Not long ago, Frank King wrote to share this video of his recent TEDx speech. “I’m a full-time public speaker and comedian, and now a mental health activist,” he said. “The TED Talk was my coming out of the closet, as it were, as a person who suffers from depression and thoughts of suicide. It was my first speech on those topics, but it won’t be my last.”
The former joke writer for Jay Leno and “The Tonight Show” has started speaking on behalf of his local chapter of NAMI. “I believe this is the song that I came here to sing,” he says.
Like many people who discover this growing community, he’d like to know what else he can do to help. It would be a shame if all these motivated people get no answer and move on to something more rewarding.
Perhaps one of the most important people to “come out” this year about suicidal thinking is Orlando Da Silva, the new head of the Ontario Bar Association. As soon as he took up the post in August, the trial lawyer started speaking openly to the media and others about his own attempt and recovery.
“I was told the Toronto Star report was seen by 2 million people,” he says.
On Friday, the bar association launched a project called Opening Remarks, which aims to put mental health front and center in the legal community. You can watch Orlando’s interview here, and he has started a series of interviews with other legal professionals. The first features the president of the Canadian Bar Association talking about her experience with depression.
This week’s post is by Linda Meyer, who recently founded a suicide attempt survivor support group as part of her New Jersey-based wellness center, The Support Place. She is a strong supporter of Wellness Recovery Action Plans, or WRAP plans, and with good reason. They are useful in bringing order to a sometimes chaotic experience, they create a network of supporters who can spring into action once certain signs of crisis are noticed, and they are an assertion of a person’s intelligence and control at a time when caregivers risk overlooking them:
There was a time in my mid-forties when my depression became so bad that the only way I thought I could feel better was to just die. I suppose it was a way of controlling the uncontrollable when every emotion and every physical pain left me feeling hopeless. It was very hard for someone like me, who had a lot of hope and was very much in control of my life. I was happily married, raising our seven children, and beginning to work outside the home.
This week’s post is a conversation with Tim Brown. We were introduced to him by Sally Spencer-Thomas of the Carson J. Spencer Foundation, who has always been thoughtful about pointing out people who speak openly about this. Tim, an entrepreneur and former CEO, spoke at a recent event that Sally organized _ the video is above _ and he’s now releasing a book about his experience:
In my book, I write about the difference between cracked glass and shattered glass and the way they leak at different rates. You think about professional jobs out there and everything tied up in it. There’s the false perception out there that if you’re a doctor, lawyer, etc., they’re not affected by things in their life. But we’re all human, we all have emotions, different perspectives depending on where we are in life’s journey. My goal with my story was never about my story, it was about their story, giving people the perspective that they’re not on an island. They’re worthwhile, worthy, not as hopeless or helpless as they might have thought. At least for me, as my depression got worse, I was isolating myself more. Everyone has a story, and we can all learn from one anther’s perspectives and life experiences.
This week’s post comes from the UK. Rhiannon Stuart is 28 and describes herself as follows: “Oldest child of four girls, happily engaged to the girl of my dreams. We have two cats & cannot wait until we have a family of our own.” Her past no longer defines her, she says. She’s come too far to go back:
I remember waking up, not knowing where I was. I saw a clock on the wall. It was about 12:30. That’s all I remember before I fell asleep once again. The next time I awoke, the clock said 2:45. I have no idea if only two hours had passed, or 14. I couldn’t move my hands, and something was irritating my nose. I still had no idea where I was. The next time I woke up, I couldn’t see the clock.
This week’s post is by Daryl Brown, who writes from South Africa. Early next year, he will begin his studies to become a psychologist, and he’s a member of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, which runs depression education programs in underprivileged schools across the country. “There is much ignorance about suicide and depression in South Africa, which has caused a perception that one should not talk openly about it,” he says.
Also, some news: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website in the U.S. should be launching a page today for attempt survivors and others who’ve been suicidal. Here’s Daryl:
I did not admit that I suffered from depression until after my suicide attempt. Depression seemed like an excuse other people made for getting attention or not being able to solve their own problems. I did not associate that with what I had. What I had was just a restless, uneasy, niggling sadness that I kept to myself. So last year, when that niggling sadness grew into a gaping black hole that swallowed my joy and enthusiasm and hope for the future, I quietly put my affairs in order and opted out of life. But life was not ready to let me go.
This week made a little history. A couple of weeks ago, we featured the #WayForward video featuring numerous “out” attempt survivors. This week, the Way Forward report itself emerged. It’s a groundbreaking document by a national attempt survivor task force, part of the Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, and it essentially says, “Hey, world, this is what we need.”
NPR did a good story on the report and its demands.
This week’s post is by Gareth Stubbs, who writes from Spain:
This week we hear from Danielle Hark, the founder of Broken Light Collective, the online photo gallery for people living with or affected by mental illness. She created the project at a time when she was going through severe depression, and as the site now explains, “it helped her get out of bed and begin to engage with the world again.” The site now has more than 10,000 followers.
Before moving on to this week’s guest post, here’s some good news: The Huffington Post has published our blog post from last week on its site as part of a special feature on suicide attempt survivors.
Separately, also worth a look are these video interviews with three pioneering attempt survivors who talked openly about their experience back in the day, not long ago, when no one dared to mention it.
Before regular contributor GC takes over today’s post, here’s an important development for anyone who’s had thoughts or actions of suicide.
The American Association of Suicidology, which launched this blog, has been around for decades and has divisions for research, clinicians, prevention, crisis centers and the bereaved. People with lived experience have had to slot themselves into one of these groups or float freely.
But last month at its national conference, the association agreed to create a special interest group for attempt survivors _ essentially giving us an organized voice there for the first time.