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           October  2013

Written & Edited By  :  Al & Linda Vigil

Pg 1 :  Grieving Notes - Al V.
Pg 2 :  Handling The Holidays   
Pg 4 :  Karen : An 11-year-old
Pg 6 :  Is Your Child At Risk    
Pg 7 :  Suicide of a Brother    
Pg 8 :  Suicide of a Sister
Pg 11 :  Adopted Child
Pg 12 : About ABQ SOS
Pg 12 : WEB Site Addresses



By Al Vigil

You really aren’t going crazy; it just seems that way.

After the loss of someone you love to suicide —there can be so many things going on in our lives, all at the same time, that our minds and hearts can jump around.   

“I don’t know what to think about next,”  is often heard at Survivors of Suicide meetings. Of course, especially at the early stages of grief work, the mind really is a jumble.
Your thoughts and emotions are changing from moment to moment. You really aren’t going crazy ...it just seems that way.

It’s been 30 years since our daughter Mia, at the age of 18, jumped to her death from the San Diego-Coronado Bay bridge.  Of course life still brings things about which we again have to ask ourselves, what should I think about.  Usually our lives are not about only one event going on at once.
So we have to try to learn to how handle and control our thoughts in a healthy and —somewhat sane manner.

We try to practice the five letter word   —‘focus.’ We work to focus on one and only one, particular aspect of our thoughts. Focus on the one subject that is the most important and the most meaningful at the time, and maybe thus achieve the best solution possible to that particular event.

Focusing works. We have been doing it for years —before we even gave it our particular definition. At the beginning of our grief after Mia’s death, we focused on getting through a day at a time. Later it became getting through the Mia Memorial Service. After that it changed to the dedication of the Torrey Pine Tree in her name. Sometime after that, it was the focus of relationships with other members in our family, and later even friends.

When things come up that seem like another mountain, we remind ourselves of that five letter word. We approach all situations, we work to discuss all of the aspects, the positive ones and the negative ones, and we try to focus on what the main and special reasons for our involvement to it are or will be.

That helps clear our attitude, our hearts and our minds, as we approach the positive solution to that situation. Deliberate focus helps us to see things better, perhaps even to solve those problems.

Can you imagine the impossibility of the woodsman if he was told to clear the forest and he was unable to focus on one tree at a time. Grief work, and yes it is work, can sometimes be handled the same way.

As survivors of suicide loss, we can focus so that we can change, develop or enhance the life that is still around us —even after the loss of someone you love to suicide.

Handling the Holidays
By Therese Rando, Ph.D.

     One of the most painful issues for you to deal with is how to survive the holidays after the death of the person you love.  Because holidays are supposed to be family times, and because of the extraordinary, although unrealistic, expectation that you should feel close to everyone, this time of year can underscore the absence of your deceased loved one more than any other time.  The important thing to remember is that you and your family do have options about how to cope with the holidays.  These are a few things to keep in mind:

Oct-Dec      As much as you’d like to skip from October to January 2nd, this is impossible.  Therefore, it will be wise for you to take control of the situation by facing it squarely and planning for what you do and do not want to do to get through this time. Realize that the anticipation of pain at the holidays is always worse than the actual day.

      Recognize that what you decide for this year can be changed next year; you can move to something new or back to the old way.  Decide what is right for, you and your family now.  Don’t worry about all the other holidays to come in years ahead.  You will be at different places in your mourning and in your life then. Recognize, also, that your distress about the holidays is normal. It doesn’t make you a bad person.  Countless other bereaved people have felt, and do feel, as you do right now.

     Ask yourself and your loved ones to decide what is important for you to make your holidays meaningful and bearable.  Then, through compromise and negotiation, see if everyone can get a little of what he or she wants and needs give-and-take is important here.

     Do something symbolic.  Think about including rituals that can appropriately symbolize your memory of your loved one.  For example, a candle burning at Thanksgiving dinner, the hanging of a special Christmas ornament, or the planting of a tree on New Years Day may help you to mark the continued abstract presence of your deceased loved one while still celebrating the holiday with those you love who still survive.  Remembering your deceased loved one in this fashion can make an important statement to yourself and others. Recognize that the holidays are filled with unrealistic expectations for intimacy, closeness, relaxation, and joy for all people —not just for the bereaved.  Try not to buy into this for yourself —you already have enough to contend with.

     Be aware of the pressures, demands, depression, increased alcohol intake, and fatigue that comes with holidays. As a bereaved person you may feel these more than others.  Take time out to take care for yourself during this time.  You will need it even more.

     Re-evaluate family traditions.  Ask yourself and your surviving loved ones whether you need to carry them on this year or whether you should begin to develop some new ones. Perhaps you can alter your traditions slightly so that you can still have them to a certain extent but don’t have to highlight your loved one’s absence more than it already is.  For example, you may want to have Thanksgiving dinner at your children’s house instead of yours.  Or you might open presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning.

     Recognize that your loved one’s absence will cause pain no matter what you do.  This is only natural and right.  After all, you are mourning because you love and miss this person.  Try to mix this with your love for those you still have and your positive memories of the past.  “Bittersweet” is a good word to describe this. You can feel the sweetness of the holiday but also the bitterness of your loved one’s absence. Together they can give you a full, rich feeling, marked with love for those present and those gone whom you will never forget.

     Plan ahead for your shopping tasks. Make a list ahead of time. Then, if you have a good day, capitalize on it and do the shopping you can. Try to consolidate the stores you want to visit. If you have trouble with shopping right now, do your shopping by catalog or mail order, or ask friends to help you out.

     Tears and sadness do not have to ruin the entire holiday for you or for others.  In yourself have the cry you need and you will be surprised that you can go on again until the next time you need to release the tears.  Facing family holidays in your loved ones absence are normal mourning experiences and part of the healing process.  Let your tears and sadness come and go throughout the whole day if necessary.  The tears and emotions you do not express will be the ones which are destructive to you.

      Ask for what you want or need from others during the holidays. One bereaved mother said that, as appropriate, she wanted to hear Xmas Candlesher dead daughter mentioned. She knew everyone was thinking of her daughter and wanted them to share their thoughts. You may find yourself reminiscing about other holidays you shared with your deceased loved one.  This is normal.  Let the memories come.  Talk about them. This is part of mourning and doesn’t stop just because it is a holiday. In fact, the holidays usually intensify it.

     Having some fun at the holidays does not mean you don’t miss your loved one.  It is not a betrayal. You must give yourself permission to have fun when you can, just like you must give yourself permission to mourn when you have the need. You may have to let your limits be known to concerned others who are determined not to let you be sad or alone.  Let others know what you need and how they can best help you.  Don’t be forced into doing things you don’t want to do or don’t feel up to solely to keep others happy. Determine what and how much you need, and then inform others.

Discuss holiday tasks and responsibilities that must be attended to —for example, preparing the meals, doing the shopping, decorating the house.  Consider whether they should be continued, reassigned, shared, or eliminated.

