A Ray of Light, Part 3

 

For Cole

 

Recently, I’ve written some posts regarding suicide, as September is National Suicide Prevention Month. It’s a major public health issue, and it’s on all of us to do what we can to prevent it.

In my previous post, I’ve presented the warning signs of a suicidal person, and some steps you can take to help someone who exhibits one or more of those signs.

And, once again, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. The call is free, and the line is open 24/7.

Today, I want to pass along some information from the World Health Organization, regarding some popular myths surrounding suicide, along with the facts that dispel them.

MYTH: “Once someone is suicidal, he or she will always remain suicidal.”

THE TRUTH: “Heightened suicide risk is often short-term and situation-specific. While suicidal thoughts may return, they are not permanent and an individual with previously suicidal thoughts and attempts can go on to live a long life.”

MYTH: “Talking about suicide is a bad idea, and can be interpreted as encouragement.” (I believed this one.)

THE TRUTH: “Given the widespread stigma around suicide, most people who are contemplating suicide do not know who to speak to. Rather than encouraging suicidal behaviour, talking openly can give an individual other options or the time to rethink his/her decision, thereby preventing suicide.”

MYTH: “Only people with mental disorders are suicidal.”

THE TRUTH: “Suicidal behaviour indicates deep unhappiness but not necessarily mental disorder. Many people living with mental disorders are not affected by suicidal behaviour, and not all people who take their own lives have a mental disorder.”

MYTH: “Most suicides happen suddenly, without warning.”

THE TRUTH: “The majority of suicides have been preceded by warning signs, whether verbal or behavioural. Of course there are some suicides that occur without warning. But it is important to understand what the warning signs are and look out for them.”

MYTH: “Someone who is suicidal is determined to die.”

THE TRUTH: “Fact: On the contrary, suicidal people are often ambivalent about living or dying. Someone may act impulsively by drinking pesticides, for instance, and die a few days later, even though they would have liked to live on. Access to emotional support at the right time can prevent suicide.”

MYTH: “People who talk about suicide do not mean to do it.”

THE TRUTH: “People who talk about suicide may be reaching out for help or support. A significant number of people contemplating suicide are experiencing anxiety, depression and hopelessness and may feel that there is no other option.”

Did you see any myths you thought to be true? That’s why it’s important for us to learn what the real truths are, so that we can clear up the misunderstandings in our society regarding suicide.

I hope I’ve passed along some valuable information to all of you. You can find much more at http://www.bethe1to.com/ or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or several other terrific websites related to suicide prevention. It’s something we all need more education about, so that we can be better equipped to help family members, friends, co-workers, who we see all the time, yet may not have a clue how badly they hurt inside. Knowing this information just might make a difference.

I’ll wrap this up next time with some personal thoughts and observations. Wishing you all well.

 

A Ray of Light, Part 2

 

For Cole

 

(This one’s long, but bear with me. It’s important.)

Hey, friends, I’m back to remind you that September is National Suicide Prevention Month, so I hope to, in my own small way, help in doing exactly that by writing about  it. Suicide is a very important public health problem, and I’d like to see us all have a part in preventing it.

First, a reminder from my last post, courtesy of http://www.bethe1to.com/

 

Do You Know the Warning Signs?

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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

 

So, be mindful of these signs, folks. How many times have you heard the people closest to the ones who kill themselves say, “I wish I’d known”, “I should have seen it”, “Why didn’t she tell me she was hurting?” Perhaps, knowing these signs, you can be more aware if someone is at risk because, chances are, they’re never gonna just tell you.

Realize, too, this is something that affects children, senior citizens, teenagers, veterans, men, women, straights, gays…no segment of society is left untouched by suicide.

So, what do you do if you notice any of these signs in somebody? Again, I refer to http://www.bethe1to.com/ , an excellent, informative website, and their Five Action Steps. You can get more complete, detailed information on each of these steps on the website; I’m just introducing them to you, here.

ASK

This one can be tough, I know; just initiating the dialogue with a direct, non-judgmental question. But, studies show that asking someone who is at risk can reduce the likelihood of that person actually following through on his or her thoughts. Remember, though, if you’re going to ask, be prepared to listen. Take what that person says seriously, but – and this is important – do not promise to keep his or her suicidal thoughts just between the two of you.

