Do any of us know: a poem about suicide

August 13, 2014 by

Do any of us know
how much we mean to others
how much we give
and the hole left by our leaving
when life seems a problem
unsolvable, unbearable, and too heavy
and death an answer
and touch so far away
and so inconsequential
and thoughts come unbidden
and loud and scary
“it will be better if you are gone….
there is no other way…
people will be better off without you…
it will never get better….”
where do we turn
with whom do we share our terror
our sadness, our guilt
our desperation
the worst mistake
is to accept the verdict
without appeal
it is not done
it is not done
tell someone
always tell someone
terror and fear and
desperation deserve no secrecy
someone wants to know
so much has power within us
that has none shared
lift the veil and open the sun
you have courage untapped
And this too will pass
perhaps the war will never be won
is it for any of us
but it is no reason to concede  the battle
your life is  precious and needed
you are a treasure that cant be replaced
know that death
solves no problems
and let us help you find better life

Life in hard times

August 12, 2014 by

Know how things are going.  Too often we dont.  We are shocked when things go poorly.  It seems like it comes out of nowhere.  And we miss so many good things.  Sometimes I wonder where I was.

Think about momentum.  Going better…..Going worse.  Bad things are less likely in going better.  Good things are less likely in going worse.  Do things on purpose that impact the momentum of your life.  A thousand things too.  None of them by themselves tip the scale but the accumulated weight of them may tip the scales of your life.  Keep a pulse on the direction of life.  What can you do differently that makes a difference.

The more effectively you deal with getting worse the less often you will have to deal with worse.  Have a plan.  Make sure it is a plan you can do, want to do, that you can tell if it works, and that you can continue to make better as times go on.  One friend told me the secret to not getting run over by a car was to learn not to stand in front of them.  See the cars coming.

Dont do life alone.  Support and be supported.  Talking to yourself is okay but as the only thing on the menu it isnt much.  Life is best shared.  It is not a solo act.  Other people have a way of seeing when you cant see, hearing when you dont listen, caring when you dont care and cheering even when you think you dont deserve it.

Do things that matter.  Live life like it means something, like it about something.  We need something to complete us.  Without purpose we paddle furiously but never get anywhere.

Learn.  From everything.  Define events by what you take a way from them.  Learn things that matter and make a difference  Even the worst of times offers a chance to learn something. 

Wait.  When you cant do anything dont.  Just wait.  Make sure when you can you do.  Some things are just survival. 

Remember feelings are not facts.  They are just hypotheses that you must check out.  They are meant to be listened to but listening need not mean obeying.  Pay attention but know paying attention means listening to more than one thing.

Life is an infinite procession of invitations:  to be angry, to be sad, to be glad, to be scared, to be proud, to care, to not care.  An invitation means you decide.  What invitations do you decide to take???  What invitations do you normally miss?

Noise.  The noise around you does not have to be the song you sing.

Count.  You count.  Nothing takes away from that.  You can ignore it.  You can act like it is not true.  You can hope it is not true.  You can try to make it not true.  But it is true.  There is a difference between the package and those things that wrap it up.  You are more than ribbon.

Life sometimes must be hard.  Sometimes it must seem too much.  Sometimes it must seem pointless.  Otherwise how would we ever know when it is not?

Lessons from the Murphy Bill

August 12, 2014 by


from the archives. Maybe worth consider as we get closer to the new Murphy Bill. Maybe he wont make the same mistakes. Will we??

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

Some observations from the Murphy Bill experience:

  1. You cannot little tent major mental health reform.  An approach that dismisses those who disagree with you as lacking integrity,  good sense, and commitment will alienate more people than it connects with.  You may get the satisfaction of the people who agree with you anyway telling you how smart you are but little else.    Major initiatives are coalitions of people who coalesce around an interest or purpose but may maintain their differences on a whole host of other issues.
  2. Related to the above.  The most important predictor of success is not how many people passionately agree with you, but how many people passionately disagree with you.
  3. Respect the contributions of everyone you hope to connect with or you will not stay connected long.
  4. Trust is everything.  Value transparency.  I have had many people tell me that when they slipped AOT in the…

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On suicide

August 12, 2014 by

I have had 2 family members in the last years complete suicide.  Robin Williams death last night brought back things I had hoped had long ago passed.  One died as much from a system that made it worse as anything else.  In the end the system that would help her left her with no one in her corner, with no one who thought caring was enough.  In the other instance there was no system.  He had no insurance, no access.  One night he laid down in front of a train.

