Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
Narrated by Juliet Stevenson

Spoilers below.

This experimental book takes place in one day in June 1923, as Clarissa Dalloway prepares for and then gives a very successful high society party. In parallel, we follow the story of Septimus Smith, who has shell shock after witnessing the death of his friend during the war.

This was a very difficult book to listen to in audio, and I suspect it is equally difficult to read. The problem is that it is omniscient stream-of-thought and since it jumps around from character to character it is not always clear who is doing the thinking. You have to guess from context which person is thinking, and even after you’ve guessed that it’s not always clear (due to pronouns without antecedents) whether one character is thinking, or the other character is thinking about the first character. I had to read a description of the plot before I was able to get a clear version of the story, and after that my listening went much more smoothly, and I was able to understand what was going on.

There are a lot of ways to analyze this book. I could analyze the (paleo)modernist philosophy which rejects realism and rewrites, parodies, and incorporates ancient classical literature. (For a definition of paleomodernism, check out lecture 1 summary of the Literary Modernist Teaching Company course).  But I’m not yet comfortable enough with the philosophy to give an accurate interpretation. (This month is dedicated to modernist literature for the Reluctant Romantic Challenge, hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey; however, I have not yet learned enough about the genre. This is my first modernist review.)

Another way of analyzing Mrs. Dalloway is more straightforward. Clarissa and Septimus are parallel characters who respond to their predicament with opposite actions. They are both very lonely and isolated people. Clarissa is lonely despite being surrounded by people. She recognizes the false sincerity of the friends she invites to her party. Her husband is unable to tell her he loves her. Her daughter is being “stolen away” by a religious fanatic. (That’s one thing I do know about modernism, they often reject religion.) During the course of the day, three former flames, all rejected by her, appear – seemingly out of nowhere. She spends a lot of time thinking about why she rejected them. In fact, she seems quite obsessed with the past and ignores the present. 

Septimus, on the other hand, feels isolated because he is suffering from a severe form of “shell shock” (now called PTSD) after losing a friend in the war. He, likewise focuses more on the past than on the present. Unlike Clarissa, who rejected people who could have been too consuming or controlling and thus ended up with insipid people in her life, Septimus is surrounded by control – mainly by his doctors who don’t understand what is wrong with him. Another difference is that Septimus commits suicide at the end. Although Clarissa has contemplated suicide, when she hears about the suicide of this young stranger, she realizes how much she loves life despite the loneliness. 

I imagine this contrast of parallel characters appears frequently in ancient classical literature, though I can’t think of specific examples since this, too, is a genre I am woefully under-read in. 

Suicide – An Overview


Suicide is a huge issue that is extremely stigmatized and ignored. It ranks among the 10 leading causes of death in most Western countries – and the number of suicides is likely higher than estimated since many deaths are ruled “accidental” rather than being given the stigmatized label of “suicide.” 

Suicide is a huge tragedy. Many people label it as “selfish” – but those people don’t understand that when someone is in the state of mind in which they would commit suicide, they are severely mentally ill; they think life is hopeless and see no way out; they often think that people will be happier and more successful without the burden of knowing the suicidal individual. Another tragedy is that many “survivors of suicide” – that is the families, friends, and even acquaintances of suicide victims – are often traumatized and blame themselves for not noticing the signs; not being there when they were needed the most. 

Although in the past people who attempted / completed suicide were between the ages of 25 and 45, there is an appalling trend of teenagers and elderly men who are now killing themselves. Women are more likely to attempt suicide, and men are more likely to complete suicide. This is because, at least up until now, women tend to use “less messy” or “romantic” – and therefore less dangerous – ways to kill themselves. Men, on the other hand, generally choose guns. However, from reading the news, I personally believe that the number of women who use guns in suicide attempts are dramatically increasing. 

At this time, the highest rate of suicide completion is elderly males who are widowed or divorced or have terminal illnesses. This may be because men of that era were taught to hold in their emotions rather than express them. Thus, they are less likely to seek help when suicidal thoughts arise. 

