The Chicago News Cooperative takes up the problem of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to cut six of Chicago’s 12 mental health centers. In Philly, that would be devastating, so I can’t imagine it’s any different there. Of course the government is saying that people will be taken care of somehow, but that’s the kind of thing they always say, right? They say they patients from the other centers can just go to the ones that will stay open. But, um, that would mean a 71 percent increase in patients for the remaining clinics and a 0 percent increase in resources. Sounds like a plan.
Go here to read the stories of the people whose lives will be impacted by the cuts. Interestingly, though you’d imagine they’re depressing, they’re actually stories of hope. People with these illnesses are so strong, they are such survivors. They’re remarkable, and they deserve better.
If you recall, we recently posted about Facebook’s new effort to combat suicide in conjunction with Lifeline. Today comes news of a beautiful, reportedly bubbly young woman (pictured) who posted to her account shortly before throwing herself under a train. From The Independent:
Gabrielle Joseph, 16, posted a message to friends on the social networking site hours before taking her own life. The teenager, from Briton Ferry in South Wales, went on to post a message to a friend saying: “I am going to kill myself tonight.”
The words were written after a boy she had planned to go with to the cinema called off their date.
The news of her Facebook message came out at an inquest about her death, which occurred in April.
I’m not sure if things have changed or if my perspective on them has changed, but it seems as though the world is a more dangerous place if teenage suicides are triggered by a canceled date. Even when we felt “suicidal” about a boy’s rejection when I was in high school, there was always enough perspective to understand that it wasn’t the end of the world. I was lucky to have a parent there for me, reminding me that things would be different. Perhaps Josephs didn’t.
All that being said, surely this wasn’t the only thing that was troubling the young model. While the headlines are focusing on the fact of the date being the precipitating factor, there’s something missing, right? Even her father said she seemed “groggy and pale” the day of the event, which was out of character for her. I wonder if we’ll find out there were drugs involved—and when I say drugs, I actually mean either illicit drugs or newly prescribed antidepressants.
It’s an interesting strategy: Facebook has teamed up with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in a new initiative that makes the Lifeline counselors available 24/7 on Facebook chat. ZDnet’s Emil Protalinski explains how it’s meant to work:
If a Facebook friend spots a suicidal thought on someone’s profile, that person can report it to Facebook by clicking a link next to the comment. Facebook will then send an e-mail to the person who posted the suicidal comment. Previously, Facebook only told troubled individuals to call a hotline or encouraged friends to call law enforcement if they perceived someone was about to do harm. Now, the social networking giant is also offering a link to a confidential Facebook Chat session with a professional.
I’ve read some objections to the new service on the basis of invasion of privacy, and I understand those concerns. But this could be a lifesaving practical step. When someone posts their despair on Facebook, they are reaching out. If the next email they get is from a trained crisis counselor saying, “Hey, do you want to talk?”—but via chat, which is less intimidating and depends on the way the person is already communicating—it could the very intervention that turns things around. That’s why hotlines exist: they work. At the very worst, a person could say, “No thanks.” But I don’t imagine much harm would be done. Part of what’s so scary about suicidal moments is the isolation. You already feel that no one can understand, that the pain is pain no one else has ever felt. Hope is gone, self-regard is gone, the idea that people care seems far away. But people do care, and to be reminded of that can break through the despair.
There have been numerous cases where people have posted to Facebook prior to committing violent acts, including suicide. Just recently, a young girl, Ramie Grimmer, posted to Facebook that she might die on the day that her mother did, in fact, shoot her, her brother and herself in a welfare office in Texas. I’m not saying the Facebook service could have prevented what happened. But people really do reach out when they’re in extremis. Normally, if you see something strange on a friend’s Facebook status, you might even assume they’re kidding. But if you know you can press a button and have a hotline counselor send a quick message, you’ll probably do it, just in case.
Oh, and by the way, the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-TALK (8255).
A lot of times when we hear about suicides in the news, we think of how horrible it was for the person who died, and how awful for the survivors like family and friends. We review the news reports and wish we could have been there, somehow, like an angel on the shoulder, to inspire hope in the person in the moments before they made the fatal decision.
Take the suicide of Joaquin Luna, who, according to his family, was so disheartened by his immigration status (he was undocumented), he took his own life. Despite incredible design skills and intelligence, he believed his future as an engineer was impossible because he didn’t have a Social Security number. When you hear something like that, don’t you just wish you could travel back in time, fly into his bedroom the night before, and talk him out of it, suggesting resources to him and providing some perspective? He was only 18. He just needed to understand that things would change.
