500 Dead in Oregon

December 9, 2010

That’s a headline that would certainly get your attention. If it were mass murder it would get wall-to-wall press coverage. But it doesn’t.

Sadly, it happens every year and goes largely unnoticed. And it’s preventable.

500 is the number of Oregonians who kill themselves each year.

Suicide.

At Oregon Partnership we get 18,000 calls a year to our Lifeline at 800-273-TALK. Many are people who feel the pain in their lives exceeds their coping resources. Our dedicated volunteer staff listen compassionately and connect callers with resources that can exceed their pain.

Suicide is preventable.

Call us.

-Tom


Military Family Month

November 23, 2010

President Obama has proclaimed November Military Family Month, noting that military family members “serve,” too, and also require community support.

“I call on all Americans to honor military families through private actions and public service for the tremendous contributions they make in support of our service members and our nation,” the President said in his proclamation.

Experts in both the military and civilian sectors found that the U.S. will be facing increasing addiction and mental-health problems among returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghan war. All returning veterans face adjustments, but for some, dealing with traumatic experiences can lead to diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, substance abuse and addiction. These problems not only affect the individual, but can have a profound impact on families and communities.

The Military Helpline is here for military families to use as a free, confidential resource. Not only for dire needs, such as suicide or PTSD, but for assistance in navigating the system so that families can get the benefits and support they’re entitled to.

We are so thankful for the freedoms we enjoy because of the sacrifices of every person who has served – either as a member of the military or of the family that serves as well. Make sure they know assistance is available by spreading the word about this 24/7 service. 888-HLP-4-VET (888) 457-4838 – or on the web at http://www.militaryhelpline.org.

-Tom


Change in the Season – Recognizing Seasonal Affective Disorder

October 22, 2010


The air is crisper, the night comes earlier, the World Series is in full swing, and before we know it we fall back into Standard time. The change of the season brings fall colors, Halloween, comfort food dinners, and a fire in the fireplace.

The change of season can also bring depression, isolation and “the blues”.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly called SAD, tends to occur during late fall and winter months. However, most people with the “winter blahs” or “cabin fever” do not have SAD. For many people symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include tiredness, fatigue, depression, crying spells, irritability, trouble concentrating, body aches, loss of sex drive, poor sleep, decreased activity level, and overeating. Statistics on seasonal affective disorder in the United States include that this disorder occurs in about 5% of adults, with up to 20% of people having some symptoms of the condition.

Some people don’t know why they feel out of sorts, they don’t know what to do or how to ask for help. Although there is no specific diagnostic test for the illness, Seasonal Affective Disorder seems to develop from inadequate bright light during the winter months.

Key in the prevention of seasonal affective disorder is regular exposure to light that is bright, particularly fluorescent lights, significantly improves depression in people with this disorder when it presents during the fall and winter. The light treatment is used daily in the morning and evening for best results. Temporarily changing locations to a climate that is characterized by bright light (such as the Caribbean) can achieve similar results. Light treatment has also been called phototherapy. Individuals who suffer from seasonal affective disorder will also likely benefit from increased social support during vulnerable times of the year.

Twenty four years ago this November, my father died of suicide.

After the shock, anger and grief, I learned that he had always felt “depressed” at the beginning of the fall season. It was not a subject my dad ever truly talked openly about. In the note he left behind, he described the overwhelming sense of sadness that came upon him, the need to isolate and the awful thoughts that ran through his mind. At the time he died, SAD and bi-polar were two types of depression that were unique and very misunderstood.

Knowing now what I didn’t know then, I attempt to learn as much as possible about these two debilitating forms of depression. In the 24 years since my father’s death, much more is known about the signs and symptoms of SAD. I wrote the following poem in an attempt to help my 2 sons know and learn about their possible legacy:

My Father’s Mask
I am my father’s son
I wear his pain deep inside
His father’s father handed down the legacy
-Men are strong, men don’t cry-
-We don’t ask for help-
My father battled his demons in silence
Until the inside voices won the war
Even in death the mask he wore was skin-tight
His pain wears me like an old sweater
Now stretched beyond yarn’s memory
Legacy’s gift handed down though time’s lineage
I am my father’s son,
Seeking to break the pathways of the past
Hoping my sons will not wear their father’s mask

– David D.


Suicide – A Surviving Son’s Story

October 12, 2010

(Editor’s note: 23 years ago Nick’s father chose to kill himself. That decision has left permanent heartache and trouble for all those left behind. Here is Nick’s story)

When I was almost 3, my father killed himself. Although I have come a long way since then, his loss has been a constant uphill battle that unfortunately will always be part of my life.

When I was younger, I was never really able to deal with my emotions of anger, sadness, and loneliness in a healthy way. I grew up an angry kid; I would get into fights and punch holes in walls and although my mom constantly tried to get me help, I was never able to really deal with the true pain I felt inside. Even to this day I could never truly understand how a father could leave behind three boys, my two half- brothers and me, all of whom were talented, funny, and bright. Besides relying on one another, we all turned to sports as a way of coping and to this day it infuriates me that my dad never once saw me play ball.