As much as 90% of individuals who attempt/complete suicide are mentally ill at the time. Major depression is the highest predictor of suicidal ideation, but people with impulsivity disorders – such as borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder – have a higher rate of attempt/completion. 

The rate of suicide attempt/completion for people between the ages of 15-24 has tripled between the 1950s and 1980s. Suicide is the third most common cause of death (after accidents and homicide) of people between the ages of 15-19. It is unclear why the rates of suicide has increased in teens and young adults, but it may be because of increased drug and alcohol use, and perhaps use of antidepressants which often increase suicidal ideation in teens. Young adults in college seem particularly susceptible – this seems to be due to academic pressure, though those who commit suicide are generally doing quite well academically; therefore it is thought that the anxiety of perfectionism or fear of disappointment may be a leading cause. Teen suicide hotlines have become increasingly popular in the past years. I volunteer at one called TXT4LIFE, in which a teen or young adult can text the word “LIFE” to 61222 and have a text conversation with someone who will hopefully deescalate them. There are also websites, including this one, that provide further suicide hotlines for teens.   

Many people who commit suicide are ambivalent about wanting to die – this is likely why they call suicide hotlines. Although, I must admit, even indirectly insinuating that a texter might feel ambivalent in my volunteer work only encourages them to say how much they really want to kill themselves. 

There are three basic ideation types that occur in people who attempt suicide. Most people are ambivalent. These are often women or teens who are attempting to send a message about their state of mind. These people generally use a non-lethal means of suicide attempt – such as ingesting a small amount of pills, a bottle of not-so-dangerous pills, or minor cutting. It is thought that Sylvia Plath, who died by sticking her head in the oven, had expected a friend to stop by the house shortly after she attempted suicide; thus saving her from an actual death. A small minority of individuals seem to have no ambivalence at all, and tend to use “messy” paths to suicide, such as guns or jumping. The third group leaves it up to fate. The figure “If I die, I’m meant to die. If I live, I’m meant to live. These people generally use more dangerous means to suicide like ingestion of large doses of pills or major cutting. 

There is a myth that people generally do not leave hints that they are having ideation before attempting suicide. And there’s another unfortunate myth that people who threaten suicide seldom actually attempt. Both of these myths are false. Studies show that of people who committed suicide 40% made direct comments about suicide and 30% made comments about dying in the months leading up to suicide. Only 15 to 25% of people leave suicide notes, and they are often unclear as to what the reasons for suicide were. 

Suicidal ideation is generally treated with mood stabilizing or antidepressant medications, therapy, and a large number of crisis hotlines. Unfortunately, there is little research to show whether these hotlines actually decrease the number of suicides. In his bestselling book Noonday Demon, Andrew Solomon even suggests that talking about suicide with the callers might increase the likelihood of suicide because it makes it seem like a viable option. 

Most suicide hotlines are staffed by unprofessionals (like myself) who assess the gravity of the situation and either deescalate the individual or intervene by calling the police. I’d very much like to think these suicide hotlines are helpful. I know, at the very least, that they are help make the callers/texters feel better on an immediate basis, which makes them seem worthwhile to me. 

This is a series of posts summarizing what I’m learning in my Abnormal Psychology course. Much of the information provided comes from reading my James N. Butcher’s textbook Abnormal Psychology. To read the other posts, follow these links: 

The Definition of Abnormal
A History of Abnormal Psychology
Abnormal Psychology in Contemporary Society
Contemporary Viewpoints on Treating Mental Illness – Biology
Contemporary Viewpoints on Treating Mental Illness – Psychology
Frontline: New Asylums
Brave New Films: This is Crazy
Clinical Mental Health Diagnosis: Biological Assessment
Clinical Mental Health Diagnosis: Psychological Assessment
Does the DSM Encourage Overmedication?
Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome – The Basics
Panic Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Hoarding and Body Dysmorphic Disorders
Depression – an Overview
Personality Disorders – Clusters and Dimensions
Personality Disorders – Cluster A
Personality Disorders – Cluster B
Personality Disorders – Cluster C
Biological Effects of Stress on Your Body
Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders
Dissociative Disorders
Borderline Personality Disorder
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Paraphilic Disorders
Gender Dysphoria – Homosexuality and Transgender
Anxiety Disorders
Bipolar Disorder – The Basics
Suicide – An Overview


