“SHARING AND HEALING”
A QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER
Written & Edited By : Al & Linda Vigil
Pg 1 : Grieving Notes - Marion Waterston
Pg 2: International Survivors of Suicide Day
Pg 2: Grief is Forever
Pg 3 : Military Suicides Kill More Than Combat
Pg 5 : Suicide Doesn’t Diminish a Loved One
Pg 6 : Suicides at Hoover Dam
Pg 7 : Prevention is Everyone’s Responsibility
Pg 8 : Asking The Question Why
Pg 9 : Father of Teen Struggles
Pg 10 : Suicide of a Sibling
Pg 12 : Site Addresses
“ GRIEVING NOTES ”
It is with deep regret that we inform you of the death of Richard Schwoebel on Wednesday August 22nd, 2012. Rich was the Founder of the SOS Group in New Mexico and is accredited by the American Association of Suicidology as one of the initial founders of SOS Groups in the United States. Marion Waterston, current President of the Board of Directors, SOSABQ, prepared the following eulogy for Rich. We turn this issue’s “Grieving Notes” over to her.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Hello friends of Rich. My name is Marion Waterston, I lead the afternoon “Survivor of Suicide” meetings, and I also, am a friend of Rich. The leaders of our evening group, Al and Linda Vigil, are also here with us today.
First of all, I would like to offer, on behalf of our group, heartfelt condolences to Jennie, Rich’s wife, his children, grandchildren and all other members of the family.
I first encountered Rich in 1995, when I moved here from New York after losing both my husband and my teenage son to suicide. It’s hard to describe the isolation you feel after events of this kind. That’s where Rich came in. I learned of the “Survivor of Suicide” group he had helped to found here in 1978, after his own tragedy, and I soon became a member of SOS. That same group exists today and since its founding, has helped thousands of men, women and children to find renewed meaning in life. In fact our SOS group met right here in St. Paul Lutheran for many years.
Rich was our warm, steadying presence. I’ll always remember the many times he stood outside the church door, regardless of weather, to meet arriving members, with a smile, a handshake, or a hug. Somehow he succeeded in making all of us feel welcome and valued. As he led our meetings, the presence he offered was concerned, supportive and non-judgmental and as we leaned on him for guidance and insight, we slowly grew stronger.
On June, 2008 our group gave a surprise luncheon at Season’s restaurant, honoring Rich for 30 years of service to SOS, and surprise him we did! The mayor, with lots of “whereases” in his statement, proclaimed it “Richard Schwoebel Day “, and additionally, he received messages from our New Mexico Members of Congress, both Senate and House.
Here are some excerpts of comments I offered in celebration of that day:
“Thank you, Rich, because you never stopped caring.”
“Thank you for being there twice a month for 25 years when you could have been doing something else.”
“Thank you for your wisdom, your understanding and your gentleness.”
“Thank you for making me, and each one of us feel, that we are valued members of our extended SOS family.”
“Thank you for seeing that we always have a good supply of tissues at each meeting.”
“I am aware that I am addressing a very modest man, so let me just say for all of us here today —Thank you Rich, from the bottom of our hearts. Your life has made a difference.”
That last comment is certainly valid today. Rich is someone whose life Has made a difference in so many different areas. And I know personally how much SOS meant to him because he told me, more than once, that it was an accomplishment he was immensely proud of.
So it is with deep gratitude to Rich Schwoebel that I hereby affirm that Survivors of Suicide, both afternoon and evening groups, will continue the work that he started.
May SOS serve as a living memorial to his memory and may it help you
to rest peacefully, Dear Friend.
SAVE THE DATE
INTERNATIONAL SURVIVORS OF SUICIDE DAY 2012
... and Join Us for this Annual Day of Healing for Survivors of Suicide Loss.
2:30 - 5:00 pm
Local healing conference at :
DESERT SPRINGS CHURCH, 705 OSUNA Rd. NE, ALBUQUERQUE
It doesn't go away.
It becomes a part of you, step for step, breath for breath.
We will never stop grieving ...because we will never stop loving that person.
That's just how it is.
Grief and love are conjoined, you don't get one without the other.
All we can do is love them, and love the world, and emulate them
... by living with continued daring and spirit and joy.”