     Break down your goals into small, manageable pieces that you can accomplish one at a time. Don’t overwhelm or over-commit yourself.  The holidays are stressful times for everyone, not just the bereaved, so you will need to take it slow and easy.  Look at your plans and ask what they indicate.  Are you doing what you want or are you placating others?  Are you isolating yourself from support or are you tapping into your resources?  Are you doing things that are meaningful or are you just doing things?

     Do something for someone else.  Although you may feel deprived because of the loss of your loved one, reaching out to another can bring you some measure of fulfillment.  For example, give a donation in your loved one’s name. Invite a guest to share your festivities.  Give food to a needy family for Thanksgiving dinner.

        — Karen  :  An 11-year-old   —
           Re-Printed from - Albuquerque  Journal - By Joline Gutierrez-Kruger :  Fri, Aug 23, 2013 :

Jennifer Hodge needs to tell you about her daughter, her quiet, sweet, beautiful, girl —the way she smiled, the way she did cartwheels across the living room floor, the way she seemed so much wiser, so much older, than her 11 years.

The way she died.  The way she waited for the family to go shopping at Wal-Mart, scratched out a note in pencil on loose-leaf paper, wrapped an orange extension cord around her neck in the garage of her family’s home in Albuquerque and jumped.

She left the note on the garage floor next to a card she made for her mom.  “I am sorry,” she wrote. “I love you and all of my family but I Karen Hodgedo not like this world. I’m sorry. Happy Mother’s Day.”  

And, yes, it was Mother’s Day, though Hodge doesn’t think her daughter Karen Ward chose that day in particular. It was, she thinks, the first time Karen had the chance.

“How many times did she say, ‘I’m going to do this’ and something stopped her at the last minute?”  Hodge wonders.

“This time, there was nothing to stop her.”

 No one to stop her.

But how do you stop something so unthinkable when you don’t know it’s there?  How do you fight the monster when it doesn’t show itself? How do you imagine a world so dark and hopeless that an 11-year-old takes herself out of it?

“I didn’t see that she was having problems,”  Hodge said.  “I didn’t see she was falling apart.”
Hodge’s longtime boyfriend, Randy Caudell, a kindergarten teacher, psychology student and a father figure to Karen, didn’t see it, either.  “This is my line of study,” he said.  “And no, nothing. The signs weren’t there, except maybe in hindsight.”

Which makes Karen’s death all the more painful. And frightening. It’s scary what a smile can hide.  Karen, her mother said, was a silly girl, brilliant and beautiful. She learned to read by age 2.  She was a fifth-grader at Hodgin Elementary, where she earned good grades – so good she was tested for the gifted program. She was a gymnast. She had blond hair and blue eyes like her idol, Taylor Swift, to whom she devoted an Instagram account.

She had friends. She loved her family. She was in good health. She had dreams. “She wanted to be a doctor,” her mother said. “A cardiac surgeon to fix her grandfather’s heart.”

Any changes in mood were barely perceptible and attributed to the onset of puberty.  Karen Ward was beautiful, smart and kind and gave no indication she would take her life at age 11.  

Her mother, Jennifer Hodge, says parents need to be nosier and society needs to speak openly about suicide. Weeks after Karen’s death, Hodge opened her daughter’s Kindle and was shocked to find a secret her daughter kept in an account on Instagram  —a photo-sharing website.

The account was listed under the name  IM-DYING-INSIDE123  and contained troubling images of despair, bullying, pain and Karen’s inner thigh and belly covered with thin, bloody slashes from a razor blade.   “I am a cutter,” Karen wrote in her profile.  “I’m ugly, fat and depressed. My life will end someday.”

It was not the Karen her mother knew. Hodge had never seen the self-mutilation, the blades, the anguish, the bleakness, the bullying. But Karen’s 191 Instagram followers and the 178 people she followed had.

Here was a horrifying subculture of joyless, broken youths who instead of commiserating seemed to coerce each other to use that one ounce of power they had over their lives, and that was to end them.

But what had brought Karen to such a desperate place? Hodge said she suspects Karen was bullied after reading a note from a school chum that read, in part:  “Karen,  …you may have had enemies and haters they will regret what they did to you.”

But Karen never said a word about bullies, Hodge said.  “I thought she was happy,” she said.

So this is also what Hodge needs to tell you: that parents must be aware that their child’s despair may come without the signs mental health experts warn about, silently, secretly blooming in the bowels of toxic social media sites, spreading like cancer.

“What I would say to parents is, be nosy,” Hodge said.  “Even if you think you are already monitoring their cellphones or their Kindles or their Facebooks or Instagrams or whatever, know that it may not be enough. Keep looking.”

Hodge and Caudell also advocate for teaching children early on the skills of resiliency and problem solving.  “We teach our kids math and science but not emotional intelligence,” Caudell said.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for those ages 15 to 24 and the sixth-leading cause for those ages 5 to 14, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

“We are seeing more and more adolescent and younger suicides,” said Al Vigil, who with wife, Linda, run Survivors of Suicide, a volunteer support group in Albuquerque founded in 1978.  “This is not an anomaly. Just in the last year, we started working with four families who have lost children who were 11 and 12.”

One of those families is Hodge’s.

Talking to others whose loved ones committed suicide has helped, Hodge said. And now, she thinks, it is time to talk to you, time to urge you to hear those young ones who may silently be screaming.  

“We need to talk about this to erase the stigma of suicide, to find solutions,”  Hodge said.  “We need our kids to feel they can talk about this, too.”

Child at Risk

Every week there is news of yet another teen who has tragically committed suicide.
Bullying is usually cited as the culprit, —experts say the problem is much more complicated.
Here are some reasons behind teen suicide, and if your child is at risk, and what you can do about it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death in kids ages 15 to 24.  Suicide attempts are on the rise, from 6.3 percent in 2009 to 7.8 percent in 2011.  Although it Child helpseems like teen suicide is happening frequently, experts say it’s quite rare that they actually see it in their practices.

According to Dr. Jonathan Singer, professor of social work at Temple University and an expert for the National Association of Social Workers, because kids die less frequently than older adults, there’s actually a small percentage that die from suicide.  What’s more, the ratio of attempted suicides to completed suicides in teens is about 100 to 200:1 versus 4:1 in older adults, according to the American Association of Suicidology.

A recent study in the Journal of Adolescent Health showed that kids who are bullied are three to five times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or make an attempt than those who are not.
Social media intensifies bullying too, following kids wherever they are and showcasing information for everyone to see. “It brings up significant feelings of rejection, low self-esteem, and hopelessness,” said Dr. E. Waterman, a clinical psychologist at Morningside Recovery Center in Newport Beach, Calif.
And to be rejected or perceive rejection can be very painful, “especially for teenagers whose biggest need in their lives is peer acceptance,” she said.  Experts agree, however, that bullying isn’t always the only cause.
“Almost no kids die simply because they were bullied,” said Singer, who explained that for 90 percent of kids who die by suicide, there was an emotional, behavioral or cognitive problem.  “There are almost always other factors.”  Though, there are very rare situations when kids commit suicide for no apparent reason, and many times, it’s in response to a humiliating event.
“Somebody who is bullied and has a lot of coping skills, support in their family and in other friends, is probably more resilient than somebody who doesn’t perceive others as being supportive or has low self-esteem, identity issues, or depressed mood,” Waterman said.