KEEP THEM SAFE

This step is about, after having the conversation and determining this person has had suicidal thoughts, asking more questions about if he or she has thought about the how and the when, if it’s already been attempted before, if there is easy access to the gun, the pills, or whatever he or she was thinking of using to commit suicide. If the answers indicate this person is in imminent danger of killing himself or herself, then you see about separating him or her from any easily accessible, potentially lethal methods of carrying it out. This is a good way of demonstrating your support for this person, taking action to make his or her environment safer.

BE THERE

Pretty self-explanatory; just be present for this person. Help him or her feel connected; reduce the feeling of isolation. Be supportive and encouraging.

Someone I knew committed suicide a few years ago, after dealing with intense physical pain for a long time. Later, I discovered, he had confessed to someone before killing himself that, had he received any words of encouragement from someone, anyone, he might have fought harder to keep living.

That’s how important this step is. Let people know they’re not alone. Tell them you’ll be there for them, but only if you’re actually going to be. Don’t say it, then not follow through.

HELP THEM CONNECT

Provide him or her with a safety net, made up of people and organizations, local and otherwise, to reach out to in times of personal crisis, like the Hotline, or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ . Speaking to someone trained to deal with these crises can reduce the risk of someone going through with a suicidal act.

FOLLOW THROUGH

Again, pretty self-explanatory. Once you’ve talked to someone about his or her thoughts about suicide, and provided a safety net of people to contact, stay in touch. Don’t just forget about him or her. Show you still care. Ask if there is anything more you can do to help. The need to feel connected doesn’t go away once a crisis is averted. It’s a lifelong part of the human condition.

I know I gave you a lot to digest, here, but this is serious business, folks. We can all play a role in the prevention of suicide. Educate yourself on what to look for, and how to help. Let’s all look out for each other. Life – with all its pain, tragedy and injustice – is still worth living.

More to come…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This One’s For the Cowards

 

It happens every time.

Anytime a suicide makes the news, such as Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington, you get these folks who disparage the act of suicide as “the coward’s way out.”

Well, if you’re one of those folks, I want you to shut up. Right now.

The reason anyone commits suicide, I believe, is because that person has completely run out of hope. He or she feels as though there is no other option left.

That isn’t cowardice; that’s the lowest depth of despair.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that suicides occur globally at the rate of one every forty seconds. It is predicted that by the year 2020, the rate will be one every twenty seconds.

Every. Twenty. Seconds. Someone is taking his or her own life.

And, also according to WHO, depression, substance abuse, or some other mental health issue is directly related to over ninety percent of all suicides.

These aren’t cowards afraid to face life. These are people not equipped to face life. They need help. They need treatment. They need someone to talk to. Yet we continue to stigmatize mental health disorder, as if everyone who has one is some kind of nut job.

Which is absolutely not true.

Having a mental illness doesn’t mean you’re crazy, and killing yourself doesn’t mean you’re a coward. Those are two severe misconceptions that need to be addressed and, eventually, removed from the public consciousness. The sooner, the better.

 

Now, for all you brilliant minds out there who maintain that suicide is “the coward’s way out”, let me present to you a few more stats, courtesy of militarytimes.com:

“Roughly 20 veterans a day commit suicide nationwide, according to new data from the Department of Veterans Affairs…

“In 2014, the latest year available, more than 7,400 veterans took their own lives, accounting for 18 percent of all suicides in America. Veterans make up less than 9 percent of the U.S. population.

“The problem is particularly worrisome among female veterans, who saw their suicide rates rise more than 85 percent over that time, compared to about 40 percent for civilian women.

“And roughly 65 percent of all veteran suicides in 2014 were for individuals 50 years or older, many of whom spent little or no time fighting in the most recent wars.”

These are veterans.

People who served our country. People who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us. People who look the enemy in the eye and don’t back down.

So, tell me how cowardly you think they are.

Then shut the f### up.

Savior (a set of lyrics)

 

I see you there in that cold, dark cell,
Where you’ve been living your personal hell.
Nothing but darkness before your eyes.
No one can hear you and your helpless cries.

The weight of the world, you feel in your bones.
You feel abandoned, completely alone.
You tell yourself, this must be the end.
But, I’m here to tell you, you have a friend.

Just reach out your hand, I will take hold.
I’ll be your savior from the dark and the cold.
I’ll show you sunlight and blue skies above.
I’ll show you compassion, and I’ll show you love.
I’ll show you love.

I know this world can break you in half.
You hide your crying behind jokes and laughs.
You’re certain that no one is hurting like you.
But, I’m here to tell you that I’ve been there, too.

