suicide last week at the age of 41, it was almost as if someone had ripped out a chunk of Kansas City skyline, exposing the close bond residents have with the familiar strangers who bring the weather into their homes.

"I miss watching him in the morning! I used to lay in bed every morning until I saw the weather report from him," one woman confessed on Facebook, where tributes poured out after the suicide.

Harman, who is survived by a wife and daughter, was part of the highest-rated morning show in Kansas City for more than a decade. "Don Harman is gone so ain't no weather forecast going to be accurate," another tweeted.

Harman’s popularity in life —he was known for his great humor —has made his death hard to downplay in a place where suicides typically pass quietly, a collision of social taboos over suicide, wishes to respect family and quieter worries that too much attention could lead to copycats. Indeed, much of the aftermath played out live.

“Harman’s close friend and morning show co-host Mark Alford looked shell-shocked as he read the announcement at 4:45 a.m. asking for patience from viewers who were bombarding the station’s switchboard and posting messages to social media,” noted Kansas City Star TV critic Aaron Barnhart.    The announcements continued throughout the day, and Harman’s colleagues later wept as they discussed his death on-air.

But Harman’s public standing has also turned an often hush-hush subject into a moment of public awareness. Harman’s family did agree to interviews with FOX Channel 4CHANNEL 4 “in hopes that will help erase the stigma of depression and suicide.”        

Meanwhile, a public memorial is set for Dec. 17, which Kansas City Mayor Sly James announced Thursday would be “Don Harman Day.”

“The difficulty in this job is to have that good blend of left-brain, right-brain,” local KMBC-TV meteorologist Bryan Busby told the Kansas City Star.

Recent Deaths Spur Suicide Discussion
By Amy Carboneau : Enterprise Staff Writer

As recent Bridgewater-Raynham High graduates return home from college for the winter break, mental health experts are urging parents to take some time out of the holiday celebrations for some serious talk.

It’s a good time for parents to see how their kids are dealing with the inevitable stress of college – the school work, the social scene, the homesickness. It’s also a good time to check in with students about how they are coping with the deaths last week of three young B-R graduates, counselors say.

All three were away at college. At least one of the deaths has been confirmed a suicide.

“Twenty years ago, there was this myth that bringing up suicide would plant the idea in someone’s head. We know that’s not the case,” said Courtney Knowles, a spokesman for the Jed Foundation, a New discussionYork-based nonprofit working to reduce the rate of suicide and emotional distress among college students.

“If there’s a voice in the back of your head that says, ‘I don’t think something’s right,’ trust your instinct,” Knowles said.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students. The leading cause is car accidents, like the one last weekend that killed Ashley Donahue, 20, of Bridgewater. The Framingham State sophomore and only child was killed on Dec. 3 when she was thrown from a car driven by a friend.

A day earlier, another B-R grad, Bobby Bynarowicz Jr., 23, a UMass-Dartmouth business major, was found dead. And this past Wednesday, Jeffrey Cooney, a 19-year-old freshman at Stonehill College in Easton, killed himself in his dorm room.

High school Principal Angela Watson said many B-R students were devastated by the deaths, especially, she said, by the suicides. “You don’t want to put on blinders and say it didn’t happen. It did happen,” Watson said Thursday.

Knowles said having college-age students home for a week or two gives parents and other loved ones, including friends, an opportunity to look for any worrying changes in behavior or mood.

If parents do note odd behavior, Knowles said, “It’s OK to ask, ‘have you been thinking about hurting yourself’.... It’s always better to be safe than sorry.”

Jim McCauley is associate director of Riverside Trauma Center in Dedham, and recently worked with Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School to provide suicide prevention counseling to staff.

scvhool busHe praised B-R for doing everything a school should do, he said, in a situation like this: reaching out to students who were close to the recent graduates who died, and having a program in place (“Signs of suicide”) to teach peers how to respond, and how they can help take preventative measures when they see a friend in trouble.

“A lot of times students who may be thinking about suicide, they tend not to talk with adults, but what they do is they talk to friends,” McCauley said. “And we want the friends to go immediately and find a responsible adult. Even if their friend is going to be mad at them.”

