Help From A Few Oceans Away

Today’s post is an email from a suicide survivor a few Oceans away.
I am so pleased because as you will read, she’s in; meaning even though she is on the other side of the world, she is nevertheless going to help us with organizing the Fair.
And do you know what? So can you, lives are at stake!
Thank you Rayofsunshine, I mean (((((((THANK YOU)))))
Esmeralda

"Many Oceans - One Goal - Say Good Bye to Suicide"

Different Oceans - Same Goal

Esmeralda,

When you asked, I was undecided bc of the circumstances of my family. But since then interesting things have been happening. I have been treading carefully; individually “talking story”, as we would say here in xxxxx, with my family members. Two of my 7 surviving children have taken the initiative on their own to disclose how their brother died. My daughter matter of factly told a church acquaintance she met while working when he asked how my son died. My sixth child was the one who gave the speech in his college class about the causes and effects of suicide. He disclosed that he was a survivor of suicide and how that affected him and our family. I am still in the process of talking with each child. Some things take time…

But for me what has been pivotal has been the Asist Training I just completed. It added more reasons to the reasons I have already been accumulating that we, families and communities, need to talk about suicide and help our families and communities talk about it to create suicide-safer communities. I wrote in one blog post how much greater love and compassion I have for my son and for those who interacted with him. Love and compassion for my son because even though there was a part of him that thought of dying; he also wanted to live. He was ambivalent. It’s really obvious from his journal entries. He tried to talk about it but those who talked with him didn’t know how best to respond. That really stands out to me about his death. He talked with so many people–each of his family members, friends, coworkers, church acquaintances, a police officer, the person who sold him the gun! People sensed something was up but no one realized that “suicide was in the room” (as our Asist Trainer would say). Why not?! I can only reference myself–lack of knowledge.
NOW I think I could do the CPR needed to help him keep himself alive at his time of crisis because of the training I’ve experienced and the new knowledge it provided that I hadn’t known. (The intervention model empowers the person struggling with suicidal thoughts to help keep himself alive. The intervener providing the CPR “assists”.) I really understand this dilemma of wanting to help but not knowing how BEST to help. I understand this as a teacher constantly learning and as a parent of an adult child with a mental illness. We do the best we know with the knowledge we have! (Of course LOVE goes a long way to help.) From the training I discovered that we can do a LITTLE more and it will go a LONG way to help save lives and improve the quality of lives. (That’s why I really like the name for the Fair you’re planning too–Get your wellness on! It captures what we hope can be the reality for each of us.)

So as you can see, I was really empowered by the training I experienced this week. The timing was right. I could not have gone through this training any earlier than I did. It would have been too emotional for me. There were moments when only deep breathing kept the tears at bay. I keep being amazed at the bitter-sweet journey I’ve been on since Michael died. Oh, that he had not died. But I can’t deny the gifts that his death have provided. If good can come from this experience for me, then it seems logical that he too can experience good from this experience. He was a nurturing people-person. His aspiration in life was to help others who were struggling with brain / mental challenges. He would want me to help.

I don’t think of myself as being much of an event planner! (But I get the impression you and your family are quite experienced!) All you wrote about in today’s blog was awesome.

Here are some thoughts running through my head:

– Be clear and specific about your purpose(s)…this is the teacher in me talking…I come to the fair, what do you want me to have learned / gained from coming. [One thing I would want for every participant is to have the opportunity to obtain a wallet card on what to do if “suicide is in the room”, ie how to provide emergency first aid for someone experiencing a suicide crisis. I would also want everyone to have the opportunity to get a business card with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK, http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org]

– My hope is that the event would possibly include the opportunity to learn a wellness skill (like the chair massages, etc.) including the skill of how to talk about suicide. This is the organization that provided the training I attended. It’s just one; there are others. http://www.livingworks.net/

– Pray that your event will be successful, achieve the good objectives you and your planning committee set to help save lives.