References:

Butcher, James N. Hooley, Jill M. Mineka, Susan. (2014) Chapter 7: Mood Disorders and Suicide. Abnormal Psychology, sixteenth edition (pp. 212-262). Pearson Education Inc.

Living in a Gray World, by Preston Sprinkle

Living in a Gray World, by Preston Sprinkle
This advance release copy was provided through NetGalley
in exchange for a fair and honest review.

(Disclaimer: I do not agree with everything stated in this book. However, the message of love and acceptance is very timely, necessary, and wonderful. My own views on the topic of sin and Bible interpretation are unimportant for my review of the book, since I agree full-heartedly with the message of love and the importance of educating teenagers on how to deal with a situation that still draws too much stigma and ignorance in schools and Fundamentalist Christian communities.)

In Sprinkle’s short and to-the-point book for teenagers, he explains his views on homosexuality – suggesting that although homosexual sex is a sin, Christians should show love and acceptance rather than hate, disgust, and venom. In a conversational format, Sprinkle educates the readers on the differences between being attracted to people of the same gender (homosexuality – which is not a sin in itself) and actually acting on those desires (which, according to his interpretation of certain Bible verses, is a sin). He also educates the readers on the nature of transgender and transsexualism. 


Throughout his discussion, he asserts that although Christians should hate sin, they should not be the ones to cast stones. He points out that name-calling, or even incautious unaccepting statements, can cause great pain in a confused and vulnerable teenager – it can lead to self harm and suicide. The behavior of the Christian adults around Sprinkle’s readers might show disgust, but this hatred is not becoming of a Christian and is just as sinful as the sin they are judging. Sprinkle calls his readers to love without judgement. He points out that sinners more easily change their sinful behavior if they are gently called to the church by acceptance and love. Sprinkle also addresses homosexual and transgender teens themselves – urging them to build a support network of loving and accepting people, hopefully Christians. He even provides his own contact information in case the teen can’t find someone understanding to talk to. 

At the end of his book, Sprinkle provides an appendix with Bible verses and discusses why these verses show that homosexual sex is a sin. 

Sprinkle suggests that this book is aimed towards young teens through early twenties, though personally I feel the book was a bit to “young” for even older teens (unless they have lived a very “sheltered” life in the comfort of only a society of people with similar beliefs). Sprinkle has another book, People to be Loved,  that might be more appropriate for older teens and adults, though I haven’t read it. 

All-in-all, I loved the message of acceptance throughout Sprinkle’s book. As a person who works in a suicide hotline for teenagers, I know that there are a lot of teens out there who are just realizing they have homosexual desires. These teens can be confused, scared, and self-loathing. The reason they are self-loathing is often because of the rancor about homosexuality that they have been exposed to through a supposedly “Christian” living. But in my opinion, and apparently Sprinkle’s, it is more sinful to hate and judge than it is for a person to feel something that he can not control and did not choose. Next time I deal with such a teenager I will suggest this book as a way to know that he is loved.

4.5 snowflakes

Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, by Pete Earley

Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness,
by Pete Earley, Narrated by Michael Prichard 
When Pete Earley’s son was diagnosed with schizophrenia Earley was devestated. His son’s potential career was on the line, he wasn’t willing to accept treatment, and he was generally unpredictable and very unsafe. When Earley tried to get his son into the hospital, his son was turned away because he didn’t want to be treated – and laws say that unless someone is an immediate threat to himself or others, he can not be treated involuntarily. Earley had to pretend his son was a threat to Earley’s well-being to get his son hospitalized. Then Earley went to a commitment hearing to make sure his son stayed in the hospital until he was better. Early was appalled by his son’s defense lawyer who did her best to defend Earley’s son despite his son’s clear mental illness. In her own defense, the lawyer said it was her job to defend the rights of someone who did not want to be committed. Earley’s son won the case and was released. 


