Tag Archives: suicide prevention

Love and Wonder

The following post is from the blog Not Otherwise Specified, an ongoing story of recovery from addiction. The blog is written by the daughter of a friend. The blog’s “About” page explains, “Today I have over eight years of recovery in my program of choice. By writing about my experience, I hope to reach others struggling with all types of addiction.” I admire much about her, including her ability to share her insights. This piece on “Love and Wonder” strikes so many chords with me, I simply must share it, along with the suggestion you visit her site and consider subscribing.


I loved technology when I was a kid. In middle school, I entertained myself for hours by teaching myself HTML code and photo manipulation. While the internet ultimately played an integral part in my addiction, it was also a creative outlet and a tool for inspiring positive change. I started my social media campaign, Human Too, in that same spirit of positivity and I feel incredibly blessed to have creative license in my career as a web content manager. However, the drawback of working with social media platforms is that you actually have to use them.

Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t some element of futility in trying to harness social media for benevolent purposes. The part of me that teeters on the edge of needing a tinfoil hat -but I don’t think is too far off the mark – cynically believes that technology is not only a drug contributing to the Achilles’ heel of civilization, but also a means by which the masses can be easily manipulated. That’s some serious 1984 or House of Cards shit, but it’s tough to refute. The difference between me and other cynics is that I still think it’s possible to live a contented and meaningful life in spite of the disillusionment.

When you turn on your TV set or scroll through your newsfeed, it seems as though the world has collectively gone mad. And maybe that’s not far from the truth. The world doesn’t make sense. There is an element of absurdity to the whole concept of human existence. But when you unplug and stop to consider the realm directly outside your window, the picture is likely to stand in stark juxtaposition. Maybe you hear the traffic or the crickets. Maybe you watch your neighbor get the mail or water the garden. Maybe the breeze blows. Maybe someone on the street coughs or waves or speaks indistinctly. And maybe, in that moment, everything is okay. So which version of reality is the most accurate?

If you choose to invest yourself solely in the digital narrative, it’s easy to view the world as an angry, hostile place. And sure, people are angry…but mostly we’re afraid. I can only speak for myself, but my buttons are most easily pushed in terms of my identity as a gay person, a woman, and a police wife. “How will you hurt me? What will you take from me?” These are the questions behind my own personal brand of rage. My fears are immediate and acute and frequently supersede my consideration of my global brothers and sisters. We are all self-preservationists in our anger. We are driven by and united by fear.

All of that is not to say that self-preservation is bad. The instinct to survive is what makes us human. Fear is human. It is merely an observation that we share a common ground.

In a climate saturated with the threat of nuclear war and simmering racial tension, it’s only natural to feel like our existential terror is somehow unique. But millions of people have experienced or are currently experiencing the heaviness of wartime. Millions of people have experienced plagues, famine, natural disaster, genocide, and the collapse of civilization. Millions of people have held their lover and wondered what kind of earth their children were destined to inherit. We have been fearing the end since the beginning. It’s part of the package deal when you occupy this planet.

I used to get very upset by the idea that there is no life after death. I don’t know what I believe anymore, but I think it’s highly likely you simply cease to have consciousness. I believe our energy leaves an imprint on a place. I also believe in the fabric of the Universe – a divine thread connecting all living things – but beyond that, I cannot say for certain.  The only reason the uncertainty bothers me now is because I can’t bear the idea of not seeing my wife. I guess if we don’t have consciousness, we don’t know the difference.

These are heavy thoughts. Perhaps you’re thinking: “What’s the point?” And here’s where the cynics and I diverge. The point is that you are conscious in this moment. The point is that you have the ability to love and to be filled with wonder. Our purpose, in my view, is to love and wonder.

Early in my college career, I spent about five minutes as a philosophy major. Looking back on my notes, I found a page that declared “the meaning of life is awe”. If you can maintain your sense of awe, you have unlocked the secret of living. It’s hard to say how that bit of insight came to me, but I have subscribed to the ideology ever since.

