Apparently, it'll now be possible to report it if somebody makes a suicidal comment. That person should then receive an email from Facebook with info on who to contact - either to call a helpline or to talk online with a crisis worker.
Let's hope it works.
Saturday is International Survivors of Suicide Day. I am posting this early in case somebody wants to attend the conferences mentioned at the end.
I am a survivor of suicide. No, that does not mean I tried to take my life and didn't succeed; it means I lost a loved one to suicide, my son Henry.
All of us who have lost a loved one - no matter how - experience a lot of the same emotions: sadness; grief; loss; despair and anger, yes, anger.
For survivors of suicide there are a couple of extra emotions, though: shame and guilt. After talking to a few people just recently who lost as loved one as well, I have come to realize that maybe people aren't necessarily judging you or your loved one after a suicide; they just simply don't know what to say (a simple "I am so sorry for your loss" is sufficient), so maybe the shame is unnecessary.
The guilt, though, remains, even to this day - more than 4 years later. I don't kick myself quite so hard any longer, but I still ask the "what did I miss?," "what if" and "if only" questions. Why didn't I understand what was going on? I saw something was wrong, but I didn't know what it was.
One more thing that is different for survivors is the need to know, and I believe that's the same for anybody who has lost a loved one unexpectedly, violently. For me, it was an important part of the healing process, trying to find out as much as I could about what had gone on in Henry's life, what he had been doing, who he had hung with. Unfortunately (and most likely understandably), most of the people he spent his time with towards the end were reluctant if not downright unwilling to talk to me or answer my questions. That means there are still holes I would like to have filled. But I realize that I may never get answers to those and, as times goes by, it gets easier to live with those unanswered questions.
I assume all of those questions will always be there along with the feeling of loss and that big hole in my life.
As always, the AFPS has information on conferences, both online and in various locations around the world and helpful info for survivors.
I was right in my assessment: a huge crowd, lots of Vintage students and lots and lots of white Tshirts.
Thankfully, there's a recap of the sermon because my Spanish just isn't up to it.
Still no news on who did this, but there's been yet another hit-and-run yesterday afternoon:
I find that trend disturbing, very disturbing.
Ever since I read about the hit-and-run accident in which Ramon Ramirez was injured, I have been angry, sad and upset. Story here: http://napavalleyregister.com/news/local/student-declared-brain-dead-organs-to-be-donated/article_802029d2-fea0-11e0-b012-001cc4c002e0.html
As of today, the driver of the vehicle has not been found, the reward has been doubled to $2,000.
The thinking in my house is that it's either a drunk driver (in which case the car will eventually be found and so will the driver) or an illegal alien (in which case all bets are off).
I can't comment on the service itself - it was almost entirely in Spanish (which is the only reason I didn't end up crying my way through every Kleenex in my purse) and 2 years of Spanish simply aren't enough to understand much at all.
What did impress me was the number of people in attendance: easily close to a 1,000 with every bench full and plenty of people standing in back, the majority teenagers. There were lots and lots of white Tshirts (dress code was very casual, I was overdressed in mostly black) many, many of them with Ramon's senior picture on the front and either "Ramon 36" or "Monchiz 36" or "Ramon forever" on the back.
I was very touched to see this kind of support.
I hope Ramon's family will find peace in time and I very much hope there will be justice done eventually.
Another milestone - it's finally time to say good-bye to the old red Jeep. The first car I ever chose for myself - and then had to battle with L over driving it. Because it was cooler than the one he had :-)
We bought it in 1993 and just weeks later I had a near miss while driving on thick ice - back in Oklahoma. I slid through an intersection right between two cars; one was going N, the other S, I was headed W. Whew! That was scary.
This is the car that took us on vacations in New Mexico and Arizona and Utah and Colorado year after year until the kids complained. Couldn't we go somewhere else for a change? We went into Canyon de Chelly in the spring one year when the ice and snow had thawed but the water was still running deep - and promptly got water into the car, through the air vents. There probably still is a bit of reservation dirt in the carpet and floor mats.