After this incident, Earley’s son broke into a house, peed on the carpet, turned over the all the photographs, and took a bubble bath. He was arrested and charges were filed against him by the family. Despite Earley’s pleading with the family that his son was not targeting them specifically, that he was sick, the mother felt threatened and continued to press felony charges. Earley knew that the charges would be an irremovable bar from his son’s career choice. 

Because of the horrors of being unable to treat his son, and the unfairness of the charges, Earley decided to research the state of the mentally ill in the Miami jail system. There are, according to the staff psychiatrist, “a lot of people who think mentally ill people are going to get help if they are in jail. But the truth is, we don’t help many people here with their psychosis. We can’t. The first priority is making sure no one kills himself.” The psychiatrist said that the point of the prison was to dehumanize and humiliate a person. Such treatment is counter to improving anyone’s health. 



The psychiatrist’s task was to try to convince the inmates to take antipsychotic medication so that they could be deemed stable enough to stand trial. Earley was shocked at the state of the prisoners. Most of them refused the medication, and were clearly psychotic. Some huddled down into corners, covered in their own body matter. Some stood motionless and unresponsive. Some harassed the guards as they walked by with strange and crude accusations. The prisoners who were on suicide watch were stuck alone in a cell with no blanket, mattress, or clothes. 

Miami has high numbers of mentally ill homeless people because of the nice weather and the immigration from Cuba. It is rumored that when a law was passed allowing Cuban refugees to enter America, Fidel Castro released his mentally ill inmates and deported them all to America – they ended up in Miami. 

Earley picked mentally ill inmates at “random” and decided to follow them throughout the next couple of years to watch their recidivism rate. Most people who were released were not given proper care after release. They were given some pills and sent away; not being given proper social services to help keep themselves off the streets and stable. Thus, these people ended up back in prison within months. Others were held indefinitely because they cycled from jail to a hospital, where they were stabilized and deemed ready for trial; back to the jail, where they destabilized; and then back to the hospital again. 

Earely wasn’t only out to castigate the Miami prison system, he also focused on what the system was trying to do to make the situation better for the prisoners. He discussed the CIT program, which is meant to train officers to respond with compassion to mentally ill people in crisis so that they are less likely to be shot or arrested. (This program is discussed in a previous post.) Earley also researched institutions that tried to keep the mentally ill off the streets by housing them.  

The end of the book returns to his son. Luckily, after too many postponements, the family that was pressing felony charges against Earley’s son were unable to make it to the trial. Therefore, the sympathetic prosecutor and judge found him guilty of a misdemeanor and was he mandated to stay on his medications. His career was no longer at stake. 

Earley encouraged society to end stigma about mental illness, and to change laws that inhibited proper treatment of unwilling mentally ill patients. Of course, this is easier said than done. 

If you are interested, I also have a post discussing the state of the mentally ill in Ohio state prisons, with a Frontline documentary. 
4.5 stars for excellent research, well- written narrative, and a fantastic, revealing topic

My Bipolar Mixed State


Hi All! My plan is to give a monthly update rather than a weekly (or biweekly in this case) update, but I had some interesting developments in my life over the last couple of weeks and thought it was a good idea to share – since one of the goals of this blog is to decrease stigma of mental illness, I should share my own experiences. 

I got a bit burnt out on all the activities I’ve been participating in as described in my September updateQuick summary, I’d been working full time, volunteering 4 hours a week at a crisis hotline, taking a 3 credit Abnormal Psychology class as well as a 7 credit EMT class. When I first signed up for the EMT class, I hadn’t realized it was 7 credits (that wasn’t mentioned on the class description), so I didn’t realize how hard it would be. After a few weeks of it, I got so burnt out that I got really sick – this was last week. 