Brad Pitt, of all people, was apparently really helpful in delivering that message in a sensitive manner the other day at a screening of Moneyball. According to the New York Post:
During a Q&A session following the film, a choked-up man stepped to the microphone. “I can’t talk,” he said, rambling for a minute before sharing, “I found this movie completely inspiring. This is coming from a guy who’s been contemplating suicide. I understand the importance of putting things in perspective, so…”
Pitt didn’t skip a beat in responding to the man’s very personal comment.
“It certainly is about perspective and a bigger view and about the long run,” said Pitt. “I think that’s something we often forget with art is that there’s the long run. Things are cyclical. When you’re up, you’re up and when you’re down, you’re down. But it’s moving — always moving. I think that’s an important thing to remember. And it’s a big part of this film.”
He later added, “Man, it’s cyclical. You can be down, but then you come back up again, and every failure can lead to success.”
The attendees of the screening were moved by Pitt’s response.
“It was a touching moment,” a witness told Us Weekly. “As he left the theatre he even stopped to talk with the guy to offer him some more words of encouragement because he was obviously fragile.”‘
Another attendee said, “Brad handled the situation really well. It was a difficult moment that shocked everyone.”
Can you imagine the difference it made to that guy that Brad Pitt wasn’t put off by the tears and the vulnerability? That he simply spoke to him frankly and with humanity? It’s great. And we read that and think, “Yeah, that is what he should tell him, because it is cyclical and he’ll feel better and …”
I think most people who read such stories just want a big sign to flash over the world: DON’T GIVE UP. And who, more than anyone else, wants that sign to flash brightest? Those of us who have been there. We can’t bear to hear about someone else in despair who takes their life, but we all too easily contemplate that option when we’re depressed.
Why can’t we apply our own kindness and passion for hope to ourselves in those lost moments? Why is it utterly tragic when someone else (a stranger) dies but maybe-not-so-terrible if we do? Is it a problem with self-esteem? Is it that we’re simply exhausted? Is it that we can’t imagine that other person experiencing the pain we feel? Or is it simply a biochemical hiccup that can’t be explained?
Here’s a tremendously un-PC question: Is it conceivable that some people who kill themselves are making the right decision to do so?
No? It’s not?
Then the next time you’re feeling bad, remember this message applies to you: DON’T GIVE UP.
All the below is about this show.
Madigan: They didn’t flatter you with that lighting.
David Oaks: You’re looking so handsome! I had no idea. Your eyebrows are very sexy. (I’m completely sincere.)
“But critics worry …” That’s journalism-speak for “We don’t have any specific sources who say this, but we’ll generalize it so we have reason to focus on …”
… violence. That’s what they’re focusing on. Why am I not surprised?
So of all the things they could talk about related to Mad Pride — and related to mental health — this is what they’ve come up with: criminals and violent crime. Ugh. TV is so predictable and depressing.
Okay, so now we’re telling the story of a kid with hallucinations and delusions (the CIA, yadda yadda) who KILLS HIS MOTHER? Does the average American viewer understand how fucking rare this kind of thing is? That it’s not the necessary result of deciding not to take meds?
On to the withdrawal story: Clearly, the program wasn’t looking for a success story. This poor woman who decided to do the show so they could feed off her misery — I knew that’s what they wanted. Is she doing the withdrawal in conjunction with a doctor? Who the hell knows? The show doesn’t tell you. It hardly tells you her name. And …
Oh! There it is again: “Critics worry … ” (that she’s going to be “a time bomb” without her meds). Who are these critics worrying about this girl? Frank Rich? David Denby? I’d love to know.
“Violence is unpredictable with or without drugs.” Brilliant script.
Blurry homeless images. Madigan cello-ing. … This show is so bad, it’s like a joke. I guess it all goes back to what producer Ia Robinson told me, when we discussed my being on the show: She doesn’t have any friends or family who have mental problems, so the whole topic was like “walking on the moon.” Yes, that’s the phrase she used. The show should’ve been blasted out to Mars.
Except Joey P. He’s delightful and a voice of reason.
liz | 9:34 PM | SCHIZOPHRENIA, alternative treatments, bipolar disorder, celebrities, criminal justice system, depression, hospitals / hospitalization, meds, philadelphia, side effects, stigma, suicide, violence
The obits are churning about Don Hewitt today, but I want to note the death of someone who has only been written about as a freak show.
Cecilia Casals, 43, went to the Mall of the Americas in Miami, where her daughter worked, and set herself on fire. She was ablaze for about two and a half minutes, during which she reportedly walked slowly without making a sound. The flames were doused by firefighters and she was rushed to a hospital. But yesterday she died.
According to news reports, she had a criminal history, mental illness and had been desperately trying to get psychiatric help, to no avail.
The very sensitive NBCMiami.com features the headline: “‘Human Torch’ Dies After Mall Blaze.” Is that a class act or what?
