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Guest Column: Suicide is not inevitable

 

Gigi Colombini

Gigi Colombini

By Gigi Colombini, Special to Digital First Media

http://www.theoaklandpress.com/opinion/20180622/guest-column-suicide-is-not-inevitable

POSTED: 06/22/18, 5:19 PM EDT
When iconic individuals like Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain end their own lives, we have to believe there was something so profoundly unhelpable about their situations that they believed suicide was the tragic only option.

As a clinical social worker with an expertise in suicide prevention, I can assure you, there is nothing inevitable about suicide. The biggest problem we face is a lack of education and understanding, even in the medical community, of what this 10th leading cause of death in America is really all about. This leaves almost everyone afraid to step in and turn the tide.

Family medicine physicians, who prescribe about 80 percent of psychiatric medications, undergo less than a day of suicide prevention training. Emergency Room docs are not required to have any. More people die by suicide than homicide. More people die by suicide than in auto accidents. The national suicide rate is 13.9 for 100,000, and recent studies show that 54 percent of those who die by suicide did not have a diagnosed mental illness.

But this is not a story of despair. If anything, we need to rewrite the story on suicide to one of hope because suicide is not inevitable.

Of the 14 people out of 100,000 who die by suicide, 999,986 find a way to endure painful struggles.

Somehow, we have come to believe that if someone is really suicidal, there is nothing anyone can do about it.

Shame often prevents people from sharing feelings, from telling someone, I’m thinking about ending it all. When we experience a spate of suicides in close proximity like we did recently, we feel powerless about the possibility of preventing these untimely deaths.

The Interpersonal Theory of Suicide suggests that the likelihood of suicide increases if three things are present in someone’s life: feeling as if they are a burden to others, social isolation or not belonging to a community, and an ability to make it happen. (More than half of all suicides are completed with a firearm!)

Having someone to literally talk you off the ledge helps immensely. A person who is suicidal does not really want to die; they just want the pain they are experiencing to stop.

The pain is so intense it makes it difficult to see solutions to their problems. Talking about it can help them see the possibility of enduring pain with the support of loved ones, community and connections.

In the U.S., the highest rate of suicide occurs among white men. During the economic downturn, we saw this happen because so many men became powerless to support their families. Unaccustomed to sharing feelings, many felt isolated and alone. We think suicide happens when you’re so despondent, you can’t leave the house. Suicide can occur from one pivotal situation that leads to despair.

I don’t know what Anthony Bourdain’s circumstances were, but I remember how devastating it was when we lost Robin Williams because people of all ages loved him. Sometimes, when men grow older, they feel a loss of quality of life; often they no longer feel valued after leaving the workplace.

Women are different. While our work is important to us, we are often connected to family and friends, and we talk about feelings.

When a famous person dies by suicide, people are doubly perplexed, thinking, they had everything; how could they do this? But rich and famous does not equal happy.

Happiness comes from connection, purpose, doing what you love. There is truth to the notion that it’s lonely at the top; achieving fame, fortune and renown can leave a person feeling alone and misunderstood.

We must change our conversation about suicide to one of hopefulness, where we all get involved in turning the tide. Even the language must change — a person does not “commit” suicide like they “commit” a crime or a sin. They die, tragically, and preventably.

When someone is grieving or struggling, be the one to start the conversation. Ask, “have you had thoughts of suicide?” And if they say, “Not really,” know that answer may actually mean “yes.” These simple conversations can save many lives.

Suicide is not inevitable. Even when someone thinks it is the answer, there is time to redirect thoughts. We simply have to care. We mustn’t shy away from getting involved.

As our society grows increasingly distant, we must double-down on connection and concern. We must “meddle” in order to make people believe they matter. Talking is the path to help.

Suicide is highly preventable. We must arm health care practitioners, educators, and community members with the tools to spot real risk, and then provide effective treatment to heal it.

Gigi Colombini, LMSW, is a psychotherapist and suicidologist with the Institute for Hope and Human Flourishing in Birmingham.