Another situation that used to bother me was spending time at my friends’ homes and watching their interactions with their fathers and realizing that this would never be me. One situation that has stayed with me was a time when I was interviewing for application to a private school; during the interview I totally disengaged. On the way home my mother asked what happened and I told her that every kid there had their mother and father to support them and I didn’t feel like I fit in.

I truly never understood how a person could take his own life until I was 15 and all my feelings of anger, frustration, and abandonment resulted in my own attempt at suicide. Fortunately, my mom got me the help I needed and I was able to move on in a positive manner.

Growing up without a father was never easy and there were times in my life that I felt so much pain I couldn’t bear it. This situation has forced me to become an extremely strong person. I’m independent and have worked hard to accomplish goals in my life.

Although I have a great relationship with my mother and brothers, it will never compensate for the pain I have experienced growing up without a dad.

– Nick


Coming Out to Acceptance

October 9, 2010

I admit it. I was once homophobic.

I was raised in a culture where homosexuals were tormented and beaten up. This was during an era when there was nothing remotely acceptable or chic about homosexuality in our society. Just loneliness and humiliation.

Then I took a job in San Francisco in the mid-70’s. During the next 10 years I interacted with all kinds of people – straight, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transvestite, transgender, you name it.

And I discovered something: Their sexual orientation presented no threat to me and was irrelevant to our personal and working relationships.

People are likable, trustworthy, loyal, honest or not. A friend is a friend and a jerk is a jerk regardless of their sexual orientation. And, exactly as in the heterosexual world, sexual preference had no bearing on me unless a physical relationship was considered.

I also became convinced that homosexuality was not a choice.

Who, in their right mind, would choose to be a pariah in their society? Even today it is a life that can be filled with anxiety, rejection and insecurity. No one would “choose” that. Heterosexuality, homosexuality, bi-sexuality, it’s the way a human comes wired. To live as someone other than you are is to live life a life of frustration and to forfeit your right to the pursuit of happiness.

I think of one of my cousins. From the time he was in preschool, he was effeminate – only the word I was thinking was not very kind. He eventually accepted his sexual orientation, but only after being married, fathering a child and getting divorced. I have often thought of what a tough life that’s been, and how much happiness he forfeited because of societal pressures. It’s a sad thought.

Sadder still is the thought that some, faced with rejection and humiliation, have taken their own lives in desolation. The most recent high profile instance of this was the suicide of 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi. It must stop.

This Monday is National Coming Out Day. National Coming Out Day is an internationally-observed civil awareness day for coming out and discussion about gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual and trans-gender (LGBT) issues. It is observed by members of the LGBT communities and their supporters on October 11 every year.

I’m a straight man who supports those who walk a different path than I. Please welcome discussions on this topic within your sphere of influence. And offer love instead of fear, rejection and contempt.

Come out to acceptance, love and a happier future.

-Tom


Rutgers Student’s Suicide a Call to Action

October 1, 2010

The death of 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi has become a clarion call to all of us about the real dangers of bullying. He was outed as being gay on the internet and he killed himself.

This clip from Ellen deGeneres is far more eloquent than anything I could write: View Ellen’s Message

If you are struggling with bullying, questions about sexuality or any other issues, call us on the Oregon Partnership Help Line: (800) 923-HELP. The Youth Line is (877) YOUTH 911. Our suicide hot line numbers are (800) 273-TALK or 800 SUICIDE.

Make sure the people you know have these numbers.

There is help and hope.

-Tom


Leaving One Branch of Service for Another

September 30, 2010

(Editor’s Note: Tim Hasty leaves today to go into active service as a Lieutenant in the US Army. He has been a tremendous help to us in setting up our Military Helpline while waiting for his deployment orders)

My time here at Oregon Partnership working in drug prevention has refined me; I knew I was ready when those bars were pinned to my shoulders. I knew I was ready when my peers started to look to me for leadership, guidance and advice. I knew I was ready when I had come to peace with life changing in drastic ways. I knew I was ready.

Getting the news that I was going to have to wait to do what I had trained so hard to become was painful. I feared I would lose everything that I had become. The fine tuned skills of what I thought it meant to be a leader, to be responsible, to take responsibility, keeping myself to a high standard, I agonized about how I would lose all of that.

Instead of losing it all, my time here on the Military Helpline refined me. Polished me, turned me from a rough neck hard nose grunt into a something I have strived to become. I came here as a tough kid full of himself and his accomplishments. In my time here the world has grown before my eyes. I am sitting here today a man, fully versed in the ways of the world and how the matters of a single person do have an effect on people.

Compassion can save someone’s life. My view of life has been painted a different shade as a result of my time here. I arrived fresh faced and ignorant, I am leaving with a knowledge of how people care about each other, that life is not as harsh as I was taught and that caring is a good thing. It has made me a better soldier. I understand the struggle now.

Today is my last day here. It will be the last of many things for me and the first of many. The last time I answer the phone for those in need. The first time my country will call me during a time in need. The last time I will have the pleasure and honor of working with some of the most dedicated individuals I have come to know; the first time I lead the finest men this country has to offer. The last time I come to work in clothes of a civilian, the first time I wear the uniform of an officer in the United States Army. It is the beginning and the end of many things.

As I move on from this place, I think not of the job, but of the people. I came here to help those in need, and it was I who received the most help.

– Tim