I decided to drop the EMT class, and they were kind enough to let my tuition transfer to next semester. I will NOT sign up for another class – so I’ll be able to focus on the EMT class in January.

Then on Monday, I had a 3 hour anxiety attack. I’m not sure how many of you have had anxiety attacks before, but they aren’t supposed to last that long. It’s sort of like running a marathon for 3 hours. This happened at work, and because I’m the manager, I can’t call my boss and be like: “oh, gotta go home.” I simply had to finish the work. It was an exhausting day. 

The next day, I freaked out on my boyfriend for no reason (other than our political differences), and then when I was trying to sleep I felt like a screaming monster was trying to claw its way out of my brain. That’s when I realized I was in a bipolar mixed state.

Bipolar mixed states have characteristics of both depression and mania. They’re very dangerous because they have suicidal ideation mixed with impulsivity, motivation, and energy. Mixed state people are much more likely to commit suicide than a depressed person, because depressed people often lack the energy and impulsivity, motivation, and energy to commit suicide. 

Yesterday, I called my psychiatrist but I got stuck in the labyrinthine maze of monsters that is the Park Nicollet phone reception system. One of the monsters even hung up on me, and I had to proceed to “Go” without collecting my $200. By the time I got through to the nurse (an hour later), I was rather worked up. She calmly told me that this is not a crisis line, and I should call Crisis Connection (where, by the way, I volunteer). I practically yelled at her that I didn’t want a crisis hotline, I wanted to talk to my psychiatrist. She made an appointment for me to see her later that afternoon. I also made an emergency appointment with my therapist, who I haven’t seen since March. 

In the end, my psychiatrist tweaked my mood stabilizer and gave me a prescription to Klonopin, which is a benzodiazepine – an addictive sedative. I’m a little worried since addiction runs in my family, and when I start getting symptoms of mania (or apparently mixed symptoms) I start craving alcohol, pain meds, and other such things. I’m not much of drinker, and I’m not in the habit of taking unprescribed pain meds, but I crave them all the same. So getting permission to take a benzodiazepine is a little troubling to me. However, I recognize that I need it in situations like those described earlier in my post. 

On a happier note, I was able to go to the Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College on Tuesday and Wednesday. The theme was addiction, and my Abnormal Psychology prof took a bunch of his students. There were 6 speakers and they were all really interesting. 

One of the speakers was Marc Lewis, the author of The Biology of Desire, which I just finished. It turns out Marc Lewis is a bit annoying. He kept trying to push his point (that addiction is a choice and not a disease), until Eric Kandel, the 2000 Nobel Prize Laureate in Medicine, told him “it’s either bullshit or science.” Another speaker, Carl Hart, who is big on social justice, tried to break the tension by saying “I didn’t know we could swear at this conference!” And then the next day during Hart’s speech he said “and to quote Dr Kandel, this is bullshit!” It was a pretty amusing conference. Of course, the science was really interesting too, but I plan on writing a review both of the conference and of Biology of Desire, so I’ll stop here. 

I’m currently reading or listening to:

Books completed:



Movies/Shows watched:

Guest Post: The Survivor’s Side of Suicide, by Julie Cantrell

The Survivor’s Side of Suicide
By Julie Cantrell





Suicide is one ugly word. It’s the kind of word that swings heavy from lips. The kind that is whispered, and stilted, never sung.

As an author, I build my life around words. Every word has worth. Even those words we are not supposed to say. But suicide is the one word I do not like. I wish there was no need for such a word in our world. Especially since 1997, when my teen brother ended his own life two months before his high school graduation.

It is one thing to be on the other side of suicide, where you may offer prayer or casseroles or even a hug. It is another thing entirely to be on the side of the survivor, after a loved one puts a gun to the head or a rope to the neck or a blade to the vein. That dark depth of despair is no easy channel to navigate because unlike every other form of death, this one was intentional. This one could have been prevented. This one carries immeasurable sting.

