Posts Tagged ‘suicide prevention’

Depression Hides Until It’s Too Late

RobinWThe news of the passing of Robin Williams is only hours old, many are assuming suicide, and based on his previously disclosed history with addiction and depression, it would not be a shock. Depression, anxiety, self injury/cutting, to some extent eating disorders, and attempted or successful suicide are issues being dealt with every day by people right next to you. Perhaps you. Guaranteed those waters run in places you don’t expect.

To Write Love on Her Arms is an organization I’ve long admired, and not just for their brilliant name. They are a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly in treatment and recovery.

They have amazing resources to seek help and understanding, and they have some tremendous opportunities to get involved and volunteer, as well. From street teams to conferences to targeted outreach, there are ways to lend strength and understanding. We all need connection. There are times when the level of love and connection is not clearly seen or felt, no matter how full and robust it feels from those giving. Our correct course is to continue giving. Continue supporting. Continue loving. Continue respecting, even if someone, even someone dedicated to making others laugh, takes themselves from the game.

World Suicide Prevention Day

Talk about it. Really–that’s often all anyone has to do, open up communication. So many people who consider suicide get themselves spun so tightly inward that nothing outside of them can be seen. The bleakness takes over. It’s not just rosy and carefree, but having someone listen, and HEAR, can truly make a huge difference. There is a reason we have had suicide prevention hotlines for generations–talking matters.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Bring it up around the dinner table–be innocuous, be direct, but bring it up. Young people, especially, don’t recognize the resources that they have. Just reaching out can interrupt an uncontrolled spiral–and it can be done anonymously. Every single one of us should know how to direct someone to call and reach out via a hotline in our area, and national programs like To Write Love on Her Arms (, an entire list of helplines and resources is here), and The Trevor Project (, Toll-free Lifeline: 866-488-7386).

I’ve worked hotlines–while you are not hoping to hear pain on the other end of the line when you pick up the phone–you pray with every breath that somebody IS calling instead of not dialing and going through something alone. In a perfect world, nobody would call and you’d stare at the calls waiting, because your hotline services weren’t needed—unfortunately, in THIS world, you want the phone to ring because it means somebody wants to be heard, and is giving a stranger a chance to make a crucial difference.

Pick up the phone. Make sure your kids and friends know who to call. Think about volunteering in that capacity if it calls to you–your life will never be the same.

Happy Trevor Day

Today is Trevor Day (named for the Trevor Project), the Friday of Suicide Prevention Week, and a great time to remind ourselves that it is quite likely that someone near us is hiding pain we cannot imagine. A young person is living in fear, feeling alone, and without options. It is so easy to just invite someone to talk…to be heard, to assure them that you are there for them and will listen. Giving another individual the confidence to feel safe enough to share is a much more valuable gift than you imagine. It can be the difference, the deciding factor, in a life.

Just reach out.

Just say, “Talk to me”

It Gets Better

Dan Savage, the sex advice columnist for so many regional papers and author of book “The Kid” (recently turned into a Broadway musical) has launched a YouTube channel I think you/we all need to know about and support, perhaps contribute.

Earlier this month, we had National Suicide Prevention Week (September 5-11), and September 10 was National Suicide Prevention Day. The day before, on September 9, 15-year-old Billy Lucas hanged himself in his parents’ barn. reported:

The 15-year-old never told anyone he was gay but students at Greensburg High School thought he was and so they picked on him.

“People would call him ‘fag’ and stuff like that, just make fun of him because he’s different basically,” said student Dillen Swango.

Students told Fox59 News it was common knowledge that children bullied Billy and from what they said, it was getting worse. Last Thursday, Billy’s mother found him dead inside their barn. He had hung himself.

Students said on that same day, some students told Billy to kill himself.”