The real class act is John Torres who, rather than breaking out his cell phone, injured himself trying to help her.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England is warning that Facebook, texting and e-mails are destroying relationships and may even lead teens to commit suicide.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, head of the Westminster diocese and spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, voiced his concerns about e-mail and social networks in an interview with England’s The Sunday Telegraph.
Nichols also said online social networks, such as Facebook and MySpace, are eroding children’s and teenagers’ real-life social networks.
“Facebook and MySpace might contribute towards communities, but I’m wary about it. It’s not rounded communication so it won’t build a rounded community,” he added in the interview. “If we mean by community a genuine growing together and a mutual sharing in an interest that is of some significance then it needs more than Facebook.”
These weakened relationships, the archbishop said, can lead to suicide.
“Among young people often a key factor in them committing suicide is the trauma of transient relationships,” Nichols said. “It’s an all or nothing syndrome that you have to have in an attempt to shore up an identity; a collection of friends about whom you can talk and even boast. But friendship is not a commodity, friendship is something that is hard work and enduring when it’s right.”
liz | 2:35 PM | suicide
After a long battle with cancer, PW staff writer, Guardian columnist, punk-rock novelist, NME gadfly, gender-twisting rebel comedian and poet Steven Wells has gone on to other things. Well, not really. According to Steven, there’s no such thing as the afterlife, and if there is, I guarantee he’s really, really pissed off right now. I can just picture him at St. Peter’s Gates, saying, “Fuck me! This shit actually exists?”
We’ll all miss Steven so much, and I’ll say more about that later. For now, I’m wishing the best to all family and friends who are hurting. That’s what Steven really cared about in the end, though he was very passionately annoyed by knitting, as well.
Steven was often told he was anti-American. I loved his passion, and he cracked us the fuck up every day. This video was part of a series he did for PW called Steven Wells’ America, in which he took sacred cows and basically grilled them for dinner. Below, he reflects on the religiosity of an America that voted for Bush a second time (Steven was a staunch atheist). Toward the end he smiles a bit, so you know that he knows he’s being ridiculous. And that’s part of what was so cute about Steven — he’d rant, but then laugh at himself.
liz | 10:41 AM | BIG PHARMA, Funny or Offensive?, GLBT, Song of the Day, alternative treatments, anxiety, celebrities, children, cute fix, depression, hospitals / hospitalization, media, meds, military, philadelphia, phobias, politics, random, religion, suicide, violence
The incomparable author of If You’re Going Through Hell Keep Going is feeling bad these days. Here’s something she posted yesterday:
I am just tired. Tired of feeling ill from my meds 24/7. Tired of being too sick to work. Tired of not having any money and applying for food stamps and subsidized housing.
Tired in the fact the one trip to the city I took since 07 cause I didn’t have the money to go= I get comped two tickets for “Next to Normal”, and it triggers every trigger I have in the universe. I haven’t been the same since i saw the play.
Other than underwear, I have not bought any new clothes since 07. I have not gone anywhere, unless you count Princeton and New Brunswick. I don’t.
Living in the burbs where it’s all families and young marrieds commuting into the city- it sucks, I should be in a city- any city somewhere. Not here. Please not here.
All I ever wanted from the time I graduated from college was to be a wife and mother. The ex said he wanted children, after we married I found out he didn’t. Hence the annullment. I would have never married him if he had told the truth.
All I have at this point of my life, are broken dreams. I don’t have any dreams now.
I spend my days popping pills to sleep 18 -20 hours a day so I can be as close to death as I can without actually being dead. I have a blog which got some awards but no one visits. All I know how to do is write. And I wonder if I can every really do that.
All I know, I just want to be somewhere else before my birthday. That’s it. I just don’t know how to get there.
The cat will be fine. AK or Peter will take care of her. I am not fine. I need a dream, or a dirt nap.
Now, team, this is your assignment: Go to Susan’s blog and leave her a comforting comment. We have all been where she is now, and it’s not a good place to be. And the idea that someone else could care for kitty Holly? Ridiculous. No one loves Holly or understands her like Susan.
My life would be so much less meaningful without Susan. She has supported me and encouraged me in dark times. She has been an admirer and friend. And yes, she’s a kick-ass writer. We love you, Susan!
You might have heard that David Carradine hanged himself in Thailand. Very sad. But I can’t help being haunted by these words in the MSNBC obit:
… his body was found by a hotel maid at 10 a.m. Thursday morning
Can you imagine the trauma this woman suffered, seeing a man who’d used the curtain cord to string himself up in a gruesome fashion? She’ll never get that out of her head, especially since he’s an international celebrity. What do you say to your family, your children, when you get home. “Today was hard …” She’ll never be the same.
I think about that a lot when I’m suicidal: Who would find me? How would they live with that? There’s no one I would want to do that to.
David Carradine found dead in Thailand hotel
liz | 11:02 AM | suicide