The what-ifs and but whys and I wonders never cease. They haunt all hours, whether moonlit or shine. And the stares don’t stop either, the constant conversation that hangs silently between friends — at the grocery store, or in the church pews, or at the birthday party. No one says it, but they are thinking… That poor mother, how does she stand it? Or – That poor child, knowing his father took his own life.

What people on that side of suicide don’t understand is that we, the survivors left in the wake, are barely keeping our heads above water. We don’t want pity, or sympathy, or stares. We don’t want whispers, or questions, or help. We want one thing only. We want our loved ones back. And there’s one simple way you can give this to us.

Talk about the people we loved and lost. Don’t dance around us as if their ghost is in the way. Acknowledge the lives they lived. Recognize the light they once shined. Laugh about the fun you once had together.

There’s nothing you can tell us — no detail too small, no memory too harsh — that will hurt us. We crave it all. We are hungry for any piece of time travel you offer. Bring us back, to that space, when the one we loved was in the here and now.

Suicide is something most of us struggle to understand. It is difficult to rationalize the selfish part of such an act. How could someone not care about the pain they would throw on their loved ones? How could someone not be strong enough to stay alive?

But here’s the truth: suicide was not the cause of my brother’s death. Depression was the cause of his death. And depression is a beast unlike any other. It is an illness we still struggle to cure, despite all the therapeutic and pharmaceutical intervention available today.

Sometimes, even with all the help in the world, a person cannot see through the pain. They cannot imagine a better day ahead. They see only more hurt. And when I say hurt, I mean suffering. Blood-zapping, brain-numbing, soul-bursting agony.

Imagine this: you wake every day as a prisoner. You are trapped in a cell with no freedom in your future. You are tortured — physically, emotionally, psychologically. The anguish never stops. Just when you think you cannot survive another blow, it comes again. More pain.

You try to ignorethe ache. You cannot. You try to numbthe hurt. You cannot. You try to rise above the pain. You cannot. The brutality persists. And you see no end to it.

If you knew you had to endure only one more round of abuse, or one more month, or even a year, or longer. If there was an end in view, you could be strong enough to handle it. You could take whatever is thrown at you because you want, more than anything else, to live.

You are a sensitive soul and you have so much left in you to give. You want only to love and be loved. But the cell has you trapped. You have tried everything. There is no end to the insufferable situation.

A person with depression becomes suicidal when they finally give up all hope. When they accept that nothing they do, no matter how long they survive, no matter how many medications or prayers or therapists they turn to, the pain will never end.

Can you imagine the pain you would have to be in to take your own life? Can you imagine the fear of a suicidal person (regardless of faith), daring to face the unknown because even the possibility of eternal hellfire or permanent purgatory or absolute absence seems less scary than another day in this world?

When Robin Williams passed away, the world was abuzz weighing the controversial issues of mental illness, depression, and suicide. While some people were unable to extend kindness or understanding, proving we have a long way to go in our culture’s recognition of chemical imbalances, the international conversation gave me hope. It proved that people are finally willing to say the word SUICIDE out loud, without the hushed whispers and back corner gossip. Putting this word on equal footing with all the other words in our vernacular is important. It lessens the sting.

I consider this progress, and I am optimistic the forward momentum will continue. It is time.
I write this blog today for several reasons:

·         One, I am proud to have been the sister to an amazingly bright spirit who left this world too soon and whose memory I want to keep alive.

·         Two, I want to increase understanding and support for the millions of people struggling with chemical imbalances.

·         Three, I want to offer support and empathy to all who have lost a loved one to suicide and encourage you to speak out loud to honor their spirit and to educate those on the other side.

·         Four, and most importantly, I have a very important message for anyone struggling with depression.

