Surviors of Suicide Day

November 5, 2010



National Survivors of Suicide day is Saturday, November 20, 2010. This is a day of healing for survivors of suicide loss; it is an opportunity for survivors to ask the questions: “Why did this happen?” “How do I cope?”

For some individuals, every day may be a day of surviving a suicide loss. This is the case in my family…over 20 years ago my husband killed himself, leaving behind three beautiful sons, a widow, and a former wife. As the widow, I shouldered a great deal of the disaster left in the wake of his death. However, I had no exclusive claim to the grief and sadness which we all struggled with.

Grief is such an individualized emotion…everyone experiences it in a unique manner. The sadness and loss that my family struggled with led us to a unique solution. My husband’s first wife, M., and I decided that we would raise our boys together. To put it another way, we would remain a family unit. Thankfully, we lived two blocks apart…the boys would go back and forth between their moms’ homes with ease. All birthdays, holidays and vacations were spent together. Laughs and tears were shared as well.

As single moms, M. and I would constantly commiserate. One day I’d be on the phone with her pleading with her to take my son for an overnight…no problem. The next time it would be her turn. They were driving her crazy…could I take the boys for the weekend? Absolutely.

Has this solution paid off for all concerned? You be the judge…my oldest stepson and his wife recently had a beautiful baby boy. Last week M. and I flew to San Francisco to be a part of his baptism…we shared a lovely hotel room together. All our sons were present. When M. and I arrived at the house there was great excitement that “the moms are here”.

During the service there was a reading of important people who were deceased. My husband’s name was read. Did this impact me? Of course…but any tears that were shed by me that day were for the beauty and optimism inherent in welcoming this little person to the world.

There is life after suicide.

-Leslie


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


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


PTSD – A reaction by normal people to an abnormal situation.

September 12, 2010

PTSD

“PTSD is a reaction by normal people, to an abnormal situation – and there is nothing normal about war. “

This is the phrase we on the Military HelpLine use over and over to help soldiers, family members and other veterans understand the emotions they may be experiencing. We know that family and community awareness can be a life giving safety net.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of PTSD is a major step forward in battling the stigma and the effects.

Some of the PTSD symptoms of avoidance and numbing are:
Loss of interest in activities and life in general
Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
Sense of a limited future

PTSD is treatable; a person is not broken for life because of it. Soldiers, veterans and family members are given coping skills and learn to be aware of potential triggers.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has post-traumatic stress disorder, it is important to seek help right away. The sooner PTSD is confronted, the easier it is to overcome.

It is only natural to want to avoid painful memories and feelings. However if you try to numb yourself and push your memories away, the symptoms of PTSD will only get worse. We work hard to normalize the emotions of PTSD. The idea is to give one the tools to cope and the techniques to survive.

Soldiers are fond of saying, “I got your back.” It gives them a sense of safety, loyalty and strength. The Military HelpLine has your back. Many of our volunteers have served in military service. I was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. When I get callers with military background, I can honestly say “I got your back.” I have walked in those boots, I have shouldered that rifle, I have lived that life.

That experience in my life has paid dividends. Now I get to help those who ask for and need the understanding, the empathy and the support. As part of the Military HelpLine, I am honored to be a part of the solution for PTSD.

By making the community, family members and veterans aware of the signs and symptoms, we can help to end the stigma and begin the healing.

– David D.

(Editor’s note: While everyone experiences PTSD differently, there are three main types of symptoms, as listed below.)
Re-experiencing the traumatic event
* Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
* Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)
* Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)
* Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
* Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)

PTSD symptoms of avoidance and emotional numbing
* Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma
* Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
* Loss of interest in activities and life in general
* Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
* Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career)

PTSD symptoms of increased arousal
* Difficulty falling or staying asleep
* Irritability or outbursts of anger
* Difficulty concentrating
* Hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”)
* Feeling jumpy and easily startled

The Military Helpline is staffed 24/7 and is a free, confidential service. (888) 457-4838 (888) HLP-4-VET


Suicide is Preventable

September 9, 2010

Suicide.

Such a loaded word…laden with a sense of stigma. One of the main goals when speaking with suicidal individuals and their loved ones is to decrease the feeling of shame that surrounds this act. As crisis line specialists, we believe that suicide can be prevented.

If you suspect that someone you know may be experiencing thoughts of suicide, it’s okay to ask, “How are you doing?” or “Are you alright…you seem kind of down.”

These are invitations that enable the suicidal person to discuss what he is experiencing. This may be the first time that another person may have been so direct with him. The opportunity for the individual to discuss possible suicidal thoughts may serve as a catharsis and offer true relief.

Listen to what the person at risk is saying. Pay attention to the emotions which are swirling under the words. Don’t try to fix her. It’s fine to say “I care.”
Familiarize yourself with some of the warning signs of suicidal behavior: Ongoing depression, a sense of hopelessness, financial and/or relationship issues and a family history of suicide. Other risk factors may include substance abuse and/or gambling.

Encourage your loved one to ask for help; you may find that you also need some emotional support. Asking for assistance may be the first step down the path of breaking the isolation that so frequently is associated with suicidal thoughts and behavior.

At Oregon Partnership our Crisis Line Specialists are trained to offer specific assistance for those folks who are struggling with the act of killing themselves. One goal is to develop rapport as well as an emotional connection. We are willing to walk down that path of darkness and despair…listening to all the pain and hopelessness that the individual is experiencing. Understanding the person’s current situation is essential to being able to offer meaningful assistance.
Hopefully, a safe plan will be developed and appropriate resources will be offered. The person will be offered a follow-up call, most likely scheduled for the same day, in order to ensure that the caller is still safe. This follow up call is significant…it continues to carry the message that we care.

A myth exists that if you talk about suicide to a depressed person you may be “planting the idea in the person’s mind.” In my experience this is completely untrue. If an individual is feeling hopeless and is struggling, chances are good that she has considered this ominous option. So, please don’t be afraid to address the situation.

You could be saving a life.

– Leslie

Oregon Partnership Lifeline: (800) 923-HELP or (800) SUICIDE