I think back to another friend who had made 13 attempts in a 2 year period.  I remember talking with her about her fear and desperation, what it meant to be her.  She talked about insanity.  She didnt talk about disease or trauma.  I doubt she really cared.  She talked about life as daily punishment and trying to hold on to the fragile hope that maybe it could be more.  She lived.  She has not made an attempt in 5 years.  But she remembers where she came from each and everyday.

I think back to a friend who shot himself in the head and survived.  I remember talking with him about his courage and not giving up the day I begged him to once more put the gun down.  He also lived.  Treatment made a difference.

30000 people or more die from suicide in this country each year.  If you live in a small town or rural area the rate of suicide in your town is probably twice that of a larger town.  There is more help there.

Somebody tries every minute.  Every 16 minutes someone is successful.  Robin Williams death shows it knows no boundaries, no safe places, no untouchable people.  Families all over this country know what is like to wonder how their loved ones came to feel that death was a better answer to life than life.

We have a mental health system with many, many dedicated people that often doesnt work very well.  People dont fall between the cracks.  They live there.  In Tennessee we havent even been able to make the decision to make sure that everyone has access to services.  People in authority still talk about the question of should everyone have insurance like it is a real question. 
Our national government has been debating mental health reform for the first time in years.  But people who want really bad to win and who are determined to have their way have left that, at least for now, as no way.  One lady wrote she favored “no compromise”.  I think about all the people I have known who have known no compromise in their lives.  Those that survived it and those that didnt.

In the time I have been writing 2 more people have died.  They might not get the recognition that Robin Williams gets or the public mourning.  But find some time today to also say a prayer for them.

In 8 more minutes someone else will die.  Hug somebody hard today.  And give the message that help can help.  Tell those you love when life is at its worst that it can get better.

Robin Williams said, “The worst thing in life is not being alone but being with people who make you feel alone….”  No one has to be alone.


August 12, 2014 by

Suicide Project-“Why” by Rascal Flatts:

On the narrow edge of suicide

August 12, 2014 by


From the archives

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

From the archives.

I have a close friend who almost died.

She used to describe for me what a day was like when you were suicidal. She said it was like a prison, but she could never leave. Everywhere she went it came too. It was like a thousand voices telling you to do something you really didn’t want to do and when you looked to see who was talking to you all the voices were yours. She didn’t live just in depression or discouragement. She lived in terror.

She told me about how many times in a day she would think about slitting her throat or walking in front of a car. The desperation in her voice come through clear with every word. She felt like death was the best answer for her—but she didn’t want it to be. In the end I think the only thing stronger than…

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A prison of one

August 12, 2014 by


From the archives

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

from the archives

A woman came recently to one of our support groups for the first time. She had never been to one before.

More than anything she talked about isolation. In the midst of family and “friends” she had never- not once- opened up and talked about the issues she was struggling with. She talked about the fight to get out of bed. She talked about the pain of being alone in a crowd. She talked about the pool at her apartments and how she watched people go and wished she could go to. And she talked about how often she wanted to die.

She was alive because she thought her death might inconvenience other people. She talked about trying to find a month when no one had a birthday or there wasnt a holiday or a special event. She didnt want to make something good into something bad…

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The most terrible thing….

August 11, 2014 by

“The most terrible thing is not to be all alone but to be with people who make you feel all alone.”
Robin Williams

Robin Williams committed suicide today.  Some people seem larger than life and larger than unhappiness and larger than desperation.  He always seemed that way to me.  And you think if he wasnt safe who is.  But nothing in life makes you immune from life.  And pain, desperation, loneliness and a million other bad things are part of what it means to be alive.

But they are only part. 

The path to believing that life can only be solved by death is one of terror and fear.  It is fed by the slowly growing silence of those who see us every day.  The cure for suicide is ambivalence and the source of ambivalence is the million ways we say to each other each day in the worst of moments:  “This is not all there is….Better things are coming….You are not alone….. Depression lies…It lies… It lies…. Tomorrow really is another day.”  It is in knowing we are all vulnerable but that we can survive our vulnerability. 

I am reminded of the guy who told me he felt like he was in a hole getting deeper with no way out and then one day he decided that maybe he was the hole.  People arent holes.

Desperation is at its most dangerous at its most quiet.  Robin Williams lived in dangerous space  Many of us have and do.  Make sure someone knows they can call.  Make sure someone knows they can talk.  Make sure someone knows you will listen.  And make sure that they know in the worst of times when they can no longer sure they can hold hope or that it even exists that you are holding it for them,

Patrick Kennedy and the Alternatives Conference

August 11, 2014 by

Just listening to the hullabaloo about Patrick Kennedy speaking at the Alternatives Conference you would think it would be like Nami inviting Robert Whitaker to speak….Wait a minute they already did.

