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.
This week’s post features excerpts from an interview with Kimberly O’Brien, a professor at Simmons School of Social Work and Harvard Medical School who is using her personal experience to inform her work. The SocialWork@Simmons blog published the full interview last month and invited us to share it, “to help contextualize how talking about suicide and sharing stories makes a significant impact.” Kimberly also uses the chance to promote the recently released report “The Way Forward,” a federally funded project by a national attempt survivor task force that demands sweeping change. (She even made a video to support it.)
Here are excerpts from her interview:
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.
After the death of Robin Williams, a range of people spoke openly last week about, or from, their experiences with suicidal thinking. Here are some of their stories:
Cates Holderness, Michael Blackmon, John Stanton, Julia Pugachevsky and many others at Buzzfeed
Alastair Campbell in The Huffington Post
Dese’Rae Stage at Live Through This
Kay Redfield Jamison in The New York Times
Cheryl Sharp at Mashable
Deborah Serani in Psychology Today
Andrew Solomon in The New Yorker
Jenn Garing on Fox
Christa Scalies for WHYY
Leah Harris on HuffPost Live
Jake Mills in The Guardian
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’s post is by Alexis Wortley, a Seattle-area teacher and an emerging young advocate. The post is also a call to action. Many people who’ve been suicidal and are “coming out” are interested in giving back and helping make change. Here’s one way to do it. Consider contacting your local branch of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and asking to join the focus groups the organization has started to hold around the country as it seeks to engage us and create resources. AFSP has recognized it needs to do much more. Your guidance could be crucial.
Alexis explains how it goes:
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.
For Veterans Day today, here is our interview with Army veteran Ted Spencer about his experience as part of a pioneering support group for suicide attempt survivors. A founding member of this site, researcher Stephen O’Connor, helped us connect.
Suicide in the military and among veterans is a huge issue. A growing number of people who’ve survived attempts or suicidal thinking are talking about it openly, as this recent series in The Huffington Post shows so well.
As they do, they’re giving the public a vivid idea of what works _ and doesn’t _ in looking for help.
A quick note before jumping into this week’s post: MTV, The Jed Foundation and media company SoulPancake are looking for young adults to participate in a mental health awareness special, “Don’t Give Up: There’s Always Hope.” They’re looking for people between 18 and about 24 who have overcome severe depression, self-harm or suicidal thinking, and their contact is AlwaysHope (at) EpicJunction (dot) com.
This week’s post is an interview with a social worker who wishes to use only her first name, Melissa. She’s one of several people in the mental health field who’ve reached out to this site to talk about their experiences, including the fear among colleagues of acknowledging that this can happen to anyone.
“I would love to see the profession being more open to people with mental illnesses,” she says.
This week, we dive right into Jennifer Garing’s post on a bold project to bring a New Hampshire gun shop suicide prevention project to sprawling Texas (and we point out last week’s article in Salon about this blog and other efforts to share the stories of attempt survivors):
We try not to talk about the means with which people attempt or complete suicide for fear of romanticizing it or creating a cookbook for completion. But sometimes the means are what really matter.