 

The Voice, The View, The Actions

By Robert Cooper

There is couple of ways  of communicating  based on our view of the future. Be it that the view is one of gloom and doom or the more upbeat I’ll rescue you, it’s pervasive throughout cultures , and the American culture is no different. These views and the actions that come out of those views affect our leadership style, our relationship to money, and our relationship to each other – everything.

My concern began as a complaint about the manner my wife, Sam, speaks to me to have me take some action she wants me to take. The manner of speaking caught my attention because I thought I had to figure out that she wasn’t just reporting or complaining, she wanted me to take action and do something about the situation, though the speaking never sounded, to me, like a request or command. Even when the speaking sounded like a question – did you put this here—it wasn’t a question seeking a yes or no answer or information. It sounded like a complaint or upset to be avoided.

Whenever I said anything about the manner of speaking and ask what do you want me to do, instantly my wife would be upset. The response would be along the lines of “you want me to talk the way you want me to talk” ”I’ll just shut up.” Begrudgingly, I’d take responsibility for the upset and restore our relationship.

I am fascinated with language and language use. It’s like a toy for me. My accepting responsibility for the interaction didn’t take away my puzzling over the stable, consistent and predictable manner that my wife spoke , and me wondering to myself  why do I have to translate what she’s saying.

If she were speaking Japanese, I could easily accept the problem of understanding, translating, and taking the requested action. However, we were speaking English and my wife often wondered out loud “why don’t you understand me.”

I had several assumptions about why I didn’t understand her or didn’t, from her manner of speaking, get what action was being called for. I grew up in a cultural context where that type of unclear speaking could result in a heated I didn’t tell you to do that or I didn’t say that on one end and on the other result in a life or death situation.

Clearly the interactions between my wife and I do not provoke a life or death situation. Yet, all the other responses apply. Sam and I can be the only two people in the house for weeks at a time. Then I’d hear, “Are these your shoes sitting here?” “Who left the door open [unlocked]?” “Who ate my piece of fish?” “I’m gonna break my neck on these shoes.”

To bring levity to some of the questions, reports like your socks are on the table, I created a roommate early in our marriage. The roommate is The Ghost. To some of the questions and reports I’d answer The Ghost did it or I don’t know. I know I didn’t do whatever it was, and since Sam was asking she didn’t do it. I had to be the Ghost.

I’m southern and Sam’s dad is southern. So I gave the speaking manner a southern interpretation.  Sometimes I attributed the manner of “don’t be direct”, “ don’t ask for anything”, “don’t show your intention”, “don’t give a direct command” as a carryover from the south, where the hiding of intentions, hiding of thought, the hiding of knowing, and the removal of self when speaking was thought to provide intergroup safety.

Lately, my interpretation has changed. Whenever Sam says something like “I’m gonna break my neck on this bag sitting here”, I respond you are being apocalyptic.

I got it. Whenever Sam forecasted the danger she was in, someone, but not her, was supposed to do something about it.  I wanted to stop turning the issue over to The Ghost. I became curious and began to look for where I might have the same manner of speaking that I have been focused on with Sam. I looked at my piles of books and papers on the floor, on the dinging and kitchen tables and coffee table. Now that’s something I could create gloom and gloom about and I don’t.

Well, if Sam says a friend is dropping by, then I want to get into action and have the house look nice for the visitor. From the same west Asian and western traditions that I borrowed apocalyptic as the way of speaking for Sam, I borrowed messianic for myself.

Messianic and apocalyptic are most often used in religious contexts. The intention of this reflection, inquiry and writing is not to be religious, though for some it may be. I’m creating a mirror, a lens, and a set of practices to see ourselves not only individually, but also collectively at a cultural level.

To be Continued

Black Men and Boys Retreat September 14th – 16th 2017

AYE Board Members were pleased to join other men to support the Black men and Boys Retreat led by Yusef Bunchy Shakur. The “original 13” set a standard that should carry on for years!

