Families who lost loved ones to suicide stress prevention, awareness efforts

BY TAMMIE SMITH Richmond Times-Dispatch | Posted: Saturday, August 30, 2014 10:30 pm Ren Bell said her sister, Lindsay Pollack, struggled for years with depression, but Bell said she never really understood the depth of her sister’s pain or how long she had dealt with it. Her sister killed herself in 2006. At the memorial service, Bell talked to some of her sister’s friends from middle school. Bell heard for the first time that her sister had talked back then, barely into adolescence, about being depressed. “That is why my big focus is awareness in the schools,” Bell said. “I feel like maybe if she had gotten help earlier on, if her friends had gone to an adult and said, ‘Hey, she is having these really serious thoughts and issues.’ … Kids tend to talk to each other and not to their parents about serious things. “I just feel like if she had earlier intervention, if she had gotten some therapy earlier on — that she was having these thoughts — that maybe she’d still be here today. Maybe it wouldn’t have gone down such a dark road, with drugs and alcohol and everything.” The highly publicized death this month of actor and comedian Robin Williams has focused attention on mental illness and suicide prevention. Williams was public about his battles with depression and substance abuse, but his suicide still shocked his family, friends and fans.But people who have lost loved ones to suicide know how insidious depression can be, how those suffering often self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, and how difficult it is to fathom that a loved...

Trying to Matter on Capitol Hill

Well, this past week, I got to test out “Trying to Matter.” I recently became a field advocate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and got to attend their Advocacy Forum in Washington, DC. I was part of 250 field advocates from all 50 states.  We attended an all day conference on topics such as Mental Health Parity & the Affordable Health Care Act, Military and Veteran Suicide Prevention, Suicide Prevention Research, Statewide Suicide Prevention Initiatives, Bullying and Suicide and Donation of brain tissue for medical research. Our first day was kicked off by former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy, a champion for and consumer of mental health care. Between two days on conferences, we all trekked up to Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of AFSP to our own state’s congressional delegation. For Virginia, that meant meetings with 14 state representatives and senators. We split these meetings up between our VA, Northern VA and DC friends and felt like champions when we finished at 5 pm.  I can honestly say, I was nervous as could be about attending this conference, but at its conclusion I felt so empowered and that I had really made a difference by taking this message of hope to Washington. I encourage anyone who has a cause to “Try to Matter’ – experience a day of advocacy at your local, state or national level. This is how policy is shaped and changed in America. On a personal note, one of the really touching things about this conference were the stories each of these 250 advocates shared with each other. Everyone got up,...

Blessings and Lessons

I saw this quote recently, and it made me think about Matt and all of the people who have connected to me over the last two years. “People come into your life as a blessing or a lesson.” As I sit here thinking about Matt’s tragic death by suicide two years ago and his 41 years of exuberant life, I am sure that my brother came into my life as both. I have spent what feels like a lifetime mourning the loss of my brother. I have been learning over the last couple of years how to move on and to remember Matt in life, rather than in death – to focus on all of our family’s happy memories. Two years feels like yesterday and it also feels like an eternity. I have been thinking a lot about how to handle the second January 29th since 2012. While I will mourn the loss of Matt physically, I finally know for sure that he is still very much here. I will mark the day doing what Matt was good at doing, showing others kindness and generosity, maybe through some random acts of kindness at some of his favorite places. I think that would make him happy. Matt was a blessing. Matt was a good person, a good son, brother, father, uncle, nephew, cousin and friend. Matt was always helping other people. He was generous with his time and money to a fault. He was the kind of guy that would give you the shirt off his back. He was the kind of guy who stopped the janitor in the halls to...