This is the car that we drove from Oklahoma to California with two dogs in the very back and one child and lots of suitcases on the backseat. It took several days, we had to stop in certain cities because that's where we had reservations for us and the dogs at specific kennels - all very well planned in advance.
This is the car that drove kids to school, to band practice, to daycare, to karate.
This is the car that went through 3 radiators in one year, one came pre-damaged from the factory, the next one - well, who knows, mystery damage? We didn't have to pay for that one. The third one finally took and it's still in there.
After 13 years of driving it, it was time for a new car. On the mechanic's recommendation, we hung on to it and waited for Henry to get his license in the summer of 2006. He drove it for almost a year.
And this is the car that took him to the Golden Gate Bridge.
It's been sitting in the driveway since. We tried, half-heartedly, selling it a time or two. It didn't work and we obviously weren't ready.
Now it's time. Today we are donating it to Mission Solano.
It's time - finally - and it's a good thing. Still, I'll miss seeing the car in the driveway every day. And in my mind I can still hear the roar of the muffler (it has a "guy" muffler and a "guy" horn) when Henry drove off to school.
And, no, I won't be reading the comments. I just don't have a thick enough skin.
This article talks about grants provided to states and tribes for youth suicide prevention. It's a good thing and I am not at all surprised that quite a lot of the funds go to Native American Tribes. Suicide is a disproportionally larger problem there than in the general population.
The accident referred to happened on a road I use on occasion. It's two lanes, no center divider and there have been far too many accidents. Originally, this was considered to have been caused by a blown tire on the big rig, then it was determined that the car veered over the center line. Now it's considered a suicide. How sad, especially since it involved so many other people (and I don't mean the ones inconvenienced by the traffic mess). In particular, the driver of the big rig who must be feeling horrible, it wasn't his fault. And how about all those other people whose cars were hit? Suicide is always terribly painful for the ones left behind and in this case the people affected and hurt weren't even related or known the the person who took his life.
In case the title doesn't work as a link, the above link should and my title says it all. It may be the economy which means the money for constructing the barrier is needed more than ever.
Shortly afterward, my husband mentioned hearing it discussed on call-in radio shows. He listens to quite a lot of those on the way to and from work (long commute) and noticed that there were a lot of ugly comments of the kind left in the San Francisco Chronicle when the suicide barrier was being discussed.
What he found very interesting was the person calling in who said he had mentioned this story on his blog and, because commenters have to leave their full name, found that the comments were nowhere near as nasty as those in other places.
I think it's the same old anonymity bringing out the worst in people.
Here's the link to the article I posted back then:
Still applies, obviously.
An interesting article that came to me via the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It talks about the increase in the rate of suicides and suicide attempts among women over 50. There's no consensus on what exactly is causing this, but there several possibilities are mentioned.
The one I find quite interesting (in a disturbing way) is the one mentioned towards the end saying that women of that age become more aware of their mortality and think it's too late for happiness. I find that very sad.
has been all over the (mostly local) news and facebook over the past week. Another life lost needlessly, another teenager who had to look up directions on how to get to that bridge. And again, no body found as happens so very often.
When she first went missing, there was hope that she had gone off somewhere and would be found. Eventually, her bike was found near the bridge and the search efforts turned into a recovery effort.
So said and so unnecessary.
A few more links, there was quite a bit of media attention - not quite so much now.
We handed out the first set of scholarships last Wednesday and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I'm getting used to giving a short speech and having my picture taken.
Unfortunately, the next morning I woke up with something pulled in my neck. That has happened before and I've always toughed it out. So I thought, I'd just do that again. It was worse on Friday so I went off to see my new doctor. He asked all the right questions and one very wrong one (did I get drunk the night before this happened? No, of course not. I don't drink alcohol.). Still trying to figure out if he was serious or not. Anyway, he prescribed an ointment and muscle relaxants. The pills made me so loopy and tired that I'm missing the whole weekend and didn't help a bit with the stiffness and pain. Neither did the ointment. Back to toughing it out.