A 2010 study of more than 2,000 college students showed that 20 percent of the students surveyed said that they had a friend or friends who had talked about wanting to end their lives within the past year and 13 percent said that a friend had attempted suicide. The report was done by the Jed Foundation in collaboration with the Associated Press and mtvU, MTV’s 24-hour college network.

Stephan Weiss, a psychologist on the board of directors of the American College Health Knights of Columbus, said programs are in place in most schools to help students suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts.

But some schools lack the resources to provide emergency care to young people in crisis, eh said.

But even a peer counseling group trained to respond to certain situations can be effective, said Weiss. But some schools are lacking resources to provide immediate care. And getting students who need help to someone who can provide it, doesn’t always happen.

The stigma attached to feelings of despair is still strong, Knowles said. Going to the doctor with an ache that won’t go away is socially acceptable, he said. But society is not as kind to those struggling with a “weird feeling” they can’t seem to shake.

“Going to a counselor doesn’t mean your crazy,” he added. “It means you’re dealing with some stuff that you need help with.”

At Stonehill, where Cooney was a freshman, spokeman Martin McGovern said there are many resources available, including a counseling and testing center, the office of campus ministry and staff members whose doors are open 24 hours a day.

Students and parents can use the website halfofus.com to check out what mental health resources are available at their school.

College, Knowles added, can be difficult for anyone. “Everybody gets stressed. Everybody gets sad. Everybody gets anxious,” he said. “But there is help available,” he added.


Suicide is a subject most people consider taboo. Just saying the word stirs some uncomfortable emotions. Many people are unwilling to recognize that many still see it as a “way out.”

The Stanislaus County Community Health Assessment 2008 data summary on intentional injuries reported that from 2001 to 2004, the county’s suicide rate rose from 7 to 12 suicides per 100,000 residents. This increase left Stanislaus County with the highest suicide rate compared with all of the signsSan Joaquin Valley and California in 2004 (9 per 100,000 residents for both).

A co-worker and I recently participated in a college and career day at a local high school. A week earlier, a girl at the school had died, apparently as a result of a suicide. Nearly every student that came to our table to get information on becoming a mental health and substance abuse counselor shared the story of their peer. Most shared how they had no idea she was contemplating suicide and that they never would have thought she would do something like this. It was definitely an eye opener for that community.

Most people who commit suicide don’t really want to die; they just want to stop hurting.

Suicide prevention starts with recognizing the warning signs and taking these signs seriously. Signs include: talking about suicide; seeking out lethal means such as guns, pills, knives, etc.; preoccupation with death; no hope for the future; self loathing or hatred; getting affairs in order; saying goodbye; withdrawing from others; self-destructive behavior such as increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, etc.; and a sudden sense of calm. A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being depressed can mean the person has made a decision to commit suicide.

There are many common risk factors for suicide. They include: mental illness, a family history of suicide, previous suicide attempts, terminal illness or chronic pain, recent loss or stressful life event, social isolation and loneliness, a history of trauma or abuse, and alcoholism or drug abuse.

According to a national organization tracking suicide and substance abuse, about half of all suicide attempts involve alcohol and illegal drugs. A quarter of the completed suicides occur among drug abusers and those with alcohol abuse.

Studies show that young adults who drink heavily have an increased risk of suicide in middle age. In fact, suicide is among the most significant causes of death in male and female substance abusers. The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, part of the federal government, reports that “the combination of alcohol and depression increases the rate of suicide attempts by 12 percent, while the combination of drug abuse and depression raises the figure to almost 20 percent.”

What can you do if you think someone is contemplating suicide? Here are some tips: Speak up if you are worried. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but this may provide some relief to the person contemplating it. You should respond quickly in a crisis. If someone tells you he or she is thinking about death or suicide, it is important to have them individual evaluated as quickly as possible. Someone who is high risk in the near future to attempt suicide will have a plan, the means to carry out the plan, a time set for doing it, and an intention to do it. Offer help and support, which can include an ear to listen and-or getting professional help.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or is feeling desperate or hopeless, the
re is help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

It’s free and available 24-7.


Visit the Albuquerque SOS Web Site for Local Meeting Information at
Visit the Newsletter Web Site for the Entire Archive of past Issues atMouse 
Or e-mail comments to    This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



Security code