I Know How You Feel? 🤨

My husband was in the ICU having had a heart attack, then congestive heart failure, plus additional problems that led to him being transferred to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital and having to sleep the first night with those paddles on his chest.  He was awaiting surgery on Monday and that Sunday morning I went to a 12-step meeting and shared what was going on.

A woman came up to me and said, “I know how you feel, I went through the same thing.”

As Lt. Joe Kenda in Homicide Hunterwould say, “Oh really?”

It turns out her husband either had a stent put in or by-pass surgery but was released in 2-3 days.  He hadn’t spent 7 days in ICU, like my husband did before he was transferred, so in my mind, it wasn’t even close to being the same thing.   No, I’m sorry but you have no idea how I’m feeling.

I don’t know about you, but that’s one of those responses that aggravates me, and it takes all my...

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Werther and Papageno Effects

Last Sunday I was watching Meet the Press and the topic of the recent school shooting in Texas came up.  David Brooks from The New York Times said he thought the press was also to blame by the way they are reporting and sensationalizing it.  That thought struck me because I immediately thought of the media guidelines for reporting on suicide and The Werther and Papageno Effects.

The Werther Effect, named for the character in Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther who dies by suicide, is the rise in suicide attempts and/or deaths when there is a widely publicized suicide.  It’s also sometimes referred to as contagion or copycat suicides.  In 1974 David Phillips conducted a study that concluded some aspects of the way the media reported a suicide death had a short-term adverse impact on certain subgroups of its audience.  Especially vulnerable groups are young people. One example is after the death of Robin Williams in 2014, calls to the...

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Can Young Children Be Suicidal?

Over the years I’ve heard people, often professionals, say that young children can’t really be suicidal because they don’t understand the concept of death. Brian Mishara interviewed 65 elementary children and found out most first graders knew that dead people can’t come back to life and all the second graders understood the everyone dies eventually.  However, many first graders and even a few fifth graders thought dead people could see and hear so their beliefs about death are a bit fluid.

in the same study, Mishara discovered that children in first grade understood what “killing oneself “meant and one even knew the word suicide. By third grade all but one understood the word suicide. Suicide between the ages of 5-11 is rare, but it does occur; about 33 children under the age of 12 will die each year by suicide.

Professionals who have worked with and studied young suicidal children believe the desire to kill oneself isn’t about wanting...

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Hidden Messages

Recently I was speaking to someone whom I’ve only known a short period of time and the topic of my future plans came up.  This person is not involved in suicide prevention at all.  As we were talking, she used the phrases “successful suicide,” and “failed attempt.”  Inwardly I cringed and debated what to do.

Normally I don’t have that inner debate, but usually I’m talking to people who have signed up for a training or webinar or are professionals.  In fact, I can still remember the first time I spoke up.  It was about 16 years ago at a regional conference of states and I was representing the organization SPAN USA (Suicide Prevention Action Network) for Pennsylvania.  We were in a room and someone said, “failed attempt.”  I hadn’t been involved in suicide prevention that long and this was my first interaction with state government and national organization level people so I was a bit...

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Are You Walking on Eggshells?

So often I hear from parents or spouses how they feel like they are walking on eggshells after their loved one’s suicide attempt.  Maybe you’re afraid if you get annoyed and give a short answer, the person will go and kill themselves.  Or if you’re a parent, when do you push your child to do their homework and when do you need to back off?  What if they walk in on you crying because emotionally, mentally and physically you’re exhausted?  Will that make them feel so guilty they’ll go and kill themselves? How can you stop feeling like you’re always walking on eggshells around them?

First of all, you can’t make someone kill themselves, no one can.  Second, people are more resilient than we realize.  Yes, right after a suicide attempt, the attempt survivor is extremely vulnerable.  But in order to stay alive, they need to learn how to deal with life and how to develop more resilience.  Handling them...