- Anon - - - -
- Soldier Suicide Rate Is an American Tragedy
Edited from Several Media Articles
In a recent press release, Gen. Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff, was quoted in an interview saying, that “suicides are now the most common form of death in the Army, claiming more lives than combat or motor vehicle accidents." These suicides were committed while still in active duty and after service members returned home. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was listed as the cause.
With 116 deaths this year, PTSD has become an epidemic within the military. PTSD is a simple way of defining the emotional turmoil that takes place in the mind of someone who was forced to act against his nature.
There is a very disturbing cover article in the July 23 issue of Time Magazine about the soldier suicide rate. “On average, one of our soldiers commits suicide every day …more soldiers have killed themselves than have died in the Afghan war.”
While killing and fearing for your life and those in your unit may be natural aspects of fighting a war, they are not natural activities for mankind. During combat, men and women are in situations in which they must kill or be killed. They were trained for this. This training does not transfer to civilian life.
While fighting a war, a person remains in a high state of awareness, often leaves his religious teachings at home, and lives in constant fear. This heightened state of adrenaline, maintained for hours or days at a time, plays havoc with the human body and mind. It is not easy to release the emotions and return to life as it was before the war.
While various programs, with catchy acronyms for titles, have been implemented, the military brass haven’t been able to remove the career stigma associated with a service member readily admitting their mental health issues. This combined with the lack of viable and readily accessible mental health services at many bases results in the statistics which should embarrass any caring society.
When ex-military return home, they can sink into a deep depression.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS MUST RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS OF PTSD :
Inability to adjust to a more lax routine
Trouble seeing the humor in everyday life
Easily angered, usually over petty things
Depression. Sleeping very long hours a day, loss of appetite, not changing clothes, no energy, no ambition and lack of affection toward family
Picking fights over trivial matters
NATURAL WAYS TO HELP SOMEONE WITH PTSD :
Encourage the person to record thoughts and emotions and possible causes. This can help a person focus on the 'why' of sudden changes.
Give your family member permission to enjoy life again, even the laughter. There is no guilt in recognizing that life has its moments of peace and joy. Remind them that these things are what he fought for.
Every time there is an outburst of anger, explain that these episodes will not be tolerated in a post-war situation. He or she can express his anger through writing in the journal.
Ex-military members need routine and strict schedules. Try to limit impromptu gatherings, big changes in daily routines, and prepare meals at the same time every day.
Order the family member to bathe and change daily. Just doing these things will lift the mood and improve the outlook.
Ex-military experience guilt in the closeness with a spouse when a buddy did not come home from the war or he thinks about those he may have killed and the families they left behind. This will take time. Move forward in small steps.
The person may not understand why she picks fights over trivial things.Sometimes, talking to a counselor can help a person get to the core of the matter. It could be they just need to forgive themselves.
Crying is good. It releases pent up thoughts and emotions.
PTSD is not cured overnight. The length of time experienced can be greatly shortened if the natural steps are taken. Positive action can move a person forward while bad memories fade. Allow your service member to talk about his experiences. This is a form of natural cleansing.
Remove all guns from the home until the PTSD is under control. Most acts of suicide are committed on the spur-of-the-moment. Do not keep large quantities of pain medication or other psycho tropic meds in the house.
The service members and families deserve our thoughts, prayers, and, most of all, our demand that the suicide problem be immediately addressed and better mental health services provided.
Suicide Doesn’t Diminish the Life of Someone You Love
: By Mark Greene - Survivor of Suicide Loss
Lives of suicide victims cannot be defined by one irrational action. According to statistics, more than 36,000 people lose their lives in the United States annually to suicide. This dreadful statistic has only abstract meaning until its impact is directly felt. I know because I recently lost my little brother to suicide. There is such a stigma attached to suicide, one of cowardice and abject selfishness. However, these descriptions do not accurately portray the life of my brother. He was not selfish. He gave in many ways to those around him, to friends, family and strangers. He gave freely to his children. They know he loved them because he showed them. He was not afraid. He overcame many things that I cannot begin to understand. His life was not one of introversion nor was it one of apathy. He had a keen sense of compassion for those around him. He loved animals. He was physically tough. He was a quiet, kind kid who loved to sing Lady Gaga loudly in the company of his closest friends, something one would never guess on first meeting him, but an image that reveals the depth of his personality.