Yesterday was the awards ceremony at the high school we added this year. Unlike the other schools, there is no set program. You need to stand in line at 3 pm to pick up a number. I got there before 3 and still was only No. 28. Back to school before 6 pm to be seated on the stage for a good hour before it was our turn. Speech went well, the kids picked seem great, but I was worn out. Oh, it is raining again which didn't help with things.
I was just getting ready to go to bed when Larry called me over to show me an article he had found online: http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Bridge-Suicide-on-the-Golden-Gate-Bridge. I made the mistake of reading it all and was pretty disturbed. There's no way to tell who the writer is and while all the stuff included in the article is out there somewhere, I simply couldn't figure out where he got all the "intimate" details about Henry. Not until this morning did I realize it's all straight from the article Tia O'Brien wrote for which she interviewed us a few years ago. While I like that this issue is being brought to the foreground yet again (there's still no money coming in for a barrier), I had managed to successfully push the whole article far back into my mind and really liked having it there. It feels a bit as if my privacy has been invaded. Yes, we talked to Tia willingly and appreciated what she did, but having Henry and our lives dissected like that was really difficult and being reminded of it all was no less easy.
I am so torn on so many levels. On the one hand I want my quiet little life back, nevermind that it's a tad boring; on the other hand I want to do what I can to help not only with the suicide barrier but also making people aware of suicide. It's not easy and I have a feeling it'll be something I'll struggle with for quite a long time to come.
There never was a time (once I was old enough to understand) that I was not aware of suicide. My father was a homicide detective who spent more time cutting people out of trees than investigating murders. And he talked about it, in a rather dispassionate way. I guess you'd have to in that profession.
The first time it hit close to home was when a former teacher and his lover took their lives in a rather dramatic way. I was 16 at the time. Next, at 29, came a former classmate. That one hurt, the circumstances were sad, very sad.
Still, suicides were something that happened to other people only. And they just happened, there wasn't anything anyone could do to prevent them - or so we thought at the time.
And then Henry decided one day he didn't want to live anymore. Now, this one hurt badly, worse than anything else I've ever experienced.
One way to deal with my grief was to start reading, to educate myself and I came to realize that there are far too many misconceptions about suicide. And that far too many people mistake their opinions for facts.
Yes, suicides can be prevented. Mental illness is treatable. Suicide more often than not is an impulsive act and if the easy means are taken away, the attempter often doesn't look for another way. Case in point is the Richard Seiden study conducted in the 1970s. He and his researchers identified 515 people who were prevented from jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge and followed their lives. Of these 515, only 6% went on to complete suicide and only 6 people went back to the bridge. There's the British natural gas story - once Britain switched from coal gas to natural gas, suicides went down by a third. People didn't look for another way once they couldn't stick their heads into the oven. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/06/magazine/06suicide-t.html?_r=1&ex=1216094400&en=83bf55db43f6ac85&ei=5070&emc=eta1)
And, it's not called "committing" suicide. Crimes are committed, suicide isn't a crime. Suicides are attempted and/or completed.
Far too often I come across the opinion, "If they want to die, just let them." Feeling suicidal isn't a fatal disease, suicide is not the same as euthanasia. It is not an informed decision, but rather a decision made when the attempter is in a state of distress, mental agony, psychache. Edwin Shneidman, the father of suicidology, addresses that very well in his book "The Suicidal Mind." Talking to somebody who has decided life isn't worth living anymore works, pointing out to them that there are reasons to go on and try again works. Explaining that being pregnant, having lost a job, getting divorced, losing a boyfriend/girlfriend, not being accepted by your first choice of universities are not reasons to end one's life.