So, reach out your hand, and I will take hold.
I’ll be your savior from the dark and the cold.
I’ll show you sunlight and blue skies above.
I’ll show you compassion and I’ll show you love.
I’ll show you love.

I’ll show you love.

Mental Health Gets the Royal Treatment

 

From the Associated Press:

“Lady Gaga Joins Prince William’s Campaign”

“Prince William has enlisted Lady Gaga in his campaign to persuade people to be more open about mental health issues.
“The heir to the British throne released a video Tuesday in which he speaks with the pop star via FaceTime. Lady Gaga, who last year spoke out about her struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, places the call from her kitchen in California, and William answers at his desk in Kensington Palace.
““It’s interesting to see and hear from you how much having that conversation has really made a difference to you,” William said in the video. “It’s so important to break open that fear and that taboo which is only going to lead to more problems down the line.”
“The conversation is part of the latest blitz by the young royals as they campaign to end the stigma associated with mental health issues. William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, along with his brother, Prince Harry, have made mental health a focus of their charitable work.
“It comes a day after the Daily Telegraph published an unusually candid interview with Harry in which the 32-year-old prince acknowledged that he spent nearly 20 years “not thinking” about the death of his mother, Princess Diana, and that he only got help after two years of “total chaos.”
“Though the royal family has toiled for years for hundreds of charities, the work on mental health represents something of a departure – in part because of the taboo long associated with psychological issues…
“The Campaign Against Living Miserably, or CALM, said research shows that men particularly have trouble telling others when they feel depressed. (Italics mine)
““Prince Harry sharing how he needed support to cope with losing his mother shows both how normal it is to go through a tough time and how much opening up can help,” CEO Simon Gunning said in an email.
“Lady Gaga brings even more attention to the cause. She told Prince William in the video that talking more openly about mental health would let people feel like “we are not hiding anymore.””

Kudos to Lady Gaga, and especially Prince Harry, for talking about their battles with mental illness. Kudos also to Prince William and his wife for focusing on removing the stigma associated with mental illness.

I’ll say it again, guys: depression is a mother*****r. It’s bigger and badder than you, and if you try to deal with it alone, you’re gonna lose. Even a British Prince realized he couldn’t rise above it without help.

And I know one big reason a lot of us don’t get help is that stigma we all attach to mental illness. It means you’re a looney tunes, off-the-rails wack job, doesn’t it?

No, fellas, it doesn’t. I used to think it did.

It simply means that a part of your brain is not properly functioning due to a chemical imbalance, and it can be medically treated. I know; I take medications now to help restore the balance and, I promise you, they make a difference.

And, psychological help is beneficial, as well. I know we have these Freudian nightmares of lying on a couch in someone’s office discussing our childhood bed-wetting incidents or whatever. It’s just you, and a professional, in a safe environment, simply talking about what’s bugging you, and figuring out why together. Like, in my case, we’re getting to the bottom of why I’m so freakin’ irritated all the time. It may take a while, but it’s something I need to do in order to avoid doing serious harm to myself or someone else.

I know this is getting a bit long, but it’s really important to me that you guys understand there is nothing wrong with getting help. I’m gonna keep saying it, so just get used to it, okay?

In fact, I’m gonna be a Royal pain about it.

The Driver Takes a Detour

 

So…

I had my first session this week with a new therapist.

And, if you’ve read enough of my blog, you know I don’t mean physical therapist.

In case you don’t know, I’ve lived with depression for several years. I’ve seen a therapist before, for about five years, but stopped nine years ago, when she retired. (Early onset Alzheimer’s, bless her heart) A lot has happened between then and now, and I feel the need for help again. Besides the medications. The need to talk to someone, and maybe get some help for dealing.

So, here we go. I’m starting again with someone new. She seems nice enough on first encounter. Hopefully, the two of us can crack my head open and let all the toxic waste spill out, and wade through it as we work to solve the cryptic, perplexing enigma that is yours truly. Wish us luck; she’ll need it.

And, dudes, let me take this opportunity to tell you again what I’ve told you before: It is not a weakness to admit you need help. I know we’re men, and we’re just supposed to handle everything, but believe me, depression is bigger and badder than us. Plenty of male suicides in America prove it. Mike Wallace, the toughest, most badass newsman ever, couldn’t handle depression on his own; it nearly killed him. Then he sought help, and got it.

There is no shame in getting help. You get that? You don’t have to face this monster alone.

I’m reaching out. I know I need it. Please, guys, (and girls) reach out with me. Help is there. You can get it.