Kids who have a mental illness, are extremely hopeless, lack parental support or have conflict with their parents are more likely to make a suicide attempt.  A recent trauma or death, especially if someone they knew committed suicide,  extreme impulsivity or substance abuse are also risk factors. And studies show that when there’s a gun in the home, children are significantly more likely to commit suicide.

Before Its Too lateKNOW  THE  SIGNS
If you think your teen is at risk, here are some of the warning signs to look for:
     •   Talking about death or has expressed a wish to die.
     •    Written about death or drawn images related to death.
     •   Changes in mood.
     •    Impulsivity and risk-taking.  

If you’re worried about your teen -
“You want to offer a lot of empathy instead of reacting with fear and anger,” Waterman said.
“What for you as an adult,  is not a big deal, might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for your kid,” Singer said.  So ask questions, show that you understand, and find out what you can do to help your kid through it.
Opening the lines of communication is crucial.  “The more experiences that they have of their parents responding in loving, supportive, protective ways, the more likely it is that they’ll go to them when things are really bad,” Singer said.
“Let them know you’re going to stick with them every minute until things get better,” said Waterman, who added that if you can’t be with your kid all the time, make sure someone else is there to offer support and keep them safe.
You might check your kid’s Facebook page, but if you demand 24/7 access to his or her online life, then your child won’t feel comfortable confiding in you because there is nothing to share, Singer said.
If your kid is being bullied, find out what the school’s policy is on bullying and make sure it’s an environment where your kid will be supported.
If your kid is extremely hopeless and has an intent to die, a plan, or access to weapons,—seek treatment immediately.        




"You  would say the word suicide and they would act like it's something contagious," said Amanda Chaput, who lost her brother to suicide.

These women call themselves a family born from tragedy. Each has lost someone they love to suicide.

"Gage was 21-years-old," said Mary Butler, who lost her stepson. "The year before he died he had been up here visiting us... We thought he was doing well."

Yellow ribbon brotherAfter Gage killed himself, his stepmom discovered there weren't many resources in the Northeast Kingdom to help her deal with his death. Searching for an outlet, Butler channeled her grief into action, organizing Newport's first  Awareness Walk through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  254 registered walkers showed up.

"We felt like we had a lot of people who were in this club that no one wants to belong to," Butler said.

The walk is how she met the Chaputs and Barretts. Together these three families formed an informal support group, sharing their stories in an effort to heal.

"To be honest, without these people I don't think there would be any healing," Amanda said.

"It's hard work to keep your head above water," Betty Barrett said.

Barrett's son, Michael, took his life nine years ago. He was 34. "I was angry at God for a long time because he didn't give me enough time with my son," Barrett said.

"I wish I could do more." said Chris Barrett, Michael's stepfather.

Betty turned suicidal herself and her husband, Chris, didn't know how to help. "There was a battle in my head going on because I didn't understand and I was trying. I'd fight to understand, fight to be supportive," he said.

The Barretts are not alone. Vermont's suicide rate surpasses the national average by about 36 percent. Since 2001, more than 1,000 Vermonters have taken their own lives. One in five Vermont middle and high school kids say they've contemplated suicide. Now, these survivors, turned-advocates are sticking together to strip the stigma from suicide.

"Mental illness or depression is not different than a physical illness. Even though the world often says there's a stigma, there's nothing to be embarrassed about," Butler said.

The Vermont Department of Mental Health is also addressing the issue, calling suicide one of the state's most pressing public health concerns.

"It's the second leading cause of youths' deaths. That's really startling when you think of it," said Charlie Biss of the Vermont Department of Mental Health.

The state partnered with a Brattleboro group called the Center for Health and Learning. Through a federal grant they developed the UMatter campaign, an interactive suicide prevention platform geared toward suicidal youth and those trying to help. The state says outreach tools like these combined with the advocacy work of survivors will make a difference.

"That is what's going to change our state view and the public awareness of suicide. That's what's going to help," Biss said.

For these Newport parents, focusing on September’s  "Out of the Darkness Walk" helps them cope.

"With Michael's anniversary being September 30, usually in August I start subconsciously thinking about it," Betty Barrett said. "So, I was down last year. This year I'm highly pumped. I am just so excited about the walk."

"Everybody has a good sense of humor and it helps keep things light and if somebody's down, people are getting hugs," Chris Barrett said.

Loved ones taking small steps, hoping to make major strides toward suicide prevention.

Suicide of A Sister :  Breaking the Silence

Arianne Brown remembers a time when she thought suicide was something that only touched other people.  That was before Nov. 5, 2006, when Brown's older sister, Megan, went down into her parent's basement and committed suicide.

Yellow ribbon sister"It's been almost seven years, but it still feels fresh," she said. "You think, 'She knew we loved her and that we cared. Why wasn't that enough? … I know if my sister knew what it was like for us after, she wouldn't have done it."

Suicide impacts Utah families every year and the problem is growing worse. In 2005, the Utah Department of Health reported 350 suicides. Preliminary data from 2012 places that number at 540 for Utah residents and the trend has continued through the first quarter of 2013.

The number comes as no surprise to Utah's Chief Medical Examiner Todd Grey. "How many days do I have without a suicide? I'm thinking, maybe, zero most days?" Grey said. "I've had days where I've had five deaths downstairs and all of them were suicides."

But that doesn't mean everyone is talking about it.

"That's one of those dirty little secrets that doesn't get waved around, and every family goes through it as if they're alone," Grey said. "It's really sad. If there was a running tally in the paper you could bet by March people would say, 'Why aren't we doing something about this? And by November there would be an awful lot of people screaming that this is unacceptable."

He's the first to say it's a complex issue, made worse by one of its biggest obstacles: Stigma. "There's certainly a reluctance, at best, to discuss this issue publicly and widely," Grey said. "One of the very common responses I'll get from families is saying, 'You can't call this a suicide.'"

It's a stigma that becomes part of the memory of the suicide victim and with the family members left behind.

"And when you have that kind of reluctance to look at the issue, to admit that it exists, how are you ever going to try and solve this problem?" Grey said.

Brown said it was difficult to explain that her sister had taken her own life and that the news was often received with more judgment, and less compassion.

"Sometimes, too, you feel self-conscious. What did we do wrong? What's wrong with our family?"

Her sister Megan Einfeldt was quiet, but loyal, a beautiful, educated and talented woman who was a devoted mother to her three children. She was 26 years old when she moved to her parent's home in Utah with her three young children, Brown said. Her family had noticed a change in Einfeldt before she moved home, but felt something was really wrong when they saw her. She had lost weight and was rarely speaking. She seemed to lack confidence and was almost childish. She questioned herself as a mother and sister.

"You're kind of like, 'OK, snap out of it,'" Brown recalled. You're trying to build them up: 'You are beautiful, you are good, you are all these things.' And they don't believe you."  It never occurred to her that her sister might take her own life. She said it seemed like a worst-case scenario and that she didn't let herself go there.

