A Month to Save a Life

 

September is National Suicide Prevention Month in America.

Two years ago this month, I wrote a series of posts on this topic, “A Ray of Light”, Parts 1-4. I invite you to read them if this is something that concerns you or someone you know. I shared information about the signs a person may be suicidal, what to do for someone who is, and who to contact for help.

This means something to me. I myself have had suicidal thoughts in the past, and came close to doing it once, and I lost an uncle to it many years ago.

It still registers as a national health crisis, as often as it occurs, and it’s getting worse. The statistics bear that out.

And I have to ask, why is that so? Where are we failing these people?

Is word not getting out that help is available? Is suicide still too uncomfortable a subject to mention in public?

Well, how comfortable are we with all these people killing themselves?

Folks, we have to talk about this more. We need to be perceptive around our friends and family. We need to not be ashamed to ask for help. We need to not hesitate to ask to help.

During this month that focuses on suicide, let’s all make it our focus. It’s extremely important. We’ve got to get a handle on this. Way too many precious lives are needlessly lost every year, every day. We can put an end to it.

Life can really suck sometimes, I know. But let’s all face it together. None of us has to alone. Please, reach out for help. Don’t give up.

 

I almost gave up 33 years ago. I’m glad it didn’t happen.

Crisis Text Line

 

This website was brought to my attention, and I want to share it with you.

It’s called Crisis Text Line. It’s a place where you can send a text message anytime, 24/7, for free. A trained counselor will receive your message, then text a reply, and the two of you can begin a totally confidential conversation, the purpose being to bring you to a safe place emotionally.

And if this sounds to you like some suicide hotline, it’s not just for people who are contemplating suicide. Any emotional distress you’re experiencing, you can talk about with someone over the Crisis Text Line. Share only as much as you want with the counselor, who will actively listen to you, empathize with you, and maybe ask some questions.

The conversation usually ends when both you and your counselor feel you have reached a safe spot, but not before then. Take all the time you need and remember, it’s all confidential.

You can reach them by texting HOME to 741741 in the US, or to 686868 in Canada.

I haven’t gone there, myself, but over 102,000,000 messages have been exchanged since August 2013, when this site opened. So, somebody’s been there. Roughly 75% of those texts are from people under 25 years of age, among whom texting is a more common means of communicating.

If you’re going through a tough time emotionally, and you don’t feel like you can talk to anyone over the phone or face-to-face, here’s another option for you. If you use it, I hope it helps. If you want to learn more about it, just go to https://www.crisistextline.org/

I wish you well.

 

Stay Here With Me

 

Today, September 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day.

And I have a message for you.

If you’re thinking about killing yourself…

If you’re thinking that life is just too hard to take…

If you’re thinking that there’s no hope, no other option…

If you’re thinking that you’re a hopeless case…

That you’re utterly worthless…

That everyone would be better off without you around…

That no one understands the depths of your pain…

That you’re just tired of trying to get through day after f###ed-up day…

That you’re all alone…

I promise you, I have thought every single one of those things. And more. Pretty recently, in fact.

And I’m still here. And I’m glad.

Life may look pitch black from your view, but I’m telling you: there is a light.

And if you need some help finding it, there are some people who can give you that.

In the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 800-273-8255. Internationally, visit http://www.iasp.info to find help near you.

Believe me, I know life sucks, but I don’t know anybody who can help you get through death.

So stay here with me, and live. Let’s face this together.

Who knows? We might even end up liking it.

And How Was Your Day?

 

The surprises life occasionally drops in your lap can sometimes be nothing short of incredible.

 

I drive a shuttle bus five days a week for a particular business. I’ve been driving it for two years, now. In that time, I’ve gotten to know several of the folks who ride it on a regular basis. I know many of them by name, and enjoy talking with them when they ride with me.

We’ll talk about just random stuff: music, sports, the job, the mercilessly hot weather (currently), whatever.

And, somewhere in the conversation, I try to get a laugh or two out of them; maybe make them forget a few seconds about the stress of the day. Some people, I can joke with relentlessly, because we know each other that well by now.

This one fellow, who shall remain nameless, and I are like that, but one day, we got a little deeper in our dialogue. I don’t recall how we got to this subject, but I shared my depression struggles with him, which led to him opening up about his depression, and sometimes thoughts of suicide.

He told me he’s thought about it “logically”, i.e., exactly how he would go about it.

I told him about how I wrestle with those same thoughts, and recommended that he get help, as I did. Because, like I’ve said before on this blog, that’s way too big a dragon to try and slay on your own.

He thanked me for the talk, and we haven’t brought it up since. Which is probably bad; I should have followed up on it with him. But, I don’t see him as much, now; since relocating to the main office, he doesn’t need to go to the other facility too often. Not that that’s any excuse.

So today, when I walked into the office, the lady at the security desk, who I also know, had a card for me from him. Now, we both expected it to be something funny, because he and I sometimes leave snarky little notes for each other with her. She kinda gets a kick out of being the go-between, I think.

Not this time. Instead, it was a thank-you card. Inside was a generous gift, and a note which read:

I really struggled on a daily basis with depression during my old job. Part of the reason I was always on the bus was you. Thank you for making me laugh and smile.

 

I just stood there for a minute, looking at that note, totally dumbfounded. I genuinely didn’t know what to think. I’m still trying to get a grasp of the significance of it.