In response to this sickening tragedy, Savage has launched a video called It Gets Better wishing he could have just talked to this kid, any kid who doesn’t see a future and rather than endure unending pain and torture from those around them, seek any way out they can find. If only they had role models to tell them, It Gets Better. In just a few days since launching the channel, thousands have joined and hundreds are posting their own message of hope. From Savage’s column:

I just read about a gay teenager in Indiana—Billy Lucas—who killed himself after being taunted by his classmates. Now his Facebook memorial page is being defaced by people posting homophobic comments. It’s just heartbreaking and sickening. What the hell can we do? -Gay Bullying Victim Who Survived

Another gay teenager in another small town has killed himself—hope you’re pleased with yourselves, Tony Perkins and all the other “Christians” out there who oppose anti-bullying programs (and give actual Christians a bad name).

Billy Lucas was just 15 when he hanged himself in a barn on his grandmother’s property. He reportedly endured intense bullying at the hands of his classmates—classmates who called him a fag and told him to kill himself. His mother found his body.

Nine out of 10 gay teenagers experience bullying and harassment at school, and gay teens are four times likelier to attempt suicide. Many LGBT kids who do kill themselves live in rural areas, exurbs, and suburban areas, places with no gay organizations or services for queer kids.

“My heart breaks for the pain and torment you went through, Billy Lucas,” a reader wrote after I posted about Billy Lucas to my blog. “I wish I could have told you that things get better.”

I had the same reaction: I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.

But gay adults aren’t allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don’t bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.

Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.

So here’s what you can do, GBVWS: Make a video. Tell them it gets better.

I’ve launched a channel on YouTube—www ­—to host these videos. My normally camera-shy husband and I already posted one. We both went to Christian schools and we were both bullied—he had it a lot worse than I did—and we are living proof that it gets better. We don’t dwell too much on the past. Instead, we talk mostly about all the meaningful things in our lives now—our families, our friends (gay and straight), the places we’ve gone and things we’ve experienced—that we would’ve missed out on if we’d killed ourselves then.

“You gotta give ’em hope,” Harvey Milk said.

Today we have the power to give these kids hope. We have the tools to reach out to them and tell our stories and let them know that it does get better. Online support groups are great, GLSEN does amazing work, the Trevor Project is invaluable. But many LGBT youth can’t picture what their lives might be like as openly gay adults. They can’t imagine a future for themselves. So let’s show them what our lives are like, let’s show them what the future may hold in store for them.

The video my husband and I made is up now—all by itself. I’d like to add submissions from other gay and lesbian adults—singles and couples, with kids or without, established in careers or just starting out, urban and rural, of all races and religious backgrounds. (Go to to find instructions for submitting your video.) If you’re gay or lesbian or bi or trans and you’ve ever read about a kid like Billy Lucas and thought, “Fuck, I wish I could’ve told him that it gets better,” this is your chance. We can’t help Billy, but there are lots of other Billys out there—other despairing LGBT kids who are being bullied and harassed, kids who don’t think they have a future—and we can help them.

They need to know that it gets better. Submit a video. Give them hope.

What Caring Can Do

I just love this story, from the New Zealand Herald, about what a difference we make by giving a damn.

Australian ‘angel’ saves lives at suicide spot

1:20 PM Sunday Jun 13, 2010

For almost 50 years Don Ritchie has used simple kindness to  shepherd countless suicidal people away from the edge of The Gap. Photo /  AP

For almost 50 years Don Ritchie has used simple kindness to shepherd countless suicidal people away from the edge of The Gap. Photo / AP

SYDNEY – In those bleak moments when the lost souls stood atop the cliff, wondering whether to jump, the sound of the wind and the waves was broken by a soft voice. “Why don’t you come and have a cup of tea?” the stranger would ask. And when they turned to him, his smile was often their salvation.

For almost 50 years, Don Ritchie has lived across the street from Australia’s most notorious suicide spot, a rocky cliff at the entrance to Sydney Harbour called The Gap. And in that time, the man widely regarded as a guardian angel has shepherded countless people away from the edge.

What some consider grim, Ritchie considers a gift. How wonderful, the former life insurance salesman says, to save so many. How wonderful to sell them life.

“You can’t just sit there and watch them,” says Ritchie, now 84, perched on his beloved green leather chair, from which he keeps a watchful eye on the cliff outside. “You gotta try and save them. It’s pretty simple.”

Continue reading

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.