Addiction numbs our consciousness. Our drugs of choice block us from feeling love and wonder. We die prematurely.

There’s a reason Buddhists strive to be “awake”. There’s a reason yoga and meditation advocate for the present moment. The “now” is all we have. It is the only time in which we are able to love and be loved. It is the only time we have to consider the profound and miraculous beauty of our delicate existence. The precariousness of our position is what makes it breathtaking.

I don’t think anything needs to “come next” for this flawed and absurd life to be more than enough. We don’t need to do anything for life to have meaning…we need to simply be. I have often sat by the ocean and reflected sadly on the idea that the dead no longer have the capability to inhale the intoxicating air. It is a gift to experience the wonders of this wild earth. I think the real question is whether we receive it or we reject it.

The activity of appreciating the morning light is not just for poets and painters – it’s for humans. If all I do with the rest of my days is exuberantly behold the sunset and love as much as I can, I have achieved the “it” for which mankind toils. If all I do is celebrate wildflowers, a good meal, clinging rain drops, a shy smile, cool summer grass, and all the other remarkable minutiae…it is enough.

I am sober. I am awake. My being vibrates in the truth of the moment.

The cards are stacked and it’s hard to say how the deck will scatter. I don’t know if anything I do will ultimately make a difference. But I know that my being has purpose. I want my voice to be a whisper in the din: “Wake up”. Don’t die without living. Don’t live without meaning.

Coffee Talks to Continue!

Our first Coffee Talk was a great success–we covered a lot of ground and agreed to continue the talks as a “series.” Please consider joining us… parents, teachers, kids… all are invited! We’re particularly interested in exploring ways our communities can support our kids as they face many of the issues raised in 13RW.

For those who may not know, Thirteen Reasons Why is the title of a book first published in 2007 and recently adapted to a Netflix Series. The story follows a fictional teenager named Hannah and, in short, how she shares her thirteen reasons for deciding to take her own life. For various reasons, the book and series have captured national interest with many believing the story “glorifies” suicide. Many young adults are reading the book (a New York Times best-seller) and watching the NetFlix series, while many parents are concerned about the messages youth are receiving.

One thing it does do is generate conversation and this informal discussion of the book and Netflix Series will tackle questions like

  • Do books and films like this glamorize suicide?
  • Were Hannah’s reasons for taking her life valid?
  • Why are young adults captivated by the book/film?
  • What does the book/film say about adults?
  • Should I read/see it if I haven’t?
  • For those who have read/seen it, how did it impact you?
  • and any questions or concerns you might have.

This is a free event with an opportunity to get the facts and discuss your concerns and questions around the story and issues young adults face. All are welcomed!

I have created a resource page for information on this topic and we will have additional material available at the Coffee Talk!


Coffee Talk will be held at the Guilford United Methodist Church, 3 School Street (across from the fire station), Guilford from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m.  For additional information:

Pastor Reeni Cipullo
Guilford United Methodist Church
(207) 876-3372

Walter Boomsma
Certified Youth Mental Health Specialist
(207) 343-1842

For Immediate assistance, contact the Maine Crisis Hotline.

Suicide Hotline #

 

Thirteen Reasons Why…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ThirteenReasonsWhy.jpg#/media/File:ThirteenReasonsWhy.jpg
Fair Use of copyrighted material*

For those who may not know, Thirteen Reasons Why is the title of a book first published in 2007 and recently adapted to a Netflix Series. The story follows a fictional teenager named Hannah and, in short, how she shares her thirteen reasons for deciding to take her own life. For various reasons, the book and series have captured national interest with many believing the story “glorifies” suicide. Many young adults are reading the book (a New York Times best-seller) while many parents are concerned about the messages youth are receiving.

