RSS

Tag Archives: suicide

Awareness Awareness

images

There is a walk, run, dance, bracelet, and color to raise awareness for just about any and everything. Diseases, syndromes, and situations have their own ribbons, websites and events. “Awareness” is the word. Though to be excruciatingly precise it’s not the best word to use. There are very few of us who are not “aware” of cancer, domestic violence, suicide, autoimmune diseases, etc. A more apt word would probably be “Attention”. The goal of these public relations campaigns is to draw attention to the subject matter. Often it is the case that where there is attention paid money follows. And that is good.

What all this attention has created of course is a culture of extroversion that might not be reflective of the culture at large. People who perhaps feel inclined to experience their illness, hardship or loss in relative privacy can feel pressured to come out. There is almost a forced gaiety surrounding some illnesses. Female reproductive cancers are assigned a color and a cloak of sisterhood that can feel demanding to an introvert. Of course even forced gaiety is better than the quiet shame of yesteryear. With the pink feather boas comes an abundance of information and support.

It’s not clear if any awareness has an impact on the individual. Do people seek detection and treatment at a significantly higher rate now? Does any of that result in longer healthier lives? I don’t know. When a newsreader has a screening on national television does it change the disease statistics? Certainly when a colonoscopy is broadcast it makes an impact on the national discussion. And that is good. Does being pressured (by producers) to have a mammogram on air change anything? Are there any women who need to be told what a mammogram is? Does anyone still discuss breast cancer in hushed tones? And when that broadcasted mammogram results in a woman’s worst fear, does it help or hurt? (For the record; has there ever been a man being tested for anything on air?) That the newsreader’s life has most likely been prolonged is a wonderful thing. But does it have a significant impact on the people who witness it?

Eradicating shame and fear is always a worthwhile pursuit. There are many diseases, particularly those of the mind, which could use some bracelet wearing awareness. Expanding our understanding of the personal challenges around us increases our humanity. However part of that understanding should be an appreciation that not everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame, let alone for their colon. And not everyone wants to wear pink and belong to a disease sorority. Extroversion (or attention/awareness) is no more laudable than introversion. Being ill, or surviving a loved one’s suicide or any other personal horror is just that: personal. In a world of walkathons and editorial confessions, shouting may feel like the only means to support or care. Somewhere between the shame and secrecy of the past and the exhibitionism of the present is a place for everyone.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Cultural Critique, Well-Being

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mom and Pop Cop

Chief_Wiggum_Arresting_Bart

Nobody wants to (or can) police his or her child. From the moment they’re born children discover how to manipulate the world around them. The first thing a human discovers is that crying often results in having one’s belly filled. As children get older they (hopefully) learn more sophisticated means to get what they want. From a very young age they determine which parent is good for which needs. They also learn what information to hide to avoid unwanted repercussions. It is a very useful and normal developmental process. However it takes a crafty and confident parent to oversee such goings on. Children should be allowed their privacy and some secrets. It is only when there are signs of harm to self or others that all bets are off.

Hiding dangerous behavior is normal but not acceptable. Kids wrestling with eating disorders will go to great lengths to hide the effects and the behavior. Rarely will a kid come home and announce; “Guess what new drug I tried today?!” The same is true for proclamations of; “I totally humiliated a kid in gym today!” No, as we discussed above, kids are pretty savvy in getting what they want. And what most of them want is to not get in trouble. There’s no kid in the world (save a diagnosed sociopath) who does not know that being mean is bad. But kids are human and adults in training and as such are very susceptible to temptation. That is why they will drink (at all or too much), engage in dangerous stunts, sniff household products, develop food issues, etc. The world can feel out of control and very big to a child. Engaging in myopic behaviors is a way to gain control and shrink one’s world. Bullying is one harmful way to do just that. Bullying, unlike other alarming behaviors is not about self-harm. Bullying is a means of controlling one’s world. The bully lords over a created contained reality. There are leaders, followers and victims; and the players often change roles with lightning speed. There is no way that all parents can know what their children are doing at all times. Even parents glued to the side of their child cannot know what is going on inside their little heart and soul. No teacher or school administrator can know what is going on with every child at every moment. The first step is simply to accept this.