Retreat Lead by Yusef Bunchy Shakur the weekend of September 14th – 16th 2017

Posted by Association for Youth Empowerment on Wednesday, October 4, 2017

 


A Testimonial to David Abramson: A True Original

On Thursday March 23rd 2017 the Association for Youth Empowerment (AYE) lost one of its warriors and founders: David Abramson.

David was a powerful, compelling individual who we relied on for support, for charisma, and for innovation. He was our “bridge” to people, to communities and to the world.

We admire him for his tenacious behavior, hyperactive determination and commitment to all people.

We are in awe of his unceasing commitment to prosperity and love for everyone.

We acknowledge him for his tireless dedication to AYE’s mission of partnering with community members and organizations who share a common goal of eliminating social oppression and fostering respect, acceptance and compassion in our schools, families and communities.

Even though David is no longer with us in physical form, we are committed that his spirit will live on through the work he started.

David A: We love you, we honor you and will miss you!

Perhaps no one on the board was as close to David as our Board President: Robert Cooper. Below are his words he delivered at David’s Funeral which summarize more completely what he meant to all of us.

Shalom

I am Robert Cooper: A retired teacher who introduced Japanese language studies to Detroit Public Schools in 1986.

I am the president of association of youth empowerment (aye).

Aye sponsors initiatives such as :

  • Bridging 8 Mile
  • Prosperity year
  • Community leadership and development
  • Dave Ramsey’s financial peace
  • Detroit Boyz Rocks
  • Empowerment zone in hazel park high school
  • Community challenge day
  • Landmark forum and curriculum for living
  • Connection central, which is a social gathering and spontaneous jam session

Recently:

  • Bridging 23 between Ann arbor and Ypsilanti
  • The David and Robert show: live and in living color

David had his hands and heart on the pulse of all of these initiatives.

David suddenly died at the peak of his enthusiasm for life; at the peak of his love for friends, family, faith, education, politics, power and contribution and prosperity. That left people talking and left me wondering:

Can I do a translation of someone’s life that left some people saying:

  • He’s a butt head. But every team worth its salt needs a butt head.
  • He will work a mule into the ground
  • Some people are like classical music. David is like jazz.
  • He hated poverty.
  • He’s as tenacious as bark on a tree.
  • He’s a huge provider and had your back.
  • He’s a boomer; he stood ready to kick the door in on poverty, social division and hatred.

David, If I may do the honor one more time and honor your request for me to translate what you have been saying.

Looking around this sanctuary

You fulfilled:

  • God First
  • Love your neighbor as yourself
  • The highest form of giving is to give someone a job.
  • The tongue in your mouth and the tongue in your shoe are together and pointing in the same direction.
  • Your relationships is your wealth, your prosperity.
  • W.E.B Dubois once said “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line”. This Sanctuary shows what one person can do in their own life to erase the lines of love, gender, ethnicity, thinking, spirituality, class and so on.

David I said all of that to say: I love you. You are my brother. Your work lives through me.

Thank you

Robert cooper 3/27/17


April 7th AYE/DRC Event: Putting People together to take action

Please Mark Your Calendars to Attend this Event

Date: Friday April 7th, 2017
Location: Washtenaw Community College: Morris Lawrence Building
RSVP: drc@washtenaw.org or (734) 646-2274


 

Life, Love, Race, Class and other “timely and entertaining” topics

Please join AYE board Member David Abramson and his wife Ellen at their home for an evening of inspiring conversation that’s sure to uplift your spirits after the trials and tribulations of this election season.

David and AYE Board President Robert Cooper will be sharing their experiences of growing up poor white and poor black in America.

They will also share their journey to creating a powerful friendship which they dedicate to bridging the gulf between our communities.

Bridging the separation is the key to creating the world we all desire. Come and Join!