Maybe I am wrong but it seems that so many of the people who were so in favor of Robert Whitaker speaking to people many of whom fundamentally disagreed with him are the same people most outraged by someone speaking to them they feel like they fundamentally disagree with.  To me it seems at best inconsistent and at worst hypocritical, but I am frequently wrong and I hope wrong here.

There is a place that you can reasonably expect to hear only from people who share the same faith that you do.  It is called church.

The 81st letter: It seems worth coming back to

August 11, 2014 by

The 80th letter: The lazy lie

August 11, 2014 by

JD Schramm: Break the silence for suicide attempt survivors

August 7, 2014 by

JD Schramm: Break the silence for suicide attempt survivors #TED :

Against cannibalism

August 6, 2014 by

In a time that needs effective mental health advocacy like no other time many people are afraid to speak–  mainly because, not what they think a legislator might say but what they think other advocates might say about them or their position.  I know I have been called stupid, a liar and been told I am obviously in favor of things I am in no way in favor of.  My integrity has been assaulted by people who dont know me, who dont really understand what I believe or why I believe it.  I have met people who absolutely demand that others listen to their opinions, who think anyone who asks the same of them is bigoted and narrow minded.  I have met people possessed of a righteousness and holiness that would put any preacher to shame.  I have met people who believe the only rational options are “my way or the highway” and more than willing to drive the truck that ends the argument.

There is a cannibalism in mental health advocacy.  And there is a large question rather or not any species that routinely eats its own can in the long run profit and survive.  When each argument spawns a new denomination the real question is whether the church is growing or dying.  When we pose such threat to each other how much threat do we really pose to the status quo that all of us would like to change?

When you can only work with those who share your true beliefs do not in the end you consign you and your position to irrelevancy.  Some of the people who speak the loudest about the dangers of coercive options in the mental health system are the most coercive when speaking with other people who dont share their ideas with the same passion or to the same degree they do.  I dont know how many times I heard others talk their fear of openly speaking their minds.  This is particularly true of any kind of online interactions.  If you read some of the interactions the savagery that some people display towards those who are supposedly on the same side as them is positively unnerving.

Cannibalism is not an acceptable advocacy technique….ever.  It is partly out of my own personal experience of cannibalism that I am trying to start a discussion group about mental health advocacy.  I have no great plans for the group or wonderful agenda.  My only hope is to provide a safe place to talk and a safe place to listen for people who share a common concern and commitment to finding a way to make a mental health system that is often not very good a better option and tool for so many suffering people lost in a distress that seems without end or measure.

If you are possibly interested in such a group let me know more.

The voices of ordinary people

August 4, 2014 by

Much of what passes for mental health advocacy seems like sectarian violence…people who can only talk to the people who already agree with them because they believe that anyone who disagrees with them lacks integrity and good sense.

I am interested in starting a mental health advocacy discussion group based on a couple of simple premises.

1. People who disagree with each other can talk with each other, listen to each other, support each other, educate each other, connect with each other and inspire each other. Life can and should be about more than recreating the bickering, finger-pointing, recriminations and terminal inability to accomplish anything of value that plagues our national government. The things that connect us can be treated as important and valuable as those that separate us.

2. Groups and movements sometimes get in the way. They easily become part of the problem and not the solution. Even really good people come easily to believe that anything that promotes their group, their organization, their particular position is a step towards solving the problems or issues in front of them. So many discussions seem to be little more than fancy self promotion.

My idea is really simple. It may make no difference at all. It may only make a difference to those participating in it. Perhaps it will help in a small way to improve the system. I have no idea how to predict.

Right now about 16-18 people have expressed a desire to take part in this group. For me my goals are three-fold:

1. Learn as much as I can from the knowledge, experience and wisdom of others in the group and to freely share anything I know.

2. To support and be supported by others struggling with many of the same issues, questions, and problems important to me.

3. To talk about issues in such a way as to build ideas for answers that will actually make a difference and make the mental health system something that helps people struggling to find better life.

Everyone is welcome as an ordinary person who deserves to be heard. No one has more status, more importance, or more to offer. If the group does nothing else but be a positive to those in it I will be well pleased. Regardless it seems like an effort well worth making.

The Ark and the Titanic

August 3, 2014 by

When considering the effectiveness of peer support or the claims of the medical model to explain everything remember the Ark was built by amateurs and the Titanic was built by professionals.  Just sayin…..


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