Suicide Prevention

This is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. During this pandemic it is more important than ever that we be there for each other. You don’t have to be a mental health professional to make a difference. Being aware of the signs, knowing where to turn for help are things we can all do for ourselves and each other.

On average there are 132 suicides per day in the United States. Over fifty percent of these are carried out by firearms.

See this post for signs and symptoms of suicide as well as resources that are available: https://crookedcreek.live/2017/03/01/death-suicide/

Suicide Prevention

Today I received this from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and I want to share it with you. Please use any of these resource links that you might need and/or pass the information along to others. 

To our AFSP Family,
On the heels of the reports of a second high profile loss to suicide, I wanted to take a moment to pull our AFSP family together and offer resources, and support.
We understand that the recent coverage may trigger strong feelings or memories that may be impacting you right now.
If this is the case for you, please take care of the basics for yourself and those around you: breathe, support each other, and practice kindness and self-care, even more than usual; un-plug from the news and/or social media if you need to minimize your exposure to this news coverage and chatter.
We encourage you to make sure you prioritize your mental health right now. Protect your sleep, eat healthy, exercise, stay in treatment if that’s part of your life, and connect to the people and things that encourage you. If things seem more difficult than usual, reach out for help; friends, family, religious leader, anyone you trust. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24/7 @ 1-800-273-TALK or text TALK to 741-741.
Along with the extensive (and sometimes graphic and inappropriate) media coverage, the CDC also issued a significant report evaluating the trend of suicide death in the U.S, so you may see that much of the news reporting is incorporating data from that report.
While we have very important work to do, we need each of you to be in a good, emotionally healthy place to do so. If you need some time to regroup and recharge, take that time. Your wellness is a priority.
Sharing Safely
We ask that if you desire to share about this news, that you share the AFSP national social media posts or posts from other mental health organizations that focus on the hotline number and seeking help – and to not share articles or content that are sensational and graphic in nature. We encourage people to share messages of hope and that encourage seeking of help.
Supporting Safe Reporting in the Media
If you have contacts within the media, please share the Safe Reporting Guideline to help ensure best practices are being used when reporting on suicide. Download the Recommendations HERE.
Find Local Support
Survivor Outreach Program – You are not alone. Our trained peer support volunteers are all suicide loss survivors who know firsthand how difficult it can be to find your way in the aftermath of a suicide. CLICK HERE to request a visit with an SOP volunteer.
Mental Health Professionals – If you’re living with depression or another mental health condition, a health professional can help. CLICK HERE to find a mental health professional in your area.
Thank you for all that you do to help #StopSuicide in our community.
We have a lot of work to do, but together we can save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide.
Sincerely,
Christine Moutier, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Suicide is not going away, but with more information and understanding regarding depression we may be able to stem the tide which threatens to wash over people of all ages, colors, religions and economic status. 

https://crookedcreek.live/2017/11/05/walk/

https://crookedcreek.live/2017/03/01/death-suicide/

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

WALK

 

Out of Darkness

Yesterday when my alarm blared, the morning was cool and extremely foggy. As I lifted my sore body off the warm bed it was impossible to decide which of its parts was more painful. Two days ago I took a hard fall and was lucky to find nothing broken as two nice folks helped me to my feet. Brisk walking two to three miles or more a day has been my main exercise for the past few years. I generally avoid sidewalks, keeping to the nature trails in the nearby Parklands. https://www.theparklands.org/Parks/Pope-Lick-Park  I should have stuck to that plan because once again my walk had been rudely interrupted by concrete here in my neighborhood. 

During the past two painful days, I had tried to decide whether I would be able to keep my commitment to participate in the “Out of Darkness” walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention* (AFSP).  I was pre-registered and looking forward to walking with the group I had recently joined, so I decided to give it a try and I am so glad that I did, even though I did not quite make the entire course. 

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Almost 600 people were gathered at the Waterfront Park here in Louisville to raise funds for suicide prevention and to promote education about suicide awareness. Tens of thousands more walked across this country. It was humbling to be in the company of so people who had been touched by suicide. We walked in remembrance. We walked in unity with survivors. We walked simply to give support, both emotional and financial.

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Walking is good exercise, even for the clumsy, but walking in collaboration with others for an important cause was worth the extra effort it took yesterday. 

Earlier this year I wrote several blog posts on the subject of death and on March 1, specifically about suicide. It is a tough subject to discuss and I will always be grateful for the person who allowed me to post the eulogy that she gave for her mother who died in December of 2014 as the result of suicide. I hope that you will read or re-read that post, https://crookedcreek.live/2017/03/01/death-suicide/ because the words written by Laurie Lamb Ray more clearly express the need for suicide awareness than I ever could. Her heartbreakingly candid account of her Mom’s depression provides a window on this subject we scarcely encounter. Yesterday I walked for Laurie’s Mom, Marilyn, and for my cousin David, both of whom I sincerely miss.