OK…I think I am all written out for now… take good care… xxxxx…

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16 thoughts on “Help From A Few Oceans Away

  1. Dear RayofSunshine, you really are shining a bright light on the work at hand. Thank you and Michael!
    I am delighted to have you on our team, and I know that it will not be too long before you’ll organize the Get Your Wellness On! in your neck of the woods.
    Thank you also for the great suggestions. Let’s get things rolling!
    Hugs, Esmeralda

  2. ….wait….huge red flags….

    …someone sold a minor child a gun, and his parents did not pick up on this….didn’t know he had the gun???….seriously?????

    ….wow……HUGE red flags here….

    He talked about wanting to kill himself, and bought a gun, and he said this to many people and no one did anything????? What am I not understanding here???

    Technically the police officer, and others in certain helping professions, like teachers, social workers, etc., that he may have talked to were remiss in not filing a CHINS petition or reporting this if he was a minor child at the time, and I think even if he was an adult, actually…

    I am sorry, but as a parent I feel obligated to comment on this…

    • Hedi, sorry to put it like this, I know you mean well, but you are assuming things, making judgments and in the process you are adding 2 & 2 together and making 5.
      I think it is laudable that a parent such as Rayofsunshine is so open and candid. We should offer our support, not point fingers.

  3. Hedi’sAngel Says

    I think Hedi’sAngel’s comments are highly instructive. Here we have a perfect example of why people are reticent to discuss the suicide of a family member or friend. I suspect she is trying to be helpful but what she is doing is she is instilling fear. Specifically: the fear of being blamed, the fear of appearing stupid, the fear of being mocked.

    And this attitude is omnipresent. There is so much confusion about suicide, so many different kinds of suicide and different methods and different reasons, including accidental. I am sure that there are people out there who have killed themselves when all they wanted to do is LOOK suicidal. And there is the other suicide committed by men who accidentally die of asphyxiation while trying to achieve an incredible orgasm.

    Suicide has an embarrassment component to it and that’s why discussion is difficult. Notice how HA was ready to blame others before being sure of the details. I don’t mean to embarrass her for her reaction (many other people would- and do!- the same thing.) I would just like to point out how people want to “figure it out” 1-2-3 instead of reflecting. It is as if we all abhor thinking about suicide very long or deeply and we assume we know the answers. That kind of thinking and that kind of reaction, I suspect, contributes to the problem.

    Let me explain. Rather than discussing the moment when a person is seriously considering suicide and emergency interventions are needed to prevent it, let us go back a few steps to the point where someone has just begun to consider that living has become too difficult. Perhaps the person in looking at the ALL options and suicide is one of them. What is needed from others at this step? Isn’t it empathy and compassion? And aren’t empathy and compassion, by definition, non-judgmental? (Note: when a person is just about to kill himself, the intervention is different.) But what about the first time the thoughts of ending it all begin to swirl around the mind? He or she must have someone – a close friend or family member- to confide in, right? How can a person speak about his or her deepest darkest thoughts if he is afraid of a snap judgment?

    It isn’t necessary to understand the reasons of someone else’s pain but if you can understand that someone is hurting inside, that’s a big help to both parties. To understand one must have empathy. And empathy is often very quiet. Perhaps what is needed at that stage is more silence, more intimacy, more unconditional acceptance, more communication on the soul level, and fewer words.

    Rayofsunshine is on the right track.

    • Mark, what you’ve described is included in the Asist intervention model I learned. At the training, first I had the opportunity to uncover my attitudes about suicide and learn about others’ attitudes so I could recognize them when they surfaced and how those attitudes/ judgements would influence my reaction to noticing or knowing someone was thinking about suicide.
      Another part of the training was just as you described about LISTENING with empathy and compassion to the person’s reasons
      for dying and living. I learned to silence myself; to be present; to connect with genuine interest / concern…you described it very well. Accept, Connect, Listen, Understand, Assist. You can’t assist without doing what preceeds.

      And I think most, if not all, of us here are here reading and commenting on this blog because we care and want to be there for
      anyone suffering suicidal pain. We want to appropriately assist because we care. We don’t want others to suffer in needless silence, secret, and shame.

