Posts Tagged ‘suicide hotline’

World Suicide Prevention Day

twloha.org

twloha.org

Today, September 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day. I was touched to read of the rather candid and vulnerable mention made by TV star Wentworth Miller recently, who, because of hiding the fact that he is gay, has considered suicide more than once over the years. The “Prison Break” star said this weekend, at an event for the Human Rights Campaign,

“Growing up I was a target. Speaking the right way, standing the right way, holding your wrist the right way. Every day was a test and there were a thousand ways to fail, a thousand ways to betray yourself, to not live up to someone else’s standards of what was accepted, of what was normal. … The first time I tried to kill myself I was 15. I waited until my family went away for the weekend and I was alone in the house, and I swallowed a bottle of pills. I don’t remember what happened over the next couple of days, but I’m pretty sure come Monday morning I was on the bus back to school, pretending everything was fine. And when someone asks me if that was a cry for help, I’d say, ‘No.’ You only cry for help if you believe there’s help to cry for. And I didn’t need it, I wanted out.”

Of course, people of all ages and all facets of life fit into the cross section of those who have attempted, successfully or not, taking their own lives. People, all of us, need to be able to talk and be heard. It is such a primal need, such a deep chunk of the foundation that has to be in place for us to build a life and face each day. We have to be heard. It means the rest of us, who are perhaps in better or just different places, MUST do the hearing. If someone can reach out to a family member, friend, teacher, spiritual leader, commanding officer, medical professional, trained hotline volunteer, or stranger anywhere–we have to be there, in the room or the other end of the line. There is always someone you can talk with.

Years ago, in the early days of the AIDS crisis, when I volunteered on an information hotline for AIDS Project Los Angeles, almost every call was of the variety of “Can I get it from kissing? From a doorknob? From a toilet seat? I did this action–was that safe?” with a few crank calls and giggly teens thrown into the mix on those long nights on the phone bank…until one night I had a suicide call. It gutted me emotionally, exhausted everything I had in me to keep the young man talking, eventually joking, while a colleague alerted supervisors. I’ll never know what became of that anonymous caller, but I went to bed late that night knowing that he was going to at least see the next morning, and, I suspect, with no intent of minimizing his fear and pain, he is probably still waking up each morning as, at least that night, he did not have an actual “plan.” He will never know who I am but he honored me with his story and his strength, when the last thing he would have considered himself was strong. He was/is fierce.

Many, however, do have plans, or unplanned extreme actions…and too many are successful who needn’t have gone down that road to its conclusion.

If you need to talk to someone–please do. If you are ever presented with the true honor of listening to someone who needs you to hear them–please do.

Some brilliant resources, doing incredible work in this arena:

The Trevor Project

To Write Love on Her Arms

International Association for Suicide Prevention

Suicide Hotlines (find one in your state/region–calls are toll-free, 24 hours)

From the World Suicide Prevention Day facebook page: Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. It is ok to ask some one are they feeling suicidal, it will not put ideas in their head, it will not push them towards suicide. It will show them that there is hope, that some one is there for them, let them know its ok to talk. If you are suicidal please reach out, you are not a burden, you are not worthless, use your voice, fight for the life you deserve. It is not easy but I can tell you it is worth it.

National Suicide Prevention Week

Photo: The Trevor Project

Yesterday began National Suicide Prevention Week (September 5-11) and suicide prevention organizations have community outreach activities and awareness programs going on all week. There is a list of several events across the US here.

One of the organizations that has always impressed the heck out of me is The Trevor Project. Trevor is the only national suicide prevention hotline for LGBT youth. The organization was born from a 1998 film for HBO called Trevor, about a 13-year-old boy who is rejected by his friends because of his sexuality and then attempts to take his own life. The producers recognized that far too many members of the HBO audience would be in similar situations and considering the same things. Now the organization has 24/7 helplines nationwide; online resources for youth and their families, friends, and educators; and a social calendar filled with great fund-raising events to help get out the word.