I know several people who have lost loved ones to suicide. They were brothers, sisters, parents and friends. Their lives were not selfish. Their deeds were not cowardly and their lives were not void of contribution. They raised good kids. They changed lives.
Most who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental illness. Others fall victim to suicide because they find themselves in a mental abyss from which, for some, there is no escape. We have all been in that place. I get it. Many of us get it. Life is hard.
Those who have passed this way do not deserve judgment or resentment. They deserve compassion and understanding. Any religion daring to teach that victims of suicide are undeserving of things that we inherently seek as human beings —contentment, forgiveness —has little understanding of what legitimate religion entails.
I watched my mother, who lost her husband two years earlier, draped over the casket of her youngest child weeping uncontrollably. The last moments of Matt’s life play out in my mind. He spent the last hours of his life with a true friend. She had to drive a long distance to work so she left his apartment. He begged her to stay.
“Please don’t go.” Those words must have hung in the air. She left, not understanding what he had committed to do. “Please don’t go.”
Several minutes after she left, he sent her a text message. “I’ll miss you.” He then ended his life. How could we have known? I want to remember the silliness, but the reality of what happened at the end is too much. It was violent and it was sad. He was not perfect, but he deserved so much more than that. That is the hell of it. I may not ever fully process the way he left us and all of the associated emotions live just beneath the surface. I can’t think about it too much. I won’t function if I do. I can’t read his obituary.
Matt lost his battle with his demons. That does not diminish him. Too many are lost in this awful way. It is not fair and it leaves behind the unanswerable questions. Suicide is life cut short, memories and experiences uncreated, hope unfulfilled. It is not something that will ever achieve “closure.” I despise that silly, ridiculous word. I will drag this with me for the rest of my life, just as others already do.
What we should do is remember. We remember and we laugh at the absurd moments, at time spent together. If we let it, the constant thoughts of our loss will destroy us. For those who have lost loved ones to suicide, there is a legacy to uphold. Healing comes through honoring that legacy.
From the Associated Press
LAS VEGAS -- Nevada Department of Transportation officials are considering ways to curb suicides at the Hoover Dam bypass bridge after a fourth person plunged from the bridge walkway to the Colorado River.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the federal Bureau of Reclamation plans install a dozen call boxes on the 900-foot-high bridge, using funds from a Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act grant. Nevada Department of Transportation officials are expected to discuss the suicides during upcoming meetings in August and September. Netting, a fence or a more restrictive railing are among the possible options.
"We are constantly monitoring the situation," said Damon Hodge, spokesman for the department. "Whatever we propose, the Federal Highway Administration would have to approve it."
Four suicides have been reported since the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge opened in 2010, including two people this month who climbed the 4-foot-6-inch concrete-and-metal railing. The span carries U.S. 93 traffic between Nevada and Arizona.
In San Francisco, 1,558 people have committed suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge since it opened in 1937. Dr. Richard Seiden, professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, warns that the Hoover Dam bypass bridge has a potential to join other places with frequent suicides, such as the Golden Gate Bridge.
"Landmarks develop a reputation of their own. You can be certain it will get worse before it gets better," Seiden said. "That's what's going to happen unless steps are taken."
The bridge, the longest single-span concrete arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere, has become a popular tourist attraction. There were no suicides the first year it opened. Seiden suggests putting 8-foot concrete columns close together to help prevent people from squeezing through the spaces, while keeping the view of the Hoover Dam unobstructed.
San Francisco officials agreed to install a safety net below the 4-foot railing of the Golden Gate Bridge in 2008, but the cost is estimated to be about $45 million to cover the span of 9,000 feet.
The span of the Hoover Dam bypass bridge is 1,900 feet.
At Florida's Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which carries Tampa Bay traffic on Interstate 275, 120 people have committed suicide since 1987. State officials have tried to address the problem with 24-hour patrols, surveillance cameras and crisis hot line phones.