"You know they're sad, different, that something is going on, but you think they're going to snap out of it," Brown said.  The night before the suicide, Brown talked to Einfeldt on the phone and her sister apologized for things Brown didn't even remember happening. Her brother said he had a similar conversation.

"We didn't put things together that she was trying to make things right, but she didn't need to," Brown said. "She was as perfect as they came."

Greg Hudnall, associate superintendent with Provo School District and executive director of the Utah County Hope Task Force, remembers the phone call he received from police asking him to identify the body of a student believed to have committed suicide. He went and made the identification. Then came the vomiting and then the sobbing. He started to investigate suicide in Utah and decided to organize a lunch to discuss suicide prevention. He called therapists, law enforcement, medical professionals, community leaders.

"I sent out 40 invitations and 42 people showed up," Hudnall recalled. "They were as concerned as I was, because everyone was being effected by suicide.”  “It takes a lot of work and a lot of effort and you have to have individuals who become Suicide Preventionpassionate about it," Hudnall said. "We have stayed true to it because we feel so strongly about it. We've made a commitment that we can't lose one more child and we have to do what we can to prevent that."

Between 1999 and 2005, Hudnall said the Provo School District averaged one to two suicides each year. Since 2005, there has not been a single suicide within the school system.

"We still have kids that threaten and still have kids that attempt and we get them immediate help and get them to the hospital," Hudnall said, noting there have been nine hospitalizations during the 2012-2013 school year and 15 to 20 suicide threats.  "We take every suicide threat seriously. We act immediately, contact the family and work with Intermountain Health Care to get them help and support."

He thinks the key to their success so far is the teamwork and partnership among those on the task force and in the community. But it's also the refusal to forget about the constant threat of suicide and commitment to keeping it as a focus. Hudnall does training for Boy Scout leaders, has conducted training at LDS Churches and for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.

"On the one hand, I go to sleep at night worrying about that next child," Hudnall said. "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't get a phone call from someone begging for help. But I'm also so amazed at what we've accomplished."

Providing information and support on suicide prevention to community coalitions is the goal of Kimberly Myers, who is the program manager of Prevention by Design for the National Alliance on Mental Illness — Utah. She said 90 percent of those who commit suicide have an underlying mental illness and that the data on suicide demanded action.

She is charged with going to local communities and educating them about resources in the area and helping them expand their prevention efforts. She usually starts by showing them the state data on suicide and how that is mirrored in their own communities.

"I would say that when communities sit down and look at the data, they're really surprised," Myers said. "And, for the most part, people aren't aware of how big of an issue it is." She, like Hudnall, talked about the importance of groups and individuals uniting and working together to tackle the issue. But there is also a responsibility for individuals to educate themselves to know how to help.

"I think that one of the most important things that people need to know and can take with them is that if you are worried about someone or if someone is showing warning signs of suicide, it's OK to talk to them about it," Myers said. “It's OK to ask.”

"There's a lot of fear about asking if someone is thinking of taking their own lives, because you don't want to plant ideas, but research shows that talking about it is good and saves lives. We have good crisis lines. Don't be afraid to ask. There's no research that says you're going to hurt anyone by asking."

She stressed the importance of be willing to talk with someone struggling with thoughts of suicide without judgment and with empathy.

"That's a really dark place to be and it's usually not because they want their life to be over, but because they want pain to end," Myers said. Usually, people who have suicidal thoughts and suicidal feelings, they’re not permanent. "They feel permanent  ...but suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

"We think that if we're strong, we can deal with it on our own, but strong people ask for help when they need help."   He said treatment for thoughts of suicide is effective if help is sought and that suicidal thoughts should be treated the same way any other ailment would be treated. Each individual should take care of their own mental health the way they would their physical health.

"There’s a sense that, 'Well this couldn’t happen to me or my family' and the reality is, we all probably know someone who has either been suicidal or has attempted suicide," Thomas said.   "It’s a delicate topic because we feel strongly about ... the sanctity of life and we want people to pull themselves up by their boot straps, but you wouldn't say that if their blood sugar was low and they had diabetes."

From Dear AbbyDear Abby

Adopted Kids Are Products of Love

While cleaning out my attic yesterday, I found a letter that my daughter wrote to  you a few years ago when she was 13. She was responding to a poem that had appeared in your column, “Legacy of an Adopted Child.” She was going through a very trying time ans was being bullied because she was adopted and looked at very different from her parents. My daughter is grown now and is a delightful, successful young woman. That poem helped her greatly.

- Author Unknown -
Once there were two women,
Who never knew each other.
One you do not remember,
The other you call mother.
Two different lives,
Shaped to make yours one.
One became your guiding star,
The other became your sun.
The first gave you life,
and the second taught you how to live it.
The first gave you a need for love,
and the second was there to give it.
One gave you a nationality,
and the other gave you a name.
One gave you the seed of talent,
and the other gave you aim.
One gave you emotions,
and the other calmed you fears.
One saw your first sweet smile,
The other dried your tears.
One gave you up —
It was all that she could do,
The other prayed for a child,
And God led her straight to you.
And now you ask me,
Through your tears,
The age old question.
Heredity or environment ?
Which are you the product of ?
Neither,  my darling —neither.
Just two different kinds of love.

About Albuquerque’s Survivors of Suicide :

Founded in 1978 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Survivors of Suicide, is a volunteer support group that serves the needs of people suffering the loss of someone they love by suicide.

With Four Meetings Every Month, that are free and open to all, SOS hosts presentations and discussions relevant to survivors of suicide throughout the Albuquerque area.

SOS meetings are attended by both recent and long-time survivors, all of whom benefit from the sharing of experiences and approaches to the loss through suicide. In addition to the survivors, the meetings are also frequently attended by mental health professionals who offer their various perspectives on unexpected death, grief and bereavement, guilt, responsibility, and mourning.

Survivors of Suicide Inc., is a nonprofit, nonsectarian, self-help support group system for those who have lost a relative or friend through suicide. The Survivors of Suicide volunteers are dedicated to providing information and support to assist in the grieving and healing process.

It is a support group of people who help one another through the stages of grieving. We share feelings of guilt, anger frustration, emptiness, loneliness and disillusionment. For some, it is hard to identify or even to understand their feelings.
Through others' expression of what they are feeling, we begin to have a better awareness of what is going on inside us.