However once an adult does know what is going on it is the adult’s problem. Quite simply preventing a child from harming him or herself or others is one of the reasons parents (or guardians) were invented. By now we’ve all heard stories of parents of bullies or bullied who knew what was happening and did not take draconian measures. No doubt they intervened in some manner, but they did not stop it. The most glaring examples are those that involve cyber bullying. To not confiscate devices and disable accounts is tantamount to doing nothing. A Florida sheriff agrees, in theory, with this premise. Sheriff Judd did a little arresting. He grew so outraged that the parents of two bullies did not confiscate devices but instead insisted that their children’s accounts had been hacked, that he arrested them; the children that is. And that’s where Sheriff Judd and I would disagree. I’m not sure anyone in this very tragic case (the bullied killed herself) should be arrested. But if anyone should be legally held accountable it should be the adults who knew of the behavior and tried to cover it up. It’s a bit blithe to declare that “kids will be kids,” but there is some serious truth to that adage. It is not an excuse it is an explanation. Children do really stupid things, it’s how they learn and grow. It is also why they are assigned adults.

There is something terribly chilling about the long arm of the law stepping in for lax parenting. Maybe there is an explanation as to why these girls were allowed to be typing vitriolic Facebook posts taking credit for their (7th grade) classmate’s suicide. It’s difficult to imagine what it would be but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t exist. The sheriff was not interested in any explanation (understandably.) His primary concern was the of the children’s lack of remorse and their potential ability to continue victimizing. He rushed into arresting the (12 and 14 year-old) girls before completing the investigation. It is a very unfortunate means to an end. What these kids need is some empathy training based counseling and aggressive parenting. Neither of which is going to happen while locked up. Couldn’t a more sophisticated penal system order the parents to confiscate all devices and accounts and attend parenting classes? A judge could threaten parents with incarceration if they did not comply. Arresting children is rarely a solution for anything. They’ve been charged with stalking which would suggest that the parents of bullied children everywhere should/could be filing restraining orders and accusing bullies of stalking. I don’t know if anyone wants that to happen, but it’s good to have options. There is a mighty fine line to not cross when it comes to blaming parents for their children’s behavior. But there are also very clear-cut cases of parents being complicit in their children’s wrongdoing. We are sophisticated enough to discern between the two. Kids will be kids and hopefully parents will be adults.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 16, 2013 in Childhood, Well-Being

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Chance For Happy Days

arnolds

Adolescence is not fun or pretty. There is nothing “How lovely to be a woman” or “I am 17 going on 18” about it. It’s a wretched maelstrom of physical and emotional change. Everything feels chaotic and unending and there’s not enough life experience to offer a glimmer of hope. This is why teen suicide is so very tragic. No one would deny a teen’s real and crushing psychic pain. But we would probably challenge them in their sense of permanency. ‘Wait’ we collectively say; ‘it gets better.’ And we mean it, and it’s likely to be true. For some time the news of teen suicides has be packaged with pleas for adolescent mental health care. Articles and news desk pundits tell us how to identify a child in crisis and where to get help. But today’s news that 55% of suicidal teenagers had received mental health care is jarring. Yes, there are still 45% of suicidal teenagers not receiving care. But the majority of teens in crisis are getting help. Therapy is tricky business of course. Finding the right therapist for a patient can be challenging. Finding gifted and accessible adolescent specialists can be tough. Prescribing just the right medication to someone who isn’t growing and changing daily is difficult. Monitoring the taking of medication is…well if you’ve ever met (or been) a teen, you know how crafty they can be.

Whether we think that ending one’s life is a personal choice is irrelevant when it comes to adolescents. We may believe that grown people who have exhausted themselves and every option to alleviate their physical and/or psychic pain are entitled to just stop, but that’s not applicable to discussions of children. Teenagers are by definition closer to children on the maturity spectrum. They simply don’t have the life experience or fully developed brain to make such a decision. There are teens who have serious physical and/or mental health issues. There are teens who’ve witnessed or been victims of horrific acts. If they were middle-aged people still suffering intensely this would be a different conversation. But they are teenagers. They are not allowed to drink, vote, live alone or rent a car. They are simply incapable of making a rational terminal decision.