No, these people are not the scum of the earth and they do not deserve to take themselves out of the gene pool. That sort of thing is stupid, hateful and obviously expressed by somebody totally insensitive, immature and uncaring.
Suicide also isn't a sin (any longer). It used to be, but I'd like to think we are just that little bit more enlightened and compassionate. My son had a funeral mass, there never was any question about it.
There are plenty more facts I learned once I started reading and I may or may not address those in time, but, for now, I'm done.
Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of Henry's death and, as always (until there is a barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge), we will be retracing his steps.
And youTube doesn't allow the soundtrack for the second one, the one about Henry's last journey. Oh well, it's here, music and all.
With the fourth anniversary coming up next Sunday, I set myself a deadline: finish all this and a blog that's invitation only (The Diary of a Suicide). That one isn't quite done yet, but what remains is just editing.
So, once that is done, I am done. No more serious videos. I will still continue with suicide awareness, of course. And who knows what else will happen.
There have been so many changes in the last 4 years. I even got a tattoo for Henry (he'd hate it as he would all the rest of it). But - you gotta do what you gotta do.
Word of warning, though, it's not fun or amusing or entertaining. It's a series of shots, set to music, of Henry's last journey, the steps he took from the parking lot onto the bridge.
Not easy, but definitely something I HAD to do.
The fourth anniversary of Henry's death is coming up next week Sunday - on Mother's Day of all days. I've been meaning to make a slide show of some of the photos I have of him and finally buckled down today and did it. It took me hours and I'm sure I lost quite a few days of my life to this, but it's finally done.
I have ideas (and pictures) for two more videos and I'll try to get to them over the next week. I've even had certain songs in mind all along, but, listening to one of them last weekend, I realized that Janis Joplin maybe isn't quite right after all.
Here's a quote from that article:
"Any time we can make safety improvements we will look closely at making changes," said Mary Currie, bridge district spokeswoman.
Any guesses what it's about? No, not a suicide barrier .......
According to various news outlets, this was a suicide attempt. The girl was walking on the bridge with her parents and sister and handed the sister a suicide note before she jumped.
Details in the article.
This is just one of dozens of links to news outlets I found this morning while searching for "16-year-old girl survives fall from Golden Gate Bridge." The third link was to my local newspaper.
Since this is the second time in two months there has been wide-spread reporting of people jumping and surviving, I thought it was finally time to write to my local editor yet again.
It bothers me greatly that there are reports when somebody survives but hardly any when somebody dies. Hence my letter. Who's to say this won't inspire copycats?
Let's see if he'll print it. This is a new editor, the old one (sort of) knew me.
I thought I was finally ready to read Henry's emergency room report. So, I dug out the envelope yesterday and opened it and pulled out the thick wad of papers all the while dreading what might be there.
I didn't get far, leafed through it, got hung up on word I didn't know, found the bit about "blunt force trauma to the left side" and decided to abandon the whole thing.
Obviously, in order to really understand everything, I'd need the help of somebody either in the medical profession or very familiar with medical jargon. That part wouldn't be a problem. What will be a problem is the lack of a thick skin. Wish one could grow those.
When Henry died, the editor of the local paper called the principal of his high school who told him that we did not want anything about Henry's death printed. He wasn't speaking for us (although, at that time, we did not want to go public), I think he was only thinking about covering the school's backside. The editor told him that the paper's policy was/is to print the story if it appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. So, I checked the Chronicle for days - nothing. These suicides are not mentioned in the Chronicle when they happen. I guess the thinking here is: if we don't talk about it, it didn't happen and we don't have to do anything about it. I'm sure the GG Bridge Authority likes it that way.
DH overheard 2 people talking in a bookstore this morning. The topic was the kid who jumped and one of the people (a woman) was very upset, "I had no idea there were so many suicides on that bridge. I've never heard about it. I didn't realize people fly here from all over the world to jump."