"Know That You Are Not Alone - Sharing Can Be Healing"

Visit the Albuquerque SOS Web Site for Albuquerque, NM, Meeting Information at


InternetVisit the Newsletter Web Site for the Entire Archive of past Issues at


Or e-mail comments to

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          Written & Edited By  :  Al & Linda Vigil

Pg 1 :  Grieving Notes - Linda V.
Pg 2 :  Suicide Prevention: 'Checking In'
Pg 4 :  That’s Men
Pg 6 :  Bullying for 17 Year Old
Pg 7 :  Lithium Reduces Suicide Risk
Pg 8 :  Prevention Signs on Bridge
Pg 9 :  Veteran’s Struggle With Suicide
Pg 11 : Apple’s “Suri”  -A Search Assistant
Pg 12 : Site Addresses  

                     “GRIEVING NOTES”
                                 By Linda Vigil
                             "Families In Grief"mia tree

Our lives as a family were Forever Changed, on January 5, 1984, when our 18year old daughter Mia, chose to end her life by suicide.
Our family received professional counseling and attended Survivors of Suicide
meetings that met once a month.
My oldest daughter also attended counseling and Survivors of Suicide meeting for about 6 months.  Our youngest daughter attended for approximately one year.  Through that 1st year SOS seemed to become a mission for Al and I.  Mia gave us the strength and courage to begin to help others.  We also became a voice for suicidal prevention and support to the many people left behind after the loss of someone they love to suicide.
Our oldest daughter began running from her pain. She stopped going to meetings and counseling —sharing with us that it was just to painful!  She soon started trying to mask her pain?  And our youngest daughter continued to be very angry at Mia.
Al and I continued to seek help for our family, and so we could be healthy enough to help others.  In reflection, I wanted us all to be safe, close, and enjoy life as a family.
What I didn’t realize is that we could not go back to where we were, before this terrible tragedy struck our family, extended family and our friends. More than not being able to go back, I soon found out that I could not control Al’s grief, or each of my daughter’s grief recovery!  I wanted so badly to take their pain away, even when my pain was devastating!  What I soon found out was that every family member has their own way and time with their grief recovery!
Sometimes people carry their anger and grief into relationships, blaming others for their pain, or not feeling that they deserve happiness, so they try to destroy with self destruction.  Some mask their pain and neglect getting help.  Some have to hit bottom with their addictions, drinking, drugs, and abusive relationships —anything to cover their pain.  Believe me when I say that the pain is so deep, you wonder how you can feel such pain and still be alive!
I have seen people after years of unending pain, reach out for help because what they used to try to cover the pain, no longer worked for them.  Finally realizing they had to Face, to Feel, and to Deal, with their pain, so they could be healthy, happy, and make good choices for their lives!
In Survivors of Suicide meetings I have come to realize that no matter how much you love someone, you are not responsible for their happiness, their well being, or their choices.  You may want those things for your loved one, but it is their journey, and they are responsible for their happiness and well being!
Al and I chose to be happy —and part of our happiness is helping grieving people, letting them know that happiness is a choice —and when they walk through the door of their first SOS meeting, they are telling Al and I, somehow, somewhere, they want to find meaning in their lives, in the midst of their tragedy and the deepest pain they will ever feel.
I describe the tragedy of suicide for the people left behind, as the worst roller-coaster ride they will ever be on.  But the hardest thing they have ever done is walk through our doors!  One of the most positive things we have ever done is to choose to work with such positive people and observe how very hard they work at putting meaning back into their lives!   

                            "Know That You Are Not Alone - Sharing Can Be Healing"

Suicide Prevention:  'Checking In' Can Cut Deaths in Half
                             By SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES

A preliminary study of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reveals that follow-up calls to those who threaten suicide can cut deaths in half.  ABCNews has been exploring not only what motivates people to kill themselves, but highlights those who survive suicide attempts, witness them or work to prevent them. Suicide is never painless. It not only robs family members of loved ones, but affects all of American society when otherwise productive individuals see no worth to their lives.

A federal study shows, 8.3 million Americans —3.7 percent of all adults —have serious thoughts of suicide each year; 2.3 million make a plan and 1.1 million attempt suicide, resulting in an estimated 37,000 suicide deaths each year.  In some ways, that's the good news, according to John Draper, director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Most who consider suicide do not follow through. "People with the highest probability of killing themselves have tried before," he said. "The data shows about 7 percent who try to kill themselves will later die by suicide."

"The important thing is that 93 percent go on to live their lives," he said. "It's saying that even though this is a high-risk scenario, the overwhelming majority are doing OK, or better, and find ways to turn it around. How do they do that?"

Acts as simple as "checking in" with someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression can be an effective deterrent to suicide, according to Draper. Early research shows that follow-up calls to those who have contacted the suicide lifeline can cut deaths in half.  "First and foremost is the sense of meaningful connection in life," Draper said. "Someone or somebody who makes them feel they are cared about."

Suicide hotline boxes on the structures proved to be a failure, so an advocacy group pushed Washington state to erect barriers last year, and now the number of suicides has dropped. "We are very aware of how hotlines can prevent suicide and emotional distress, but there is a limitation on every intervention," said Draper. "You can't apply the same medical procedure for every problem."

According to Dr. Joseph Shrand, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who treats at-risk youth at the CASTLE program in Boston, barriers cannot address all the causes of suicide. In an interview this week, he said barriers are a "metaphor."  "It is really quite stunning to try to put up a structure to prevent suicide," he said. "The real barriers to people not getting help has to do with the entire stigma of mental illness — treating people as if they have a deviation and must pull themselves up by the bootstraps instead of a tie around their neck."

His novel approach, is based on a simple theory that, "It all starts with respect."  The underlying sense of trust and caring are at the root of other interventions that show promise, according to John Draper.

From a biological standpoint, suicidal tendencies can be seen as a coping mechanism to external influences, or domains  —family, social groups, environmental influences, as well as a person's own biology  —over which people have no control.  "It is always remarkable that people are not doing worse," Shrand said.

Preliminary research from a  team at Columbia University and NY State's Psychiatric Institute shows that follow-up calls with consenting Lifeline callers at suicide risk can help keep them safe. More than half of the persons at risk who were contacted after suicide threats reported that the calls "kept them from killing themselves," according to the study.

"Our results highlight the role that crisis centers can play to enhance the continuity of care for individuals at risk of suicide," said author Madelyn S. Gould, deputy director of the Research Training Program in Child Psychiatry at Columbia University. "Crisis centers are well-positioned to provide this service to their own callers and patients discharged from emergency rooms," she said.

Draper added that post cards, phone calls and personal visits to those who are suffering from depression can help. "Check in with individuals who are trying to hurt themselves and ask, 'How are you doing? I'm still thinking of you.' "  He cited research in New Zealand that shows such communications from hospital emergency departments reduced suicide attempts "by 50 percent."

Beyond showing those who are troubled that they are valued, Draper said providing counseling and guidance is critical to recovery —"teaching them skills to manage their thoughts and feelings." Availability of lethal weapons can also make the difference between life and death. Substance abuse also "clouds" a person's ability to make good decisions.  "A person feels they are never going to recoup their sense of dignity, never hold their head up, or a loss in life that they will never recover from and imagine an unending future that is hopeless," he said.

"There is a difference between a person who is in crisis or has a precipitating event as opposed to people who are chronically depressed," said Draper. "A lot of people exposed to trauma or a history of mental illness or have not learned how to manage their emotions." Those who are bipolar or have schizophrenia are often predisposed to suicidal thoughts. In those cases, cognitive behavioral therapy in conjunction with medication have shown to be effective.

"We can get them to a place where they see hope," said Draper. "It can be the difference between rolling a boulder or kicking a pebble up the hill."