  4. I understand what you are trying to say Mark, but it is exactly as I’ve said before; if we, as a society, as parents, as friends, as siblings, as teachers, etc. fail to look at these things, or are made to be or to feel silent or afraid to mention them for fear of other’s sensitivity, then more people will continue to commit suicide as the obvious is ignored.

    My daughter is in Middle School; last year at her school, a boy attempted suicide, and unfortunately, while he survived, he has very little function and brain activitiy left. The entire school was and still is heartbroken and in shock; this boy has llittle to no hope of ever recovering. Soon after that, about two months later, my daughter was on her MySpace account talking with her friends, when another boy who was their friend started sending them very omnious and disturbing messages about what was going on in his life, and how he just wanted to end all of the trouble, for everything to be “quiet”, etc…The kids knew their might be guns in that house, and they were VERY worried about this boy, whose mother was at work at the time, and who does not see his father regularly. My daughter cam eIMMEDIATELY to me and showed me the things he was sending, and, together we IMMEDIATELY called the principal of the school AT HOME.

    Long story short….so did three of the other girls who had seen these messages; his favorite counselor went to the boy’s home to make sure he was OK, and made sure that his parents knew what was going on; they intereceded immediately on his behalf…

    Now, what if we had been afraid that his mother’s feelings might have been hurt because we cared enough, along with the other girls and their mothers to call the school, and try to intercede on his behalf. What if we had put blinders on and said the usual….”well it’s not our job or our place, or his mother might get mad at us”, or the other things you mention. What if we had been afraid to “pass judegment” on this urgent situation….I truly do NOT think this boy would be with us now if we had all been afraid to take a stand and that is EXACTLY what the school and his mother told all of us. My daughter now smiles every time she sees him in the hallway; he is doing much better this year, and she is very glad he is still walking the halls of her school, and playing with his beloved baseball team.

    So, while I completely understand the need to respect and honor our fellow human beings on theis Earth, I absolutely do NOT understand your call to stand by and let things like this go on for fear that someone might get a tad “upset”; I think dealing with the larger issue – the possible tragic loss of life of a young person is far more important than worrying about whether his mother might be insulted because we called the school. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is…

    • What you are describing is intervening, and I AM GLAD that your quick thinking and action made a life and death difference, there aren’t enough thanks for that. But you are assuming that Rayofsunshine’s circumstances were the same, which they weren’t. I don’t think it will disclose her anonymity if I say that her son was living away from home and that all that she relates, was information collected after the fact.

      • Thank you for providing some clarifying information Esmeralda. My son was an adult, living away from home. More people than we realize have probably thought at some point in their lives, ” I wish I didn’t have to deal with this (life) anymore” or “I can’t keep going on like this” and thought how unstressful, what a relief it would be to end the stress and considered momentarily that possibility. They had suicidal thoughts but no plan.

        Some who knew my son had thoughts of suicide thought they
        had done enough to help. They were ignorant and underestimated the seriousness / risk. Even trained caring professionals sometimes do not pick up on the level of suicide risk.

        While a few know much about suicide; most still know very little. Plus the study of suicide is relatively new; there is much still not understood by professionals and researchers.

      • I’m glad we “met.” Thank you for putting aside whatever had to be put aside, to stand up and be counted. Standing together we will make a difference.
        It is true, everybody at some point in their lives thinks of suicide, most think of it in the same casual way as taking a pain killer, some try it and others think of it, try it and die of it.
        I didn’t know about the Assist training you told us about, and more than ever, after the mini debate of the last couple of days, I know that it needs to be part of our Wellness Fair. Thank you for agreeing to look into getting the training at the Fair. Oh, and the wallet cards with the help line information.
        Even if you can’t come because you live far away, you and your son will be at the Fair in our hearts!
        Love, Esmeralda

      • Yes, I will get info about the Asist Training and other suicide awareness, prevention, and intervention trainings provided by Living Works. Does anyone out there have connections with other non-profits / organizations that provide similar training? I will also get info about the wallet cards.

