Sunday, September 15, 2013

Why Work on Suicide Prevention?

First, a more grammatically correct version of something I just posted on FB:

There's an obituary in today's paper which acknowledges a death by suicide. A friend asked me my feelings about, and here's what I wrote:

I just read it; I think it is very brave of his family to acknowledge the illness that took his life just as they probably would have had it been cancer or some other form of physical disease. I am sure that his family members are completely devastated, but please tell them that I at least think they are also courageous and selfless in telling the true story, which is filled with both light and darkness.

This is how we eradicate stigma, folks, and this is how we get down to the business of creating a world without suicide.


It's no secret that I've spent a lot of time in recent months working on suicide prevention stuff.  As I try to motivate some of my more lethargic friends to join our team or donate money to the October 19 Cleveland Out of the Darkness Walk, I've been imagining talking to Josh about it:

No, sweetie, this is not what I wanted to do with you.  This is not how I wanted to spend one second of my time, ever. 

I wanted to help plan your wedding.  I wanted to visit you in Chicago again.  I wanted to go to France when you were in your French brother's wedding, and I wanted to welcome him to the States to be in yours. 

I wanted you and your beautiful and gifted wife to move here, so that you could come over for dinner all the time and so that I could read to my grandchildren every afternoon ~  those grandchildren who were going to be a blend of blue-eyed, blond Welsh and dark-eyed, dark-haired Vietnamese.  I wanted to cheer them on in their soccer games and visit your Montessori school as a prospective grand-parent. 

I wanted you and I to fulfill that dream of buying a Hasselblad camera and heading to Yosemite. 

But I do this instead.  I do this because maybe if we raise enough money, someday there will be the research needed to solve the conundrum of depression. 

I do this because if we get out there into libraries and schools and colleges and wherever with our books and our films and our talks, maybe a young woman here or a middle aged man there will bump into one of us, and will go home and tell the truth about living with despair to people who can offer support and find help. 

I do this because if we keep pushing our legislators, maybe there will be adequate funding for first responder training so that those called to bridges and tops of buildings and bedrooms and bathrooms will know what to do and be able to save lives.

I do this so that no one will say "He's not serious."  I do this so no one will be ashamed to say, "I need help."  I do this so no one will look back at a family history and ask, "Why didn't we know what we were looking at?"
Little things.  A meeting here, a conference there, a walk, an article, a lecture.  Whatever it takes.

But don't think for a minute that I wouldn't prefer one more walk on the beach with you.  I've met and I get to work with some extraordinary and determined people, but really ~ this pretty much sucks.


  1. Thank you for sharing something so poignant with people on the other side of this despair. I have a private blog I am keeping on a subject somewhat related to this topic. I was looking for your email address to send you an invitation; please let me know if you would like. Thank you.

    1. I would be honored to read it. I seem to have deleted my about section with my address in it; it's

    2. Thank you! And thank you again for posting this. It's absolutely not true that people who want to harm themselves can't be helped, and it's not true that medication fixes everything. We need to put more emphasis on holistic solutions, CBT/DBT, and creating communities that don't treat this illness as something to be shamed. (Just try getting even the tiniest short-term disability insurance so you can take some time for intensive counseling---oh wait, you can't.)

    3. Luna, I cannot find your blog. Apparently I saved it I know not where. I went back through my email and tried to reply again to your invitation, but the response I got was that I had already used that one and need to request another. So could you please send me another?

  2. This post made me tear up.
    I would have loved to meet your Josh.
    My granny died by suicide at age 90.
    No one outside the immediate family knows and not even all of them know. I refused to keep it a secret so my kids know but my sister has never told her kids and never plans on telling them.

  3. Robin, so deep, so painful and yet such a beautiful post to Josh. Thank you for your willingness to share so deeply. Blessings and prayers.

  4. I do suicide assessments pretty much daily. I look for the signs, I ask if they are eating, sleeping if they have plans for today tomorrow. I contract with people around safety. I ask at least one person a day if they want to hurt themselves or kill themselves, do they have a plan? Will they call me tomorrow, or meet with another person on my team just to check in?
    Thank you Robin for all the great work you are doing, I know it sucks.