The Following Are Some Signs That Might Indicate the Risk of a Suicide Attempt

✓   Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves;
✓   Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun;
✓   Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live;
✓   Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain;
✓   Talking about being a burden to others;
✓   Increasing their use of alcohol or drugs;
✓   Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly;
✓   Sleeping too little or too much;
✓   Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
✓   Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
✓   Displaying extreme mood swings.        

That’s Men: Suicide a Sad and Lonely Act
- That Can Have Many Explanations or None at All -  
                                  By Padraig O'Morain   -  June, 2013

I have been hearing about more and more cases of suicide lately. Some are related to the recession, some to more traditional triggers such as depression and some have come out of the blue.

One of the conclusions I have come to is that it is impossible to make any statement about suicide that holds true for all cases. For instance, some people seem to withdraw before they take their lives but others have been fully engaged with friends and family before the dreadful event.

It seems to me that the only statements we can make about suicide begin with the word  “sometimes.”

HERE IS MY ‘Sometimes’  LIST:

Sometimes suicide is impulsive. We can be fairly sure of this from US research showing that sometimes the decision and the act of suicide are separated by minutes, not hours.  This, of course, is exacerbated by the gun culture in the US, but here in Ireland we sometimes hear of people taking their lives apparently impulsively.  This, it seems to me, is one of the most frightening aspects of suicide.

Sometimes people who die by suicide are ambivalent about taking their lives. Why else do people (thankfully) ring up helplines before they act? And why have many people interrupted in the act gone on to live full lives?

Sometimes suicide is completely inexplicable. We hear of these suicides all the time: people who have everything going for them, who seem to be in fine form and who go and take their lives to the utter dismay of all around them. I suspect a concealed depression or despair in many of these cases but I cannot know.

Sometimes suicide is motivated by shame. This has been suggested (by a psychiatrist who treated army veterans) as an explanation for the shocking levels of suicide among US veterans. But I suspect this is also at work in some of the suicides that arose from our own economic catastrophe.

Sometimes suicide seems the only way out. What seems to happen here is that a person gradually rejects every solution to their problems except suicide. The conclusion that suicide is the only way out is irrational. This is obvious to outsiders but not to the person who is trapped in this blinkered thinking.

Sometimes people who take their own lives also have a longing for life. This also is why many people heading towards suicide will, nonetheless, engage with counsellors, helplines and relatives or friends. It is also why acknowledging people’s suicidal intentions, by explicitly asking them if they are suicidal, can be very helpful and effective.

Sometimes people just can’t face what the future holds. I suspect this is often behind the suicide of older people afflicted by bereavement, loneliness or pain.

Sometimes suicide is meticulously planned. Many people think about suicide but it is those who actively plan their suicide who are at huge risk. That is why it is a good idea to ask a person who is talking about suicide if they have made plans. If the answer is ‘Yes’, the situation is very serious.

Sometimes suicide spreads like a virus. We have all heard of clusters of suicide that were never reported in the media. It is truly frightening that knowledge of the suicide of others whom one has never met, in some cases, can lead to the taking of one’s own life.

Sometimes  the culture increases the likelihood of suicide. Is it a coincidence that suicide has risen as concepts such as solidarity and community have been pushed back by rampant individualism, for example, I’m alright Jack, I’ve got my iPod here to connect with and I don’t need you? What does the traveler culture, especially the taboo on admitting to and discussing mental health problems, contribute to the high rate of suicide in that culture?

What is the use of all this? Perhaps if we are to get to grips with suicide, we need to acknowledge that this sad and lonely act can have many explanations.

And,  sometimes  no explanation at all.

Bulling For 17-year-old :  Even After Death

            Teen, 17, Who Committed Suicide Tormented by Bully Even after Death
                                                 By Sasha Goldstein / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS   June 26, 2013

Gregory Spring suffered from Tourette syndrome, Callosum Dysgenesis, a developmental disorder, and constant bullying —even on his obituary condolence page.

Even death couldn't spare Gregory Spring a bully's torment.

Driven to take his own life by years of constant teasing, the 17-year-old's obituary condolence page was hijacked by a mean-spirited peer who couldn't resist getting in one last jab.

"HAHAHAHAHAHA HE DIED!!!!!   I HOPE HE IS IN HELLLLLLL,"  the sick student wrote.

For Spring's mother, Keri, it was the ultimate insult after six years of incessant bullying that ended in such terrible tragedy. The New York teen suffered from Tourette syndrome, a developmental disorder that affected how he processed information and emotions.

This mean-spirited comment reminds Greg's mother, Keri, that her son was constantly tormented.

"He was just a very compassionate, very loving, very emotional person that just wanted to be accepted," Keri told a TV reporter.  "He was just distraught but never showed it to us," she added.

Though the bullying started in fourth grade, it reached its peak this year for the Allegany teen. Greg had recently broken up with his girlfriend and, worse still, was tormented by a new student who relentlessly teased Greg at the Allegany-Limestone School. That fraught schoolhouse relationship culminated in a fight that led to Greg's temporary suspension from the Western New York school.

Keri Spring wants schools to prevent future teen suicides by confronting bullying head-on. "There came an incident where Greg actually picked him up and said, 'Stop bullying, bullying isn't good. Bullying is only going to hurt people,'" Keri said.

Greg was just finishing his sophomore year of high school when he killed himself on June 17, 2013.Keri says she contacted the school several times about bullying, warning them that Greg's classmates were making life difficult for him.  The superintendent at Allegany-Limestone School said  'the untimely loss of this student's life may be attributed to a factor or factors altogether unrelated to bullying.'  The school has an anti-bullying policy, and in a statement, the school's superintendent said Greg had not been bullied.

"Based on information received from the police, the untimely loss of this student's life may be attributed to a factor or factors altogether unrelated to bullying," Superintendent Karen Geelan wrote.

But Keri disagrees.  The fact that someone so twisted would taunt Greg even in death is proof enough the teen was tormented.  She's hoping now she can advocate for stricter rules or legislation that would prevent such a suicide in the future.

"When a bully is brought to your attention, it need to be hit head-on and stopped immediately," Keri said.

/ Can Reduce Suicide Risk In People With Mood Disorders
               Edited from articles - June 2013 “Medical News Today” and “MedPage Today”

Mood disorders are a major cause of global disability -the two main types are unipolar, which is commonly known as clinical depression, and bipolar disorder, which can also be called manic depression.  Both conditions are severe and long-term and involve extreme mood swings.  Patients with bipolar disorder, however, also experience episodes of mania or hypomania.

Lithium can reduce suicide risk and help prevent deliberate self harm in people with mood disorders, according a new study in British Medical Journal.  "Lithium is the best established drug for the treatment of bipolar disorder and it is the only one whose primary indication is bipolar disorder," he said.  "So we need to find out exactly what it does and how it works.  This should be a target of new drug development."

The research showed that the drug appeared to lower the likelihood of death and suicide by over 60% compared with placebo.  The finding "reinforces lithium as an effective agent to reduce the risk of suicide in people with mood disorders," the scientists said.  Lithium has a specific effect in preventing suicide, but not self harm, in patients with major mood disorders, according to an updated systematic review and meta-analysis.