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A Dangerous Way to Cope

While working on a project, I decided to include a section on self-harm and its relation to suicide. I was debating whether or not I should write a post on it when during the recent webinar with Maureen Underwood, the subject came up in the Q & A section. Then, afterwards in the survey numerous people requested information on it too. So, guess what I’m writing about this week!

First of all, there are lots of different terms for it. The clinical term is Non-Suicidal Self-Injury. or NSSI. Other people refer to it as cutting, since that’s a common and well-known method, or self-injurious behavior (SIB), or just self-injury. I’ll be using either self-harm or self-injure interchangeably.

There are lots of ways people can harm themselves and I don’t want to get into the gory details here but the most common, as I’ve said, is cutting. Usually it’s performed on the arms, hands, stomachs and thighs but it can be anywhere. It can also be scratching...

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Fear and Trauma

I recently read an article in The Lilly by Kate Simon that I found very interesting. In this article, Ms. Simon talks about the trauma of sexual assault and sexual abuse but how there really isn’t attention paid to or vocabulary for the ‘almost assaults’. The times when women are followed, catcalled, held by the wrists, restrained, and almost raped, hit or abused, incidents that cause extreme fear and impact us.  They leave an imprint on our memories and spirits.

I know I have times that I was afraid something bad was going to happen, and for me, often times they did.  But one incident that comes to mind, I’m sure that many people will dismiss as nothing.  I was 18 or so and driving by myself to visit a friend 2 hours away.  I love driving and was enjoying the trip and when truckers honked their horns or waved, I waved back and laughed. Harmless fun.  Then I realized there was a truck in front of me, one behind me, and another one on...

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Winter is Coming

I love Autumn. I got married in September, and it always meant school was starting and I’d get to be with my friends again and learn more things, plus football and volleyball begin. October brings the changing colors of the trees, crisp air, apples, chestnuts, cider, pumpkins – lots of fun stuff. I love it.  Unfortunately, there’s also a downside.

I’m not just talking about “Winter is coming,” although that is one thing about fall I don’t like, especially living in Northeast Wisconsin. Autumn also means shorter days and less sunlight. For me, that means the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder and breaking out the old light box.

I always sort-of fight it.  Maybe this year, it will be different.  After all, this year I went to a new psychiatrist and got my medication adjusted and that made a big difference in my depression and anxiety. But by the beginning of October, I’m noticing those tell-tale signs of SAD.

I find...

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Fireworks, Thunderstorms and Sirens

I’ll never forget being in the car with my mom who was driving us home one afternoon when she heard the sirens of the fire trucks. “Oh my God, oh my God, I hope it’s not our house!” and she stepped on the gas and floored it. It was like she was in a panic and couldn’t get home fast enough. I told her I doubted it was our home, but I don’t think she even heard me – she just wanted to get home. It wasn’t our home, and when she pulled up and saw it wasn’t, she breathed a huge sigh of relief and gave a shaky smile. I was a teenager then and thought most of her behavior was suspect, but this incident stayed with me.

Eventually I pieced it together. Five years after my mom was born in Germany, Hitler came to power. She was 17 when the war ended. If you google top ten bombing raids of WWII, my mom’s hometown, Kassel, is ranked number nine with 80% of its population gone by the end of the war. She lived through many bombing raids,...

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I applaud you

The recent death of Kate Spade has once again put suicide front and center in the news.  I’m happy to see better reporting – at least what I saw on TV was good – they didn’t mention the method and they provided the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number at the end of the segment. But all of this still affects me.

I’m not only an attempt survivor, I’m a loss survivor as well.  I lost my brother, two uncles, a cousin, a high school friend and a college classmate to suicide. Not to mention all the people I knew in recovery who took their own lives, usually after a slip of some kind. So whenever I hear of another person dying by suicide, I am deeply, deeply saddened.  I know what the journey for those bereaved by suicide is like and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. The pain, the guilt, the anger and anguish, the always wondering if you could have done something differently.

I’ve likened my grief and...

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