 

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Our Team

 

 

https://afsp.org

 

 

Death – Suicide

“Suicide occurs, not because the deceased was selfish or because their loved ones failed them. Suicide occurs when one’s pain outweighs their resources of strength.” 

rocky-shore

Suicide

After our first discussion of Death back in mid-January, one reader stated: “Perhaps it is the way a person dies (long illness, accident, suicide, etc. ) that shakes our world more than the actual act of death itself? ” I agree with that assessment. While permanently saying goodbye to a person we love is always unbearably painful, it seems some losses are harder to accept than others. One of those circumstances is suicide. 

The very word “suicide” brings on so many questions; the first, of course, is “why”. There are many factors that contribute to the act of suicide, but rarely is it one event or situation resulting in an individual ending their own life. There may be a trigger, but the reason is much more complicated than one incident. Seldom is suicide chosen without being preceded by a long struggle, often accompanied by chronic depression. For some the desire to die is such a strong compulsion there reaches a point where it can no longer be denied. 

When I worked as a RN in an Emergency Department many years ago I witnessed firsthand the victims of suicide, some successful and others who were not. I saw the shock, confusion and heartbreak of families and regretfully at least one doctor who could not understand nor empathize with such a patient. I recall the horror of working on self-inflicted gunshot wounds, pumping stomachs to remove poisons and overdoses and witnessing myriad other ways in which people took their own lives. I never doubted that they were serious, although there were one or two who I thought might have been too immature to fully understand their actions. Many patients were saved, some were not. I recall one man who had shot himself and survived who wept and confided, “I can’t do anything right.” I will never forget his sorrow at being unsuccessful. I’m sharing these few details of that hospital environment to demonstrate that suicide is not an act for attention, but an act of desperation. 

Incidence

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) suicide occurs globally every 40 seconds. This translates, tragically, to the loss of 2,160 lives each day. In the US in 2014 (the last year for which there are complete statistics) suicide was the tenth leading cause of death and claimed the lives of over 42,000 people according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Perhaps more disturbing, the suicide rate over the past fifteen years has increased by 24%. 

Eulogy for a Mom

There is so much that can be said on this subject. Sadly most of us have some experience with the heartbreak associated with a friend or loved one ending their own life. Perhaps you have undergone a close or recent loss due to suicide. Aside from listing some resources at the end of this post I feel the most helpful thing to do is to share with you a eulogy I was honored to hear at a memorial service in December of 2014. 

This eulogy was given by the daughter of my neighbor and friend, Marilyn Lamb. Marilyn’s daughter, Laurie Lamb Ray, has graciously given her permission for this tribute to her Mom to be reproduced here. Laurie’s words lovingly and sensitively state what we need to hear and understand when one dies as the result of suicide. I believe you will find it enlightening and that it will be helpful if you have the opportunity to comfort someone who has lost a loved one under these circumstances. 


Here are Laurie’s words:

I know you expect me to talk about mom tonight, maybe share funny foibles, touching tributes. And, I could. I have hundreds to share. But, I’ll leave that to others. Today, I’m going to talk about the elephant in the room. And, the elephant in the room is suicide. And now that you know I’m going to talk about suicide, I know that you are terribly uncomfortable and would like nothing better than to get up, jump in your car and go home. But you are a captive audience so, in honor of my mom, I’m going to ask you to stay and I’m going use this opportunity to try and help you understand my mom and her suicide.

Yes, my mom committed suicide. And we are all horrified and shocked and so very sad. And, let’s face it, even if we try really hard not to, we all tend to judge her just a little bit. Even the words we use seem a little damning, don’t they? She committed suicide. As if it is a crime akin to murder. We say, How could she do this? To me, to all of us? How selfish. How awful. How could she? And we are puzzled. She looked fine to me. She seemed fine when I saw her at the party just the night before. Well, don’t feel bad, she seemed fine at the party to me too.

But, you see she wasn’t fine; hadn’t been fine for my entire life. My mom had severe chronic depression. I don’t know how many of you know someone with severe chronic depression, but I know all of you have known someone who died of cancer…they fought it, they wanted desperately to live, they took medicine, sought help, people prayed for them and “yes” sometimes they even seemed fine. Yet, at some point they could no longer fight – they had become too weary, too weak and they just could not continue to live. And, that you see is exactly what happened to my mom. 

My mom died from a chemical imbalance in her brain. Not a weakness, not selfishness, not a sin against God. A very real, physical imbalance that left her unable to cope and unable to hope for things to get better.

So many of you have asked what you can do to help during this time. I’ll tell you what you can do. In memory of my mom, I ask that you re-file “suicide” from that place in your brain that judges and is horrified, to a place where there is nothing, but compassion and understanding. 

Your mom died of cancer? Well, my mom died of chronic depression. And, today she is no longer hopeless. She is with my dad and, even in the midst of my sadness, THAT has to make me smile.

Mom, I understand and I love you.


Thank you Laurie for sharing with us. We are grateful for your kindness and generosity. I would also like to thank Laurie’s Aunt Janet, who graciously agreed to share this message concerning her sister’s death. 


 

The following signs, symptoms and risk factors are from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml

Signs & Symptoms

The behaviors listed below may be signs that someone is thinking about suicide.