People affected by a mood disorder have a 30 times higher likelihood of suicide than the general population.  Mood stabilizing drugs, such as lithium, anticonvulsants or antipsychotics, used for the treatment of these conditions can help keep mood within normal limits.

However, experts have not known their role in suicide prevention, and therefore, researchers from the universities of Oxford, UK and Verona, Italy set out to examine whether lithium has a particular preventive effect for suicide and self harm in patients with unipolar and bipolar mood disorders.

Forty-eight randomized controlled trials consisting of 6,674 volunteers were examined.  The studies compared lithium with either placebo or active drugs in long-term treatment for mood disorders.  Results showed that lithium was more successful than placebo in lowering the number of suicides and deaths from any cause.

However, no clear benefits were found for lithium in preventing deliberate self harm compared with placebo.  The experts said:  "When lithium was compared with each active individual treatment, a statistically significant difference was found only with carbamazepine for deliberate self harm.  Overall, lithium tended to be generally better than the other active treatments, with small statistical variation between the results."

"This updated systematic review reinforces lithium as an effective agent to reduce the risk of suicide in people with mood disorders," explained the investigators.

The drug's anti-suicidal effects may be exerted by "reducing relapse of mood disorder," the authors said.  However, they pointed out "there is some evidence that lithium decreases aggression and possibly impulsivity, which might be another mechanism mediating the anti-suicidal effect."

Lithium has many side effects, the scientists pointed out. However, doctors "need to take a balanced view of the likely benefits and harm of lithium in the individual patient."   The authors concluded: "Understanding the mechanism by which lithium acts to decrease suicidal behavior could lead to a better understanding of the neurobiology of suicide."

The updated analysis offers some of the strongest evidence yet that lithium has a specific role in preventing suicides among patients with mood disorders.  However, he cautioned that "this is a fairly toxic drug, and it takes a good deal of compliance to stay on it."

Suicide Prevention Signs to Be Erected on Pasadena Bridge
                                                         By Joe Piasecki  

Two hundred thirty people have taken their lives at Seattle's Aurora Bridge, making it the second-deadliest "suicide bridge" in the United States, behind the Golden Gate Bridge. In 2006, a record nine people jumped to their deaths. Some studies, including those by the national Lifeline show that iconic bridges and other physical structures draw those with suicidal impulses, but if barriers are in place, many deaths can be prevented.

Pasadena, California officials plan to install signs, similar to the one on the left, along the Colorado Street Bridge in an effort to curb suicides.

Hoping to dissuade despondent people from leaping to their deaths from the Colorado Street Bridge, Pasadena officials plan to install signs that encourage those considering suicide to instead call for help.

City workers will install two 12-by-18-inch metal signs at each end of the century-old bridge sometime over the next two months, Assistant City Manager Steve Mermell said. The signs will include the number of a suicide prevention hotline.

“If we can save even one life with one reasonable step we can take, we should,” said Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison, one for four elected city leaders to endorse the signs during a public meeting last week.

More than 100 people have taken their lives by jumping from the Colorado Street Bridge, which at its highest point rises to 148.5 feet. Since 2006, 13 people have jumped to their deaths from the bridge, including two women this year, Pasadena Police Chief Philip Sanchez said. Officials considered hanging wire nets beneath the bridge as early as 1929. But it wasn’t until 1937 — when a distraught woman took her 3-year-old daughter with her in a deadly plunge over the side — that officials finally took action.

The girl survived without serious injury, her fall broken by tree branches in the Arroyo Seco below.

The bridge got a 7 1/2-foot woven-steel fence topped with barbed wire, which was replaced by a different barrier in the 1950s before the current wrought-iron fence went up during a seismic renovation 20 years ago.

Even today, city officials sought support from local preservationists before publicly discussing the suicide prevention signs.  Officials said the project was inspired by similar signs installed at emergency phones along the Golden Gate Bridge in 2005.  But signs alone are not enough to stop all who are bent on self-destruction, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Medical Director Paula Clayton said.

“It’s clearly better than nothing, but there’s no evidence that putting up signs changes the rate of suicide from a bridge. The only effective stoppage, really, is putting up barriers that people cannot get over,” she said.

Sanchez said the signs are “one piece of a very complex solution to addressing suicide” that must include expanded public mental health services.

Councilwoman Jacque Robinson, an initial advocate for the signs whose older sister died by suicide 16 years ago, said the city must balance preserving history and public safety.

“Hopefully, this is the beginning and not the end of that discussion,” Robinson said.
























VETERANS' STRUGGLE WITH SUICIDE    :   By Steven Hurst / Associated Press  / June 2013

Five years ago, Joe Miller, then an Army Ranger captain with three Iraq tours under his belt, sat inside his home near Fort Bragg holding a cocked Beretta 40mm, and prepared to kill himself.

He didn’t pull the trigger. So Miller’s name wasn’t added to the list of active-duty U.S. military men and women who have committed suicide.  That tally reached 350 last year, a record pace of nearly one a day.  That’s more than the 295 American troops who were killed in Afghanistan in the same year.

‘‘I didn’t see any hope for me at the time.  Everything kind of fell apart,’’ Miller said.  ‘‘Helplessness, worthlessness.  I had been having really serious panic attacks.  I had been hospitalized for a while.’’  He said he pulled back at the last minute when he recalled how he had battled the enemy in Iraq, and decided he would fight his own depression and post-traumatic stress.

The U.S. military and the Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledge the grave difficulties facing active-duty and former members of the armed services who have been caught up in the more-than decade-long American involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The system struggles to prevent suicides among troops and veterans because potential victims often don’t seek counseling given the stigma still associated by many with mental illnesses or the deeply personal nature —a failed romantic relationship, for example —of a problem that often precedes suicide.  Experts also cite illicit drug use, alcohol and financial woes.

The number of suicides is nearly double that of a decade ago when the United States was just a year into the Afghan war and hadn’t yet invaded Iraq.  While the pace is down slightly this year, it remains worryingly high.
The military says about 22 veterans kill themselves every day and a beefed up and more responsive VA could help.  But how to tackle the spiking suicide number among active-duty troops, which is tracking a similar growth in suicide numbers in the general population, remains in question.  The big increase in suicides among the baby boomer population especially  —linked by many to the recent recession  —actually began a decade before the 2008 financial meltdown.

Jason Hansman, of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, says the problem among military men and women stems from a support system that falls far short of the needs of a military and its veterans.  ‘‘One of the big problems now is that we are trying to play catch-up on 10-plus years of war.  People have gone back and forth seven, eight, nine times. And now you have a force that is stretched to its limit,’’ Hansman said.

‘‘It’s not just people who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan who are killing themselves.  About 50 percent are people who've never deployed before.  So there’s this broader issue going on in the military.  Are there even the health services in the military to take care of the troops who have deployed, who have no first-hand knowledge of war and trauma?’’

Miller had plenty of first-hand experience.  ‘‘I was really good at combat.  I was really good at that job. It was when I was in the States that I had a problem,’’ he said from his home in Old Town, Maine, where he and his second wife are working toward doctorates in history at the University of Maine.