One week after my brother died, we received notice that he had landed the career opportunity he wanted with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. That job may have been enough to offer him the key to that cell, the something to cling to, the reason for reason. Maybe, if he could have stuck it out one more week, he would still be alive today. Seven days, and he may have had hope again.

Today, when I see someone struggling for hope, looking for a signal, a reason, proof that their life matters and that the pain will indeed end, I think of my brother and that phone call that came one week too late.

If you are struggling with depression, please remember… you are in this world for a reason. You have a very important journey you must complete. You were born to accomplish something, something only you know. You will suffer, you will hurt, you will feel hopeless and alone at times. But you are not in that space forever. Keep walking, keep moving forward, and you will find your way through in time.

When you hit bottom, please remember this: You are loved. You are never alone. You were born with everything you need to survive this journey. You matter.

And once you are on the other side, as you will soon be, then, you will look back with wiser eyes, the eyes of a survivor. You will know your soul survived the stretching season. And you will move through the world with greater empathy and understanding, a gift like none other. For you, sensitive one, are the blessed. And we need you here. In this life.

Be brave. Wage war. Hold fast to the light inside of you.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA TODAYbestselling author of Into the Freeand When Mountains Move. She works to promote suicide awareness and prevention in memory of her brother, Jeff Perkins. Learn more: www.juliecantrell.com

To ASIST or not to assist…

This month, I have been training to answer texts for a crisis hotline aimed at teens. My first shift is tomorrow, and I’m really looking forward to helping out teens in crisis. I think this is the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. 

Let me tell you a little secret – I’ve battled on and off with suicidal thoughts myself. At times, to the point where I’m honestly afraid that I will kill myself. Almost no one who is suicidal actually wants to die. These people want to live, and they send out signals. They ask for help. Too many people ignore these signals for one reason or another. 

Some people have absolutely no empathy for suicide – they feel that if someone wants to die, let them die. After all, isn’t that “Darwinian selection”? What these people fail to see (whether they are willingly blind or not) is that suicidal people are ill. Their perception of reality is often distorted, and they honestly feel that death is the only way out. They need to be reminded of why life is wonderful. They need (and want!) help. Suicide is a tragedy – not only for the individual, but for all the friends and family. 

Some people have empathy, but they are squeamish of mental illness and suicide. They are not comfortable talking about such things. And although they might see the signs, they shy away from providing help, often leaving the suicidal person feeling abandoned. I, myself, have felt that way….and it is one of the most painful emotions I can imagine.

And some people would like to help, but they just aren’t able to recognize the signs or they don’t know what they can do. 

But we, as a community, can change this. We can educate ourselves about suicide, and learn to encourage friends and family (and even strangers if we’re willing!) to talk to us. Because it’s the people who talk that end up living. There are lots of ways to educate yourself about suicide. For instance, my blog, Resistance is Futile, is going to host an annual Suicide and Mental Illness Awareness theme read in September and October. I will post about suicide and mental illness (hopefully with guest posts too!) and list book reviews from all participants in the theme read (everyone is welcome!). Hopefully, this will spark discussion about how to raise awareness in our community.



Another way to educate ourselves is by taking awareness classes. Several are offered as community classes, but I highly recommend the one that I completed last weekend. The ASIST workshop organized by Living Works. In this two-day workshop, I learned what signs to watch for, how to address the question “Are you feeling suicidal?”, when to listen to and then remind that person of what he or she has that’s worth living for, and how to create a safety plan. It was probably one of the most important training events of my life. And I hope that many, many other people will also get such training. Living Works also has a less expensive class SuicideTalk (or eSuicideTalk)

Suicidal thoughts can happen to ANYONE. No one is immune. I am lucky enough to have a large, loving family and an AMAZING bunch of friends. I’m intelligent and have accomplished a lot in life. I (usually) have faith in a spiritual system which frowns upon destroying “the temple of our flesh.” I should be immune to such thoughts. But I’m not. It can happen to anyone. And I want to help create a world in which people aren’t afraid to express their feelings and openly ask for help. Who’s with me on that?

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