Suicide Prevention Is Everyone's Responsibility
Written by Herb Brady
Fire Chief of the Windsor Severance Fire Rescue)
Twenty years ago, Anil was a brilliant and promising young medical student who had returned to his native India to attend medical school. He had a setback —failing one of his classes while he was silently struggling with depression. Anil flew back home to Texas and completed suicide. Anil sought a permanent solution to a temporary problem, and Anil was my best friend.
In the coming months, members of the Suicide Education and Support Services Advisory Committee, a service of North Range Behavioral Health, will be submitting letters telling our stories, bringing awareness and giving this serious problem a voice.
The numbers illustrate much of the problem. According to the Foundation for Suicide Prevention, says that in 2009 :
• 37,000 Americans committed suicide.
• Suicide was the fourth-leading cause of death for adults ages 18 to 65, third for those ages 15 to 24, and second for those 25 to 34.
• According to the CDC, more than 374,000 people were treated for self-inflicted injuries at emergency rooms nationwide.
Colorado is the “healthiest” state, yet ranks seventh in suicide and 31st in mental health funding.
Our committee is a cross-section of those bereaved by suicide and community leaders and professionals who strive to improve the sad statistics here in our community and our state. I happen to be both. Suicide is a difficult topic for the media to cover. Fear of creating copycats or a suicide cluster, privacy and stigma drives most policies. Increasingly, though, experts say silence kills. it’s not talked about, people who struggle don’t know it’s safe to ask for help or that powerful resources are available to them.
I represent the fire/rescue services on our committee and have responded to hundreds of suicide attempts and several dozen suicides. On behalf of all of us in emergency services —911 dispatchers, police officers, firefighters and EMT/paramedics —we want the public to know we are a key part of the resources available to those considering suicide or concerned friends and families.
We all entered this profession to protect lives and reduce suffering. We are here for you. It is not a matter of us “having more important things to do” because suicide is a legitimate life threat — no less important than a dangerous fire, accident or heart attack. Citizens are increasingly aware they should dial 911 for having symptoms of a medical emergency or seeing smoke or a suspicious person, but they may not be as comfortable calling us if they are having suicidal ideations or are gravely concerned for a friend. To us, there is no difference.
We much prefer intervening early enough to have a talk and maybe a ride to the hospital over standing by helplessly at yet another tragedy. Words cannot describe the pain of friends and family we have witnessed as responders. If only they would have reached out. Anil was a great friend and would have made a wonderful physician.
Asking the Question
Asking "why did my loved one do this" is the question that haunts most survivors of suicide. The outside world demands to know from us, and we don't know ourselves. For some of us there were definite clues that our loved ones were depressed or that something was wrong. We either knew that they were in pain and did not know the extent of it, or we did know and tried everything we knew to get help for them. For others the suicide was completely out of character. Many people who end their lives are extremely good actors and actresses. They only allow us to see what they want us to see. In either instance, for many, we never thought it could really happen to us, to our loved ones, and to our families. It doesn't make sense.
So we search, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Hindsight is 20/20, and sometimes we find bits and pieces, clues to what might have happened to allow our loved ones to lose hope and give up on life. We often want a specific reason, a direct cause and effect. If we can understand exactly why our loved ones ended their lives, maybe we can keep it from happening again to someone else we love.
For years I struggled with this question myself, following the suicide of my boyfriend. The best explanation was described to me by Iris Bolton, the Executive Director of The Link Counseling Center in Atlanta, GA and a survivor of her son's suicide. Iris went to Emory University and received a Masters in Suicidology in an attempt to answer this question for herself. She did not find it. Later, Iris found as close to an answer as she will have. It did not come from a Doctor, a Professor, or a Therapist. It came from another mother who had lost her son by suicide. This is how it was described to me, and I share it with you.
There is a cup of water sitting on a table. It is so full, it is rounded at the top. One or two drops of water are added to the cup and it spills over. What caused the water to spill? We want to blame the last one or two drops, but in an empty cup it would not spill. It was not the water in the cup prior to the drops being added, because if left alone, it would not have spilled. It was a combination of all the drops of water in the cup that came before and the last one or two drops that caused the water to spill.