        As I was thinking about these tasks and how they might have helped my son if he had had access to them. I started thinking about the Fair is important, but it is a one time (although hopefully it may become a regularly occuring event) event. Perhaps we also need to think in terms of getting ribbons or something else like MADD. Actually that ribbon idea came second. The first idea I have no idea how to do but it probably would have saved my son’s life because he spent a significant amount of time on the computer like most young adults his age. Here’s the thought:

        Whenever I am on my email account which has advertising banners (I think this happens in Facebook and MySpace too) ads start popping up based on certain keywords I have used. Like I’ve been searching for laptop computer info and now those kinds of ads keep popping up. If someone is thinking of suicide or death and researching those words on the computer I wish suicide prevention / intervention ads / messages would pop up! Know what I mean?

        This is separate from the Fair and I wonder if AFSP or any other organization is looking into this. If any readers here know, I would like to hear about it. Thx.

      • Actually I see the Fair as a yearly event, AND I see it spreading to other places, like where you are for instance. Did you read the entry
        A vision for the future?
        Your idea about suicide/intervention/prevention ads is great, I will pass it on to the AFSP, someone out there might be able to figure out how to do what you suggest.

        I am glad you think the Fair is important, it will be the first of its kind and it will mark a turning point in suicide awareness and prevention.
        Our boys have not died for nothing!

    • Dear Hedi’sAngel, I wish that one of the individuals I had mentioned in my post had known enough to intervene as you and your daughter and others did for the young man at your daughter’s middle school. I believe most were ignorant; some underestimated the seriousness of the situation–ignorance again. My adult son, so knowledgeable about so many things, did not know enough to save his own life! He should have known you can live through a suicidal crisis just like some people survive heart attacks. He should have known that after he survived the crisis, he might have to make some changes to his lifestyle to avert another crisis and have a plan should another crisis occur. I do wonder at what kind of training the
      police officer had.

      How did you know to take action? How did your daughter know to bring her concern to you? Was it knowledge gained from the tragedy of her schoolmate? Most of what I know about suicide including intervention came after my son died. I want that to change! We need suicide-safe communities. We need to be sure that those whose lives have not been touched by suicide don’t. This will take talking about suicide and wellness. Everyone, let me repeat, everyone needs to needs to be aware of it, know prevention and wellness measures, and emergency first aid responses. As families and communities we need to start talking about wellness and become sufficiently educated.

      In the case of my son the obvious was not ignored, but ignorance hid the obvious. I appreciate the passion you have to save lives.

  5. Hi Kukunaokala,

    First of all, I want to say that I am so sorry about the loss of your son, and I cannot imagine what you are going through…You are a very courageous and eloquent person…

    When I was a child, several people close to our family committed or attempted suicide, within a pretty short span of time…A mother of one of my friends, after her husband died of terminal cancer….

    The wife of a physician, who had been accidentally killed at a local hospital during a routine medical test….

    Then, at a university department of a very well known university where my dad worked, two professors (a married couple), and a graduate student in the same department committed suicide within a one year period.

    All of these tragic events and the loss of so many wonderful people so prematurely had a profound effect on me; these all happed when I was between the ages of 10 and 12; I knew all of these people quite well; they had all been to my home; I knew all of them and their families…In addition, while my father worked at the large university, we lived in a working class neighborhood where multiple times a week, military officers would be seen going to the doors of family homes and giving families the terrible news that their sons were killed or missing in action during the Vietnam war. Again, the loss of life so violently and prematurely had a profound effect on me, and I did not know what to do for these families. I would ask what I could do to help, and I would babysit a lot for people and provide “mother’s helper” type of respite care, where a grieving and overextended mother could just go and lie down in her room by herself for an afternoon while I played with the kids or folded clothes, or I would rake leaves, or shovel snow, not much at all in the scheme of things, but something a younger kid could do to help families who were suffering and in pain.