At the very least, though, it’s immensely gratifying. I have no idea if I’ve helped anyone with what I’ve written on this blog; I can only hope. But, I can take some satisfaction in knowing I helped him.

With just a few jokes. Who would have thought?

I don’t know what this story will mean to you, if anything. Like I said, I’m still processing what it means to me.

But, have you ever been at a point in your life where you never envisioned yourself being, wondering why you were there?

I don’t know for sure, but maybe, this guy was the reason I’m right here, right now.

Which blows my mind just a little.

Love one another, y’all.

 

 

How You Doin’?

 

 

From the Associated Press, 06/08/2018:

“Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef and citizen of the world who inspired millions to share his delight in food and the bonds it created, was found dead in his hotel room Friday in France while working on his CNN series on culinary traditions. He was 61.

“CNN confirmed the death, saying that Bourdain was found unresponsive Friday morning by friend and chef Eric Ripert in the French city of Haut-Rhin. It called his death a suicide.”

 

From the Associated Press, 06/06/2018

“NEW YORK (AP) — The husband and business partner of designer Kate Spade, who died in an apparent suicide, said she suffered from depression and anxiety for many years.”

 

From the Washington Post, 06/08/2018:

“Suicide rates rose in all but one state between 1999 and 2016, with increases seen across age, gender, race and ethnicity, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In more than half of all deaths in 27 states, the individuals had no known mental health condition when they took their own life.”

 

Is there anyone out there who still doesn’t see how serious a problem this is?

We’re dying, folks. By our own hand.

In ever growing numbers.

I find that both terrifying and heartbreaking.

Not to mention, completely unnecessary. This doesn’t need to be happening!

My brothers and sisters, we need to look out for one another. Where are we failing?

Well, I have one possible explanation:

The CDC report pointed out an apparently high number of suicides among people without a known mental health condition, saying: “In the 27 states that use the National Violent Death Reporting System, 54 percent of suicides were by individuals without a known mental illness.”

But Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, added an important asterisk to that statistic, saying that, “When you do a psychological autopsy and go and look carefully at medical records and talk to family members of the victims, 90 percent will have evidence of a mental health condition.” So, many of the suicides were completed by people who were never even diagnosed, and consequently, never got any treatment for their condition.

According to the report, a likely reason for that is, most people aren’t asking for help. Especially, men. 

 

And, listen, I understand the reluctance. Mental illness still has a huge stigma attached to it. Nobody wants to admit there’s a problem, because it comes with a great big Scarlet Letter.

So, rather than be negatively labeled, people will just keep killing themselves.

THAT’S why the stigma has to be eliminated. That’s why we need to discuss mental illness as easily as we do cancer, or heart disease, or any other physical malady. It’s an illness, and it can and should be treated. People with mental illness aren’t crazy; they’re sick, and they need help.

And here’s the important part: If you know them, they need you to ask them if they need help.

I know that’s tough but, many times, they’re simply waiting for someone to ask them; they just won’t come out and say it.

Look, I’m no doctor. I’m no psychiatrist. I do have an illness. It’s called clinical depression, and I sure enough need help for it. And I’m getting it. Because I deal with those thoughts that visit me sometimes, and tell me just go ahead and check out, because you’re hopeless, you sorry, no good SOB.

But then, I realize: after posting information on this blog about what some of the warning signs are in someone who may be suicidal (08/31/2017), where to go to get help (08/31/2017), and how to help someone who is suicidal (09/13/2017), and after offering personal encouragement (09/23/2017 and several other dates), it would all ring pretty hollow if I just went and killed myself, wouldn’t it? I’d be the world’s biggest fraud. (Well, second biggest; you longtime readers know who I think has a lock on first place.)

But, back to my point: We all need to learn to be more observant of the behavior of those around us and, if we notice something that’s off with somebody, ask if he or she is okay. That’s not nosy, that’s caring.

And, you never know. It could be the difference between someone getting help, or ending it all. The stakes are that high.

Please, folks, let’s get out of ourselves and our cellphones a little more, and check in on our family, our friends, our colleagues. They may be waiting for us to ask.

But for how much longer?

By the way, how are you?

 

Michael Phelps Earns Another Gold

 

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In the eyes of the world, he was superhuman.

Absolutely nobody owned the Olympics like swimmer Michael Phelps. 28 medals have hung around his neck, 23 of them gold, over the span of five Olympic Games. An athlete for the ages.

But guess what? As Phelps publicly admitted this week, during that astonishing run of championships, he was suffering from depression and thoughts of suicide.

Read Michael’s story at http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/19/health/michael-phelps-depression/index.html  If you think CNN is a bunch of “fake news”, get over it and read this, anyway.

Men, especially, I want you to read this. Pay attention when he says he realized he needed help, and how he now understands the importance of opening up and talking about depression, instead of keeping it to yourself.

Listen to me. I don’t care what you tell yourself; you cannot, you will not beat depression on your own. Believe me, I know. It is far too formidable an opponent. I know us men are supposed to be the strong, silent type, but it’s precisely that silence that could kill you.

Go to http://www.wingofmadness.com to learn about depression. I know, that’s kind of a creepy name for a website, but it’s an excellent resource on the subject. If you think you have it, please call someone for help.

It could very well save your life.

Michael Phelps, thank you. This is your hardest earned, and most deserved, gold medal. I’m glad you got the help you needed. I wish you continued good mental health.