Working at a suicide prevention hotline takes a special kind of volunteer, but if you are cut out for it, I hope you already are doing it or will seriously consider that sort of volunteering. In the 1980s I worked on the information hotline for AIDS Project Los Angeles, which was predominantly about getting accurate information out there (this was still a time when AIDS was not well understood and people were afraid of catching it from a sneeze or a hug or being in the same room with someone who had HIV. It was also a time of misunderstanding when it was believed the only people at risk were the “4-H” groups—hypodermic needle users, homosexuals, hemophiliacs, and Haitians—we know so much more now, but there was an awful lot of fear and misunderstanding on the other end of those phone lines. Our hotline volunteer education and training was extensive, and of course we were trained to take a potential suicide call if one came in (HIV diagnosis–when testing took 2 agonizing weeks–was then considered a slow and painful death sentence of wasting away from pneumonia or Kaposi’s Sarcoma–things we rarely hear any more). Lot’s of hopelessness and despair. I will always remember the weeknight evening I was working the lines and training a new volunteer who listened in and “shadowed” me on the phones as I answered the usual calls about how no, you didn’t need to worry about contracting HIV from a public toilet seat, when a young man called in with both method and plan to take his own life. (Method/means and plan are the two things we were to look out for. Someone saying “I have a gun and I’m going to kill myself as soon as we hang up” is different than someone saying, “I don’t want to live any more, I just don’t see the point.”) SO often, people who don’t see options and have come to a difficult conclusion that ending it will be easier, truly just want to be heard, and seen, and listened to, and understood, and acknowledged for the crap they are going through.

That 90-minute call I had changed my perspective from that day forward, worked out well for the young man for at least another day, and it took the wind out of my sails in a huge way. Suicide prevention hotline volunteers go through those calls all the time. They are expertly trained, but it is a huge responsibility every time the phone rings. It is brilliant work that I am not cut out for, but have boundless admiration for those that can do it. Would you consider it? If not, would you consider supporting those that do?

Some Facts About Suicide:
In America, more than 32,000 people die by suicide each year (2005 Center for Disease Control).

Suicide is one of the top three causes of death among 15 to 24-year-olds; only accidents and homicide occur more
frequently (2006 National Adolescent Health Information).

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college campuses (2008 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

For every completed suicide by a young person, it is estimated that 100 to 200 attempts are made
(2003 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey).

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their
heterosexual peers (Massachusetts 2006 Youth Risk Survey).

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth who come from a rejecting family are up to nine times more
likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers (2007 San Francisco State University Chavez Center Institute).

Andrew Koenig

Andrew Koenig

I never met actor and ecological activist Andrew Koenig, but his mother Judy and I worked together for years. Although Andrew was a couple years younger than I am, Judy used to tell me how much I reminded her of him.

Andrew, after disappearing in Vancouver, it was learned yesterday, took his own life. His parents, Walter and Judy, in a news conference, with so very much to deal with, said what I feel is so important for each of us to remember. Even if you don’t see it or recognize it in the moment, there are people who care. There are always people who care.

It puts me in mind of the amazingly dedicated volunteers who volunteer at suicide hotlines. If you need to talk to someone, don’t hesitate to call a local or national hotline–there are people staffing the lines, truly and genuineley waiting to talk to you, wanting to talk to you. If you are cut from the proper cloth to volunteer to work at a suicide prevention hotline, please do. I’ve done this work and it spent me more than I’d anticipated–but it is so important.

National Suicide/Crisis Hotlines can be found here and here.

The Trevor Project is a youth suicide prevention hotline focused on LGBT youth, who are at a much higher statistical danger of taking their own lives.

There are, of course, local hotlines near you, and while it sounds cliche, help can truly be a phone call away. It will be a huge life experience for you to be on either side of that call.

Daniel Radcliffe is a Hero

daniel_radcliffe_photoshoot-1477OK, sure the Boy Wizard has more disposable income than most of us…perhaps most of us put together…but I love that Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe made a huge donation to The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is an incredibly important national outreach and suicide prevention hotline for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. The statistics are staggering that bear out how hard it is to be a “queer” youth (with all the empowerment and dis-empowerment that word contains). As a role model for youth, adored by the masses, his actions speak as loudly as the check he wrote. There is no such thing as a young life unworthy, less worthy, or honestly, more worthy, than any other. This, oh political leaders, is the real No Child Left Behind program.

“I am very pleased to begin my support of The Trevor Project, which saves lives every day through its critical work,” said Daniel Radcliffe. “It’s extremely distressing to consider that in 2009 suicide is a top three killer of young people, and it’s truly devastating to learn that LGBTQ youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. I deeply hope my support can raise the organization’s visibility so even more despondent youth become aware of The Trevor Helpline’s highly trained counselors and Trevor’s many other resources. It’s vitally important that young people understand they are not alone and, perhaps even more important, that their young lives have real value.”

He’s embracing diversity, he’s clearing the way for important work to be done, and thereby actually saving lives. He found a way to make a true and immediate difference in the world.

Are you finding yours? You probably have many avenues open to you where your presence and effort can radiate out to affect change. Sign up to volunteer–maybe with kids–maybe with trees or animals or cleaning trash or building windmills. Something’s gotta light you up, and it just gets better when you move into it.