So what can be done? We know that boys are more ‘successful’ at attempts than girls. We also know they tend to be more violent overall. Unfortunately it does not go without saying that there should never be weapons in a home that includes children. There also should be no access (no guns or other weapons in cars, workplace, sheds, trailers, etc.) No weapons ever. There needs to be talking lots of talking. Most teens are sullen and uncommunicative at times, but adults should not be. Your teen may be bigger and stronger than you, but you are still the adult. If your child is more sullen than not, and/or has lost interest in activities (did he/she quit a team or a friend?) tell the school’s administration and teachers. The more people watching out the better. If the child is utterly noncompliant (won’t come out of room, won’t go to school, etc.) it’s time to involve more people and perhaps inpatient care.

It’s hard to think of an adult-ish appearing person with a full vocabulary as a child. But they are. For some purposes a teenager is more akin to a newborn than an adult. They are on the brink of learning an entirely new way of engaging with the world. They are often frightened of leaving the security of the home and entering the world on their own. We, (i.e., all adults in a teens life) must think back to how we scrutinized every movement and development in their newborn lives. We must revert back to the parenting that intervenes when something seems off. It’s frightening to challenge anyone let alone your child who makes your heart ache. It’s scary to exert authority over someone who might be larger then yourself. It’s terrifying to think that you might say the wrong thing; the thing that will actually drive him/her over the edge or out of your reach. Silence never saved anyone.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 9, 2013 in Childhood, Well-Being

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

What Would Bill W. Do?

Not too long ago, there was some media buzz about the efficacy of addiction therapy.  This is not a popular subject.  If one works in the rehabilitation (rehab) industry one is understandably resistant to any metric devices that might prove the methodology ambiguous.  Addiction is a very resistant phenomenon.  There are occasions, when a society of thinking people can agree, that lacking a 100% guarantee, erring on the side of empathy and care is optimal.  For some addicts, the simple act of stopping something in motion, is enough to change their lives.  Rehabilitation can be that barricade.

Addiction to alcohol, drugs or eating disorders has never seemed quiet or private to me.  I recognize someone in the throes of the phenomenon (whether they are using or not.)  People with a Faustian relationship with food are very obvious to me, and I completely understand the entertainment value of metaphorically playing with one’s food.  Of course, when it spills into passive suicidal tendencies, all bets are off.  It is torture to be in the life of an addict.  Addicts can be very unpredictable and by definition, not reliable (their primary relationship is to their addiction.)  Empathy can wear thin after multiple incidents.  It is helpful to remember that people use drugs, food, and alcohol to the point of personal destruction, NOT because the substances or processes are so tempting, but because without them, life would be unbearable.  In other words; drugs, eating disorders and alcohol work.  They numb and distract from an inner pain that for some people is devastatingly crippling.

Posh rehab centers are part of the American lexicon.  Most of us can rattle off one or two without thought (Hazelden, Betty Ford.)  Colleges and universities now address eating disorders via education campaigns, marketing (‘all you can eat’ dining have been replaced with ‘all you care to eat’ dining) staff training and additional counseling staff.  Certainly excessive/binge drinking (which can be an indication of alcoholism) has been the bane of higher education for some time (drug abuse, because of its inherent illegality poses more of a conundrum.)  Employers contracting with treatment providers has become de rigueur.  Clearly, there is treatment available for some.

But what of the veterans?  Veterans are returning, and mercifully will continue to do so in even greater number now.  They will come back to what kind of treatments and where?  This week it was reported that 1 in 5 suicides is that of a veteran.  Now, I’d be the first to say that NOT screening people for mental illness before enlistment is absurd.  But regardless, we have a problem here.  I don’t mean to imply that veterans (or anyone) who commits suicide is an addict.  Not at all.  But there is overlap.  Suicide, most often, is not a well thought out end of life plan, but an act of someone who feels they have no options.  Addiction is also the result of feeling there are no feasible options.  Teaching people to recognize their pain for what it is, and providing them tools to pull themselves out of that pain, is effective.  Rehabilitation, at its best, does just that.

So what’s our plan?  If rehabilitation is accepted by the wealthy, the educated and corporate America, as viable treatment for addiction, shouldn’t it be available to all?

 

 



 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Cultural Critique, Well-Being

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,