    My educational training is in labor relations; I am NOT a therapist or a social worker; however, my dad is a counselor, and at a very young age I was trained on how to answer the phone, and what to do if, for example, my dad was at the store or something like that and someone called in crisis. One time, I was in high school, and my parents were out, and I kept someone on the phone just talking about anything they wanted until my parents could get home.

    In the case at my daughter’s school, I have to say that in addition to my husband and I working with our kids, the school has done an extraoridnary job of really trying to deal with the issues of bullying and suicide, for many years, even before the suicide attempt last year. It has a lot to do with who the principals are, and what their life experiences have been, and that they have decided to deal with these issues head on, nomatter what some people in the community muight say or think, and i agree with them.

    My daughter has seen a lot of hardship at her school; currently there are 12-15 or so homeless families, countless number of kids on releif; we are a Title I school getting (thank GOD) a lot of assistance from the Federal government. Our school provides “life skills” classes for at risk kids; they have the class every day, free after school tutoring almost every day, free or reduced meals for kids, a program where food is sent home to needy families on the weekends, etc.

    Three of my daughter’s friends have lost their homes.

    (We are in the Detroit Metro area which is experienceing another serious depression right now.)

    My daughter has seen a lot of hardship; we have fed and housed kids, we have given them clothes; and bought families groceries and gallons of milk. Some of these kids have never been to a dentist, ever, for example…

    So, when this boy was sending messages about family problems one Saturday afternoon, she started really watching, and became worried when the messages started contining the words that he “wanted an end to all of the trouble”, “wanted everything to be quiet”, “wanted to rest”, started talking about people missing him, etc. When she showed these to me, and said “Mom, I think we need to call the school”, I said after reading them, that we were going to have to take a risk and call the school’s principal, and that the boy’s mother might be mad at us, but if anything happened to him and we did NOT call, that we could not live with ourselves. So, I called the principal at home, and he talked to me and my daughter, and went on the MySpace, and felt that immediate intervention was needed.

    We were not the only ones who called, either. Three other girls and their families also felt the messages were very serious and ominous and called also.

    I am careful about doing things like this; however, the few times in my life I have felt that a school or a parent or a counselor needed to be called, the situation has turned out to be very serious.

    I agree with you that people are afraid to get involved, but having relatives who survived the Holocaust, and the Armenian genocide, I feel that if someone chooses stay silent in the midst of things like this, then they are contributing to the tragedy that will ensue.

    However, this is different than someone who is unaware and really does not know what is going on.

    I also think with adults, even young adults that sometimes it is much more difficult to figure out what is going on because they keep things bottled up, and their language relating to what is going on with them can be much more obtuse than a younger child, who may tend to “blurt out” more obvious statements with more obvious symbolism.

    So, it may be that with your son, he was not speaking directly about what was going on with him at all to anyone, and none of us can just “pull” what is going on in someone’s mind out of thin air.

    Something my kids talk about constantly with regard to kids who feel alientated and depressed is that a sense of “belonging” is very crucial….I don’t mean “belonging to the popular crowd”, which is a crock….what I mean is taking and active part in and being a part of things they love to do, with others of like interest…Here, with the economy, it is a vicious cycle, a lot of kids cannot participate in any activities because of poverty, and they are left alone because both parents work, and there is no money for a babysitter after school, and they cannot have friends over; that is why our school offers so many free cohesive group activities for kids…Again, for young adults, this becomes far more difficult, because educational institutions and workplaces are not going to be as hands-on or caring as some of the institutions for younger children, and that IMO, needs to change…

  6. A few weeks ago, Google started putting this at the top of their search results pages –

    For suicide prevention in the U.S. call 1-800-273-8255

    – for those searching “suicide” – I assume they put similar numbers for other countries.

    • Yea! That’s awesome! Thanks Kate for sharing that. Kudos to Google. I wonder why they began to do that. I hope that’s something they do as a public service for free.

    • Hi Kate, thanks for letting us know. And how did you find this blog? Have you been touched by suicide?
      Take care, Esmeralda

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