Middle-aged men need our help

The pastor at my church this past Sunday mentioned a very startling statistic in his sermon. White middle-class men are dying by suicide at an increasing rate.  The article in the NY Times also sited that “the mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased 134 deaths per 100.000 from 1999 to 2014. Dr. Deaton (who conducted the study) was looking at statistics on suicide and happiness, skeptical about whether states with a high happiness level have a low suicide rate. (They do not, he discovered; in fact, the opposite is true.) Why is this happening and what can we do to prevent this? I think it starts by telling the men in our life, especially our young boys, as they enter the teen years, that there is no shame in seeking help for depression and anxiety and to reassure them that as parents, we are there for them anytime they want to talk or choose to seek out a counselor to talk to. The 18-24 year-old age group is most at risk for suicide. This is the time when we are sending many kids off to college or they are going off to live on their own. It is important that you have had a talk with your children before sending them off to school and make sure they know where the college counseling center is on their campus. Take note of the men in your life and don’t be afraid to ask them how they are feeling. A great site to refer them to is mantherapy.org. Man Therapy...

Suicide Warning Signs

From AFSP People who kill themselves exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do. The more warning signs, the greater the risk.           Talk If a person talks about: ● Killing themselves. ● Having no reason to live. ● Being a burden to others. ● Feeling trapped. ● Unbearable pain.   Behavior A person’s suicide risk is greater if a behavior is new or has increased, especially if it’s related to a painful event, loss, or change. ● Increased use of alcohol or drugs. ● Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online for materials or means. ● Acting recklessly. ● Withdrawing from activities. ● Isolating from family and friends. ● Sleeping too much or too little. ● Visiting or calling people to say goodbye. ● Giving away prized possessions. ● Aggression.   Mood People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods. ● Depression. ● Loss of interest. ● Rage. ● Irritability. ● Humiliation. ●...

Helping After A Loss

● Find a therapist ● Join a support group ● Join a walk ● Start a journal ● Honor a loved one: ● Plant a tree ● Purchase a bench or plaque to memorialize loved one at favorite place ● Start a special memorial garden ● Cook special meal on holidays ● Make a special quilt ● Start a memorial...

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...