One thing it does do is generate conversation and I’m honored to have been invited to participate in a Coffee Talk with Pastor Reeni Cipullo. This informal discussion of the book and Netflix Series will tackle questions like

  • Do books and films like this glamorize suicide?
  • Were Hannah’s reasons for taking her life valid?
  • Why are young adults captivated by the book/film?
  • What does the book/film say about adults?
  • Should I read/see it if I haven’t?
  • For those who have read/seen it, how did it impact you?
  • and any questions or concerns you might have.

This is a free event with an opportunity to get the facts and discuss your concerns and questions around the story and issues young adults face. All are welcomed!

I have created a resource page for information on this topic and will have additional material available at the Coffee Talk!

*Book Cover Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Substance Abuse Text Helpline Available

The following information is reprinted with permission from an e-newsletter published by Paul Stearns, Representative of Maine District 119.


The Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with 2-1-1 Maine and the United Ways of Maine, recently unveiled a new texting service in an effort to facilitate communications for those seeking access to opioid treatment services.

When you text your zip code to 898-211, a Maine-based information specialist will be notified that a new transaction has been received.  The person requesting assistance will receive an automated “Thank you for contacting 2-1-1” response and can immediately begin their dialogue with the trained and friendly specialist.

Initially, the text line will be available from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday-Friday.  If an individual is in need of assistance outside of those hours, they will receive a text response encouraging them to dial 2-1-1 and speak with an information specialist.  DHHS launched the 24/7 Opiate Helpline in April of 2016 through a contract with 2-1-1 Maine with a focus on pregnant women and young mothers seeking treatment.

In a recent study, Millennials expressed more interest in texting compared to calls, because texting is a less invasive form of communication.

This will also help address a concern voiced by some seeking treatment—the stigma attached to substance use disorder.  With the attention surrounding the opioid epidemic facing our state, many people are intimidated by the idea of participating in an open dialogue about their treatment needs over the phone.

Providing this service furthers the Department’s efforts to offer a more comprehensive, accessible approach for those seeking treatment.

2-1-1 Maine is a free resource providing an easy confidential way to connect people to information about thousands of health and human services around Maine.  2-1-1 Maine is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by phone and online, and available via text from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday.  People can access information and resources in their area by dialing 2-1-1 and talking with a trained and friendly specialist, by texting their ZIP code to 898-211, or by searching the online directory at www.211maine.org.

Don’t Panic: Get the Facts…

Today at school, I was asked about “Blue Whale” — an alleged social media phenomena that is supposedly “going viral” and encouraging teens to commit suicide. Since I am teaching a Suicide Prevention Workshop tonight I thought I’d better do some quick checking in case it comes up.

One thing for certain, the media is having a field day with it. Many of the headlines and claims in the articles being published turn out to be “unproven.”  There is general agreement an “ap” (game) originated in Russia that encourages “vulnerable” teens to engage in a series of tasks (like cutting) and allegedly ends with them taking their own life.  The word “vulnerable” is very important in that sentence.

A game will not “cause” someone to commit suicide. Certainly, a game such as this is cause for concern, but it is not cause for panic. There actually have been no conclusive links between suicides and the game. It is interesting that this story was first picked up by the tabloids–they are known for their accurate reporting, right?

What can happen is that a person already having suicidal thoughts may find a game or group that they perceive shares their thoughts and feelings. The roots of those thoughts and feelings are not caused by joining a group or playing a game. It is interesting that this story was first picked up by the tabloids–known for their accuracy!

The energy that will be spent warning people about this “Blue Whale” would be better spent developing a basic understanding of suicide and it’s prevention. Most of the workshops I offer are free and are research-based. We need to understand and focus on protective factors and the fundamental causes. Personally, I believe early intervention is going to be the key to correcting this public health crisis.  When we understand the risk factors and triggers we can recognize the need.

The techniques covered in the workshop are basic and relatively simple. Perhaps not quite as simple as clicking “share” on Facebook, but they are about sharing.

One of the better “fact checking” sites is here, but you might be better served to research the facts regarding suicide and how you can help prevent it. The life you save may belong to someone you love.