In a person's life, the water in the cup is symbolic of all the hurt, pain, shame, humiliation, and loss not dealt with along the way. The last couple of drops symbolize the "trigger events," "the last straw," the event or situation that preceded the final act of taking one's own life. Often we want to blame the trigger event, but this does not make sense to us. Like the water, these events all by them selves would not cause someone to end their life. It is the combination of everything in that person's life not dealt with and the last one or two things that caused our loved ones to lose hope.
For us, we must find a way to pour out the water along the way. This may be through talking it out, writing it out, sometimes yelling it out, whatever works for you. We must learn to deal with our pain in a way our loved ones could not.
This analogy does not give us the concrete answer many of us are looking for, but I know it made sense for me and has been helpful for many survivors. It allowed me to let go of the search for "why", and to find a different way of dealing with my pain.
Father of Suicide Victim Struggles with Questions
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer (April 2012)
Tony Millner said his youngest daughter, Sabrina M. Martin, never showed any signs that she was contemplating suicide before she took her life in September 2010.
Tony Millner looks at the obituaries every day. “I see somebody in their 20s, if I don’t hear of an automobile accident, hunting accident or some other accident, the first thing I assume is suicide,” said Millner, a bail bondsman in Martinsville.
Millner’s youngest daughter, Sabrina M. Martin, committed suicide in September 2010 while she was living in Virginia Beach. According to her obituary in the Martinsville Bulletin, Martin, formerly of Martinsville, was 39 and had three children —two sons living at home and a daughter in Maryland. Other survivors included her mother and two sisters. Lingering thoughts and questions haunt her father.
“She never showed any signs that she was contemplating taking her life,” Millner said.
Millner believes his daughter’s suicide stemmed from a relationship problem. “I think that hurt her really deeply, and I think she couldn’t get over it,” he said. “It’s really heart-breaking,” he said of the suicide.
“I don’t know if I am hurt, angry, disappointed, disgusted. I don’t know how I feel,” he said. “Was it my fault? Was there anything I could have said? Did I see any kind of sign? Sometimes I am driving by myself, and I want to scream out and cry. I can’t. I wonder if one day I will break down and cry. I don’t know,” he said. His daughter’s death leaves a big void in the family.
Millner, who describes himself as a workaholic, said he copes by staying busy. He offered this advice to the public: “I would say, always be positive for any children. Spend time with them. Talk to them. Most of all, let them talk to you. When they are talking to you, don’t be negative. Don’t say, ‘Where did you get that thought? What are you talking about?’
“ ... Say, ‘What’s on your mind?’ Don’t say, ‘You’re crazy.’ Be supportive; talk to them; listen to them; always try to give them good advice. Be a role model,” he added.
“I think a man can get no better compliment than (for a child) to grow up and say, ‘Daddy, I am so proud of you.’ Money, clothes, cars, luxury, at that moment, it don’t mean nothing. It makes you think, ‘I have done’” something really meaningful, Millner added.
Millner said he has been contemplating adopting Sabrina’s 7-year-old son. “At my age, I don’t know what I will do to him,” Millner said. “I’m trying to be a father to him ... try to teach moral values,” including the value of work. Sabrina’s older son, about 15, can come to live with Millner too if he wants, Millner said. The boys are living with another relative.
Hundreds of families in this region know what Millner’s talking about. This area has had high suicide rates, compared with the state, for years.
Jim Tobin, executive director of Piedmont Community Services, said he had become aware of four suicides in the area just since about Jan. 1. The subject also has prompted the Rev. Dr. Thurman Echols, pastor of Moral Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Axton, to hold a number of Bible study sessions at his church on the topic of suicide.
“We had a case in our church during the holidays. A person committed suicide,” Echols said. “There have been three in the community, in Martinsville or Henry County.”
Echols said factors in suicide may include depression, family and financial problems, loss of a job, being unable to provide for your family, being told about having a terminal illness and other things that cause you to feel you can’t cope and the only way out is to commit suicide. “In the past, we haven’t talked about suicide enough. We haven’t recognized signs and the importance of seeking professional help,” he said. “There were times in the African-American community when there were isolated cases of suicide, but not as prevalent as today,” he said. “People need to talk; tell people what’s on their minds; get professional help,”
Tobin said there has been some preliminary discussion about holding a community forum on suicide with Echols. Echols said suicide “is an issue. Maybe the community ought to be concerned about this.” Echols, who is second vice president of the Virginia Baptist State Convention, also said he has asked the president of that group to place the issue of suicide on the agenda, and the president has agreed.