He said symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome began building as did the effects of a number of concussions that caused mild traumatic brain injury. He had gone through elite Ranger training twice and became a jump-master in the 82nd Airborne. He ignored his symptoms because he didn’t want to leave combat and his job as a platoon leader. When he finally sought help from the military during his last rotation in the United States, he found what he said was a ‘‘19th century’’ attitude.

‘‘I remember a psychologist telling me ‘officers don’t get PTSD.’ It was a real affront.’’

A few days after he nearly killed himself on July 3, 2008, Miller mustered out of the service and resumed treatment for PTSD at a VA facility in Richmond, Virginia. The treatment was helpful but his feelings about the VA are ‘‘really mixed.  My take is they are a bunch of really well-meaning people.  I don’t know that it’s resourced for the tasks.’’ Also huge numbers of veterans —a tiny portion of the larger population —live in small towns, far from the cities where veteran services are available.

The American public, largely untouched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because an all-volunteer military did the fighting, is gradually becoming aware of the problems faced by active-duty troops and military veterans.  Now, some in Congress and President Barack Obama, are trying to improve on the country’s ability to take care of those who have signed up to fight.

None of that, however, undoes the anguish of such people as Ashley Whisler, whose brother Kyle killed himself Oct. 24, 2010.  He had been driving convoys of supplies to U.S. troops from Kuwait shortly after the American invasion in 2003.  He hanged himself in his home in Brandon, Florida, seven years after leaving the military.  He had returned to his family in Michigan then moved to Florida, married and had a daughter.  He and his wife separated before reconciling.  He worked in a tattoo parlor, tended bar and began showing increasing signs of PTSD. He hanged himself while his wife and daughter slept.

Ashley Whisler said her brother spoke of fears of being ambushed when he was driving to work in Florida.   After Kyle killed himself, her brother’s friends told her how Kyle repeatedly called to talk about the horrors he had witnessed in Iraq and of how he couldn’t sleep if there was a thunderstorm.

While she and her parents don’t directly blame the military or the VA for Kyle’s death, she does not let the department off the hook.

‘‘These guys are coming back from the war and just being thrown back into society without any kind of transition or any kind of support. It’s very difficult,’’ she said.

Joe Miller says his military training, in the end, kept him alive. ‘‘I had a gun in my hand. The second I cocked the weapon, I was back in Ranger mode and Ranger mode is not to kill yourself.’’

                APPLE’S  “SIRI”  SEARCH ASSISTANT   
                                                 By JOANNA STERN  June 2013

Apple Computer’s  “Siri”  can tell you where to find the nearest movie theater or Burger King, and, until recently, the iPhone voice assistant could inform you of the closest bridge to leap from.  Until a recent update, if you had told “Siri" I want to kill myself," the program would do a web search.  If you had told it,  "I want to jump off a bridge, "Siri”  would have returned a list of the closest bridges.  Now, Apple has directed the assistant to immediately return the phone number of the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

"If you are thinking about suicide, you may want to speak with someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline," the service says aloud in response to "I want to kill myself."  “Siri” then asks if you would like to call the number.  If you don't respond for a short period of time, it automatically returns a list of local suicide prevention centers.  Click on the results and it will show them to you on a map.

Apple declined to comment on the new update when reached by ABCNews, but the company started working hand in hand with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline a few months ago.

"They were extremely excited and interested in helping, and they were very thorough about best approaches,"  John Draper, director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network, told ABC News. "We talked with a number of our national advisers and they advised us on key words that could better identify if a person was suicidal so it could then offer the Lifeline number."

“Siri”  is Smarter : But is the Personal Assistant Smart Enough?

In May 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that suicide rates were up in the U.S from 1999 to 2010, the last year for which they have reported stats.  The organization found that suicide rates increased 28 percent among those 35 to 64 years old during that period.

Many first reported  “Siri” responses to death-related statements when the service first debuted in 2011.  Those responses have now been replaced with the Lifeline number, though if you say "remind me to kill myself tomorrow" it will still bring up a calendar prompt.

This update has been hailed by many as a tremendous and potentially life-saving improvement, especially when compared to how long it used to take “Siri” to provide help for suicidal iPhone users in need.

So it's clear why Apple is receiving praise for these changes.  The company has recognized that "there's something about technology that makes it easier to confess things we'd otherwise be afraid to say out loud," says S.E. Smith at XOJane.  We share intimate things with our smartphones we may never say to even our friends, so it's critical that our technology can step in and provide help the way a loved one would.  "Apple's decision to take [suicide prevention] head-on is a positive sign," Smith adds.  "We can only hope that future updates will include more extensive resources and services for users turning to their phones for help during the dark times of their souls."

“Siri”'s suicide-detection skills, however, are rather easy to circumnavigate.  As Smith reports, if you tell “Siri” "I don't want to live anymore," she still responds "Ok, then."  And as Bianca Bosker notes at The Huffington Post, you can still search for guns to buy —which some people would say is the way it should be.  We may want “Siri” to stop people from searching for ways to hurt themselves or others, says Bosker, but there's the underlying ethical question of whether we want her interfering with our right to access information or our ability to make personal decisions, like buying a gun legally to use for target practice, for example.

The issue then becomes one of free will and moral decision-making.  "When “Siri” provides suicide prevention numbers instead of bridge listings, the program's creators are making a value judgment on what is right," says Jason Bittel at Slate.  Are we really okay with “Siri” making moral decisions for us?”

Visit the Albuquerque SOS Web Site for Albuquerque, NM, meeting Information at



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School District Responds to Suicides: Officials Asking Parents to Watch for Signs of Depression

By Kathleen Moore

For three months, Schenectady High School officials kept quiet the suicide deaths of two students and attempted suicides by two others. But when a third killed herself and another tried but was saved —the school said silence had become more dangerous than publicity.

Just days after telling a reporter that any discussion of the recent suicides would lead to more children killing themselves, the school district suddenly reversed itself Tuesday and sent home a letter to parents, baring all.

In it, they implored parents to watch for signs of depression in their teenagers and seek help immediately if any symptoms of depression surfaced.

"We're trying to get the information out there to get these kids help," Superintendent Eric Ely said. "It's a scary proposition. You don't want to publicize these things because they can and do lead to copycats and clusters. In a school district neighboring my own in my past, I've seen eight successful suicides in one year. I've seen large clusters."


The HOLIDAYS - SUICIDE MYTH By: Dan Romer (Dec. 2008)

One of the more persistent myths about the end-of-year holidays is that suicides rise during this period. According to a recently completed analysis of news reporting during last year's holiday period, there was renewed repetition of this myth in the newspaper reporting. Despite the sizeable drop that occurred during the preceding holiday period in 2006, newspapers displayed a surge in both the number and proportion of stories that supported the myth.

The analysis today by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) shows that about half of the articles written during last year's holiday season that made a direct connection to the season perpetuated the myth. That represents a statistically significant increase from previous holiday period when less than 10 percent supported the myth.


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