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.
We’re taking a break for August, since it’s holiday season. We leave you with this update from Australia, where Suicide Prevention Australia recently held a Lived Experience Symposium that brought together attempt survivors and loss survivors to create a national manifesto that will be available for public comment later this month. Until then, here’s more about it. And for more about Mic Eales, the artist featured in the video above, there’s this. And here’s his beautiful PhD thesis.
Five years ago, Suicide Prevention Australia published the kind of confidence-builder that the new #WayForward report demands of U.S. mental health organizations: A statement of support for attempt survivors and others who’ve been suicidal. The Australian statement is here.
Organizations in the U.S. and elsewhere, your turn.
This week’s post is by Sarah Gordon, a research fellow in psychological medicine in New Zealand. She also founded the International Association of Service User Academia. This is a speech she delivered at a memorial service for families bereaved by suicide:
Approximately six years ago, a 34-year old woman killed herself. But the paramedics managed to revive her. Waking up from a coma two days later and being assessed as having no long-term mental or physical injury as a result of the suicide attempt, the woman was discharged from the intensive care unit to a psychiatric unit. After two months with this service, the woman asked to be discharged. She felt that this request was quite reasonable: Her immediate acute mental illness symptoms had been addressed.
The psychiatrist refused to entertain any notion of discharge at this time, her reason being that the woman was not in relationship with anyone or anything. You see, she argued, being in relationship with people is absolutely fundamental to living well. So that is what the woman spent the remainder of her time with the unit, a further five months, doing: working on re-learning and practicing being in relationship with herself, her family, her friends and her community.
And what is she doing now? Actively engaging in her roles as a mother and wife, working, dancing, writing, holidaying and shopping _ something which I particularly enjoy.
This week’s post comes to you from prison.
I recently met Manny Bermudez in the visiting room of Great Meadow Correctional Facility in upstate New York, a few hours’ drive from New York City. It’s a stark place. Prisoners and visitors are separated by a low metal counter. Around us, inmates and family members handed little children back and forth while catching up on their lives. Outside, a massive white wall blocked the view of the nearby Adirondack Mountains.
Manny is slight, with glasses and dark hair cut so short that the scars on his scalp are visible. As we talked, he pulled back the long sleeves of his dark-green cotton shirt and showed off extensive tattoos.
A closer look showed the scars across his wrists.
Welcome to a new group of readers who found this blog after The Associated Press published a long story over the weekend on attempt survivors and the trend in speaking out. “We’re not that fragile,” one woman told the reporter. “We have to figure out how to talk about it, rather than avoiding it.”
The story has gone all over. It showed up on the sites of The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, and elsewhere. Responses so far have been wonderful and strong. “One myth that needs to be laid to rest: People do not attempt or commit suicide because they are cowards. They do it because they are hurting,” one woman commented on the AP’s Facebook page.
A note to the media: Interested in pursuing your own story on this, or including those with thoughts or actions of suicide when reporting on suicide? Let us know. We can talk about what is, as the AP story notes, a serious public health issue _ and we want to.
Welcome to our new look! We’re able to accept and moderate comments now, and they’re already coming in.
This week’s post is by a young Canadian named Alicia Raimundo, one of a very small number of people who regularly get on stage and speak openly about their experiences with attempted suicide and suicidal thinking. She’s just one of two people we know who’ve done TED-related talks about it. Hers is worth watching, and so is JD Schramm’s. While Schramm’s story is more personal, Alicia takes a broader approach.
Before handing today’s post over to contributor Judy James, we’d like to mention two changes that you should see this week, as well as an outside word of encouragement. First, the blog will have a new appearance for easier reading. And that will make it possible for you to post comments and for us to moderate them.
That call for comments is part of the feedback we’ve heard so far, and here’s another: “After 10+ years working in this field, and in particular calling for greater recognition of the survivor voice, this blog from AAS represents for me the most significant development in Suicidology that I’ve witnessed,” suicidologist and attempt survivor David Webb wrote last week on the Mad in America site. “The AAS is very influential globally, so if we can make a success of this blog, it is likely that other organisations around the world might follow.”