I guess the campaign of silence and denial is working very nicely.
I couldn't find a link in any of the online news sources at the time, only on a surfer forum (second link), since then, they have added a link to the local CBS station. Both stories are essentially the same. Apparently, the kid was not suicidal but jumped on a dare. He is being evaluated in one of the local hospitals and has a broken tailbone and torn lung. That last bit concerns me because I know that the lung damage is what is so serious. I do very much hope this kid will be okay.
If it really turns out to have been a dare, I really, really hope the person(s) responsible will be dealt with severely. That's just going way too far.
And, of course, the comments in the surfer forum are the usual dumb*** ones we saw when the barrier was first being discussed.
It really, really is time to install that net. How many more people have to die before it becomes a reality?
There's yet another petition to be signed. This one is going to be submitted to Congress which is getting ready to re-authorize the National Transportation Bill. The petition (and all its signers) ask Congress to add an amendment that would allow state and local districts to ask for federal money to add physical barriers to bridges. This is not just about the Golden Gate Bridge, there are plenty of other suicide bridges in this country.
I recognize many of the signatures on this petition (I've been busy on Facebook and with email) and so have many of the other people who have lost a loved one to a suicide on the GGB. Your help in this will be greatly appreciated.
I have been aware of "cutters" for quite a while, I even know/knew somebody who did it, but I never paid terribly much attention to it until I learned that self-injury can be a warning sign for suicide. But self-injury rarely is the same as a suicide attempt.
The site I linked to gives information on why, how and what to do about it.
The time has come to split this blog into two (three actually, but that’s a story for another post). For some time now, the posts about suicide awareness and related subjects seem to have taken over and there hasn’t been anything crafty here (and there’s no guarantee that there will be on the other blog anytime soon).
I am not terribly interested in increasing my readership, I do this for myself. I am extremely grateful for the friends who have been there for me all along and I hope they will stay in my life. Unlike so many other bloggers who write to promote a shop of one kind or another or themselves, I write when I feel like it (and that hasn’t been often lately). I was going to go off on a tangent here, but thought it would be more diplomatic to just quit here.
So, from now on, Henry’s Mom’s Musings will stay and will be mainly for suicide awareness and related posts while henry’s mum’s other blog (yes, I know, totally imaginative) will be more fun and light-hearted. As much as I do that sort of thing. As all blogs are, they both are works in progress and we’ll just have to see where it all leads.
The link at the top should work, but just in case it doesn't, here it is again:
Today, we had to make the very hard decision to let go of our oldest dog. Maggie aka Devil Dog, Ms Destructo, came into our lives a few weeks after our first dog, Waldi, a beagle who lived to be 17, passed away of old age. We missed him so much that we adopted Maggie. She was hell on wheels. When she wasn't climbing 6 ft fences to visit neighbors, she would dig under them to escape. She dug up all the gopher tunnels on one side of the yard making it extremely dangerous to walk there. She was the one who taught Henry how to climb trees just so he could get away from her. All his Tshirt had holes along the bottom of the hem.
I met dog catchers in 2 states thanks to her adventurous spirit.
She was so tough (to live with) that I actually considered giving her back. Instead we adopted Charlie who did his best to put her in her place. There were fights, over food, over toys, just for the heck of it. She was tough and it took years for her to mellow out. Even though she was part lab, she did not like water. The above picture shows one of the few times she ventured into the water (and I doubt it was entirely willingly). The inflatable boat was another story. She happily spent time in there drifting around the pool.
She mellowed out a bit in recent years. After always loving food and being able to eat as much as she wanted without gaining an ounce (something most women would love to be able to do), she lost interest in recent months. No matter what I gave her or how much I coaxed, she just didn't care.
So, we took her to the vet this morning to discuss our options. There really weren't any.
We stayed with her to the very end, held her and talked to her and asked her to say "hi" to Henry for us. They'll be together again now.
We'll miss you, Maggie.