By Susan Kim - (The Compassionate Friends - San Francisco)
When my sister first died, I was so in shock. I had no idea how to answer the incredibly insensitive remarks like, "Why did she do it?" "What kind of problems was your family having?" "How did she do it?" Even people who did not ask these questions looked at me with a mixture of pity and curiosity.
To compound the taboo of my sister's suicide was the fact that sex was mixed up in it. She was an extremely outgoing, creative, charismatic person with no history of mental illness. Everywhere she spent time - church groups, school, the neighborhood pool —she was the center of attention because it was so much fun to be around her. Two teachers of Amy's spoke at her funeral, which was standing room only, and shared what a lasting influence Amy had on people.
So at first the suicide was such a surprise that foul play was considered a possibility before the note was found. In that note, we discovered that she had recently been diagnosed with herpes. You would think that's not such a big deal in the age of AIDS. But the college she attended was quite conservative, and the health services department and some awful brochures supplied by the religious right. They basically said your life is over and you'll never be able to have a child. The nurse there said her diabetes had exacerbated her condition. To top it off, my parents, like most parents, never really discussed sex. That doesn't mean we kids didn't know about it, but it did mean that the last people in the world we would ever discuss sex with would be our parents.
Suicide mixed with a sexual disease. It doesn't make for very good cocktail party chit-chat. So, taking my cue from my parents and society in general, I stopped mentioning Amy. When people asked me how many siblings I had, I would say "two - my surviving younger sister and brother." It just seemed easier, and people didn't have to feel so squeamish talking to me.
But two events hanged that. One was a conversation I had with my mother about Amy. I thought, at least with a family member, I could discuss her. We were talking about travel —Amy's passion was traveling to Greece —and I was reminiscing about how enthusiastic Amy was about traveling and how much fun it would have been to seeGreece with her. My mother said she just couldn't talk about it. It made her too sad.
This was years after Amy's death. What the heck did she mean we couldn't talk about it? I couldn't discuss Amy with my mother, then with who could I? I turned to her and said, "If I die before you, I hope you won't refuse to talk about me.” I told her that I knew Amy would want us to remember her —and there are so many incredibly great memories. I called my brother and sister afterwards and told them the same thing: "If I die, please don't pretend I didn't exist. I'm telling you here and now that I want to be remembered".
The other event happened very recently. I'm on a non-profit board for an organization that helps women working in the Internet industry with career advice. We had a speaker who talked about women over 40 working in the cyberrbiz. She talked about working as a chat host and said that one of the chats she hosted was about suicide. She mentioned her son who had died by suicide. I thought, "Here's a woman my mother's age who is telling a room full of strangers about her son's death." It was immensely comforting to see how she handled the topic. You could tell she had a wonderful relationship with him.
The board asked her to join our organization. I pulled her aside and asked about the suicide chat. I told her that my sister had died that way. She told me how sorry she was and asked her name. It's the first time in my life I was completely at ease discussing Amy's death. I knew the look she gave me was of empathy, not of pity, not of curiosity. She wasn't being judgmental, thinking, "What kind of dysfunctional family do you come from?" Unless you have an immediate family member who died by suicide, no one can ever know the incredible pain and emotional baggage that comes with it. I told her later that I get frustrated when people tell me they know what I'm going through because their grandmother died of a heart disease recently. I am sorry, but it is not the same. A grandmother has lived a full life. She is not leaving behind middle-aged parents and young siblings who ask, "What could I have done to prevent this?"
I suppose there will always be extra emotional baggage tied to a suicide of a family member. But not discussing it isn't going to make that baggage any lighter. In fact by not talking about it, I was contributing to the taboo associated with it. Of course this doesn't mean I'll introduce it into every casual conversation. From now on, however, when people ask me how many siblings I have, I'll let them know the whole truth —I have a younger sister and brother, and I had another wonderful sister named Amy, who died by suicide.
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