Date: Saturday January 28th 2017
Time: 5:30pm Veggie Potluck and 6:30pm (Conversation Begins)
Where: Abramson Learning Institute

Call 734-646-2274) to RSVP and get directions

 


 

Detroit Boyz Rock Kick-Off/Planning/Development

Logistics

Date: Saturday December 10th
Time: 11:00am to 2:00pm
Location: City Residence Committee: 18963 Livernois

To confirm you can attend this, please either indicate on the Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/787768918028418/

Or contact Charles Primas @ (313) 585-4624

The intent of this is to kick off this initiative and see what needs to be done to get into action supporting our young men and launching the Detroit Boyz Rock program

Detroit Boyz Rock

Detroit Boyz Rock is an initiative of The Association for Youth Empowerment (AYE). This initiative is dedicated creating a world where young black men and boys are empowered to create a life of their own design. Through workshops, facilitated sessions and other transformational programs this initiative will support and empower our young men to create a life and community of their own design.

Looking for some younger brothers to work with to develop this proogram. Read More about it here:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/k5e4c0jd0mzcszn/What%20is%20AYE%20Detroit%20Boys%20Rock%20Initiative.docx?dl=0

 

 


 

AYE Connection Central 12/4/2016

We are Creating the Beloved Community

To RSVP
Email rcooper@ayedetroit.org

Visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/calling-forth-the-beloved-community-tickets-29503727443

AYE Invites you to:

  • Break Bread with New Friends
  • Share Your Story
  • Be Acknowledged
  • Experience a Community Transformed

Come join us!

Date: Sunday, 12/4/16
Location: Church of the Messiah
Address: 231 E. Grand Blvd, Detroit. MI 28207
Time: 2:30 – 5:00 pm

 

Cost: Free of Charge

connection-central_dec-4

Yazaki volunteer group donates $44K to charity

Hometown Life
6:40 p.m. EDT July 22, 2016

Canton-based Yazaki North America, Inc., employees have been working for the last five months to volunteer their time to help the community — and that has led to donations to charity.

To recognize the employees’ hard work, the Yazaki Associate Volunteerism Council (AVC) donated $44,000 during an office-wide ceremony June 23 at the company’s Canton campus.

The money was raised by funds from casual jean Fridays, bake sales and merchandise sales, among other events.

This year’s organizations are involved in everything from making the world greener to bringing relief to people who are in need of basic necessities. Donations have been made to the following:

  • Alternatives For Girls (https://alternativesforgirls.org.).
  • The Association for Youth Empowerment (http://ayedetroit.org/).
  • Fleece and Thank You (http://fleeceandthankyou.org/).
  • Gleaners Community Food Bank (http://www.gcfb.org/).
  • The Greening of Detroit (http://www.greeningofdetroit.com/).
  • Make-A-Wish (http://wish.org/).
  • The National Neighborhood Properties Community Development Corporation (NNPCDC).
  • The NOAH Project (http://noahprojectdetroit.org/)
  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) (https://www.nami.org/)
  • Sikhcess (http://www.sikhcess.org/)
  • The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (http://www.svdpusa.org/)
  • Special Olympics Michigan (http://www.somi.org/)

The submission that won the first place prize of $8,000 was the NOAH (Networking, Organizing, and Advocating for the Homeless) Project – led by YNCA financial business planner Bill Drabing – to empower the low income and homeless in Detroit.

The NOAH Project, which operates a Community Center in downtown Detroit, offers lunch four days a week, one-on-one social services, physical health counseling, empowerment-based programming, and emergency needs to help strengthen family support systems locally.

Presiding as guest speaker of the Yazaki ceremony was Nigel Thompson, Yazaki North America president and CEO. He said he was impressed by the diversity of the projects and volunteers.

“In the process of building up our community, we build up each other and leave a lasting impression on the world around us,” said Nigel. “The AVC Charity Challenge highlighted the many needs in our communities. You, the volunteers, took time out of your busy schedules to come together and really make a lasting impression by helping others and the environment. And for that, I thank you.”