1.  Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves

2.  Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live

3.  Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun

4.  Talking about great guilt or shame

5.  Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions

6.  Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)

7.  Talking about being a burden to others

8.  Using alcohol or drugs more often

9.  Acting anxious or agitated

10. Withdrawing from family and friends

11. Changing eating and/or sleeping habits

12. Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

13. Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast

14. Talking or thinking about death often

15. Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy

16. Giving away important possessions

17. Saying goodbye to friends and family

18. Putting affairs in order, making a will

(Blogger’s note: It is conceivable there are some victims who do not display outward signs prior to suicide.)

Risk Factors 

Suicide does not discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk. Suicidal behavior is complex and there is no single cause. In fact, many different factors contribute to someone making a suicide attempt. But people most at risk tend to share certain characteristics. The main risk factors for suicide are:

1.  Depression, other mental disorders, or substance abuse disorder

2.  Certain medical conditions

3.  Chronic pain

4.  A prior suicide attempt

5.  Family history of a mental disorder or substance abuse

6.  Family history of suicide

7.  Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse

8.  Having guns or other firearms in the home

9.  Having recently been released from prison or jail

10. Being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior, such as that of family members, peers, or celebrities

Many people have some of these risk factors, but do not attempt suicide. It is important to note that suicide is not a normal response to stress. Suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress, not a harmless bid for attention, and should not be ignored.


If you need help:

Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Available 24 Hours a day, 7 days a week.
The service is free, confidential and available to anyone.
All calls are confidential.
You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.

Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or
Use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

For more information, Visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

(the source of this contact information)

 

 

Death – Obituaries

Your Obituary

In our last post I asked you to consider writing your own obituary. I realize this exercise may be daunting for some. I recall teaching a class on “Death and Dying” in the community many years ago when one man, a church deacon in his 60s, was visibly upset by the prospect of writing about his own death. We become accustomed to employing diversionary tactics when thinking about dying. We talk about “passing away,” “going to sleep,” (which can frighten young children), “gone,” and of course that favorite one “if something happens.”  Acknowledging death is inevitable is not obsessing, but accepting it as part of the landscape, just as the seasons of the calendar, so are the seasons of life. It is my hope we will experience life more fully when we realize it is fleeting. 

I have not heard from anyone who worked on the suggested assignment, but if you did you may have looked for help on the Internet. There are countless sites offering advice or even templates so that you can just fill in the blanks. I am sure many are good sources, but one that impressed me with its variety of obituary types was https://www.obituaryhelp.net.  Some prefer to leave this task to funeral home personnel who have training and experience in the proper structure of obituaries. If a formal format is preferred, then providing the names, dates and personal information to the funeral home will be all that is required of the family when you die. Since obituaries should honor and reflect the life of the deceased, writing one’s own ahead of time might be more personal. This can be detailed or perhaps just a theme, special quotes or anecdotes you want included.

Some general guidelines for writing your own obituary include:

  • Write in the third person. 
  • Keep it short. Some obituaries are so long they are not likely to be read in their   entirety, if at all. Another reason to trim it down, is cost. Newspaper charges for this service are expensive.
  • The cause of death may or may not be included.
  • Keep your draft updated. It may be a good idea to add notes for your family as you think of things over time. 

Some Favorites

I have read obituaries for years and often been teased about this routine, long before I reached my current age, which is well within the obituary reading range. It isn’t so much I am looking for names I recognize, although that is part of it. I find obituaries to be interesting reading. It is true there are accounts of tragedies, infants and children, those who died without any “next of kin,” but there are also the ones that are inspiring or entertaining. At one time I had a collection of hundreds that were keepers and somewhere along the way they became lost or perhaps I became embarrassed, but now I only have a few dozen. One I no longer have referred to the deceased as having “Slipped the surly bonds of earth” and that line fascinated me so I did an Internet search and found it was from the poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr, “High Flight.”

Another newspaper page that I recall, but no longer have in my collection listed two separate obituaries that could only happen in Kentucky: both “Bubba” and “Buford” died the same day. A favorite from November 2016, has verses of songs interspersed throughout. These included the music of The Beatles, The Spinners, Poco and Steely Dan. The obituary itself is full of fun, travels and adventures of a 68-year-old.

Nicknames are sometimes fun to read while imagining their origins. Some I recall include:  Baldy, Tooter, Snuffy, Catfish, Peanut, Honest Frank, Blood and finally, Poboy & Buster for the same man. Curiously, of these clippings only two females had nicknames, Mu and Big Mama.

Looking Ahead

As you continue to work on your obituary please also think about your preferences for a memorial service or funeral considering music, speakers and perhaps who you would like to deliver a eulogy. Following those topics we will discuss disposal of remains and suicide in future posts. 

Eventually, grief will be discussed comprehensively, but we may decide to hold off and move on to lighter subjects for a while. Feel free to provide feedback on this, as well as, anything you have to share. 

 “High Flight” John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds, —and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of —Wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air . . . Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace where never lark or even eagle flew – and, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod the high un-trespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand, and touched the face of God.