We all need ‘Sushi Tuesdays’: Lessons in understanding and finding a way forward after suicide | CNN

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, help is available. Dial or text 988 or visit 988lifeline.org for free and confidential support.


When Sam Maya, a beloved husband, father, friend, stockbroker and coach, died by suicide 16 years ago, he left a note. He apologized to his wife, Charlotte, for being a burden and telling her and their two sons, then 6 and 8, that he loved them.

In her recent heartbreaking memoir, “Sushi Tuesdays: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Family Resilience,” Charlotte Maya bears witness to Sam’s life, death and the aftermath with a singular purpose: to humanize the face of suicide and help readers develop a fluency in discussing mental health.

She spent nearly a decade writing “Sushi Tuesdays,” beginning with a blog by the same name, an homage to the weekly ritual she created after her husband’s death.

Every Tuesday while her kids were at school, Maya set aside her overwhelming to-do list as a lawyer and widowed single parent. Tuesdays began with a yoga class, then therapy, followed by whatever she needed most: perhaps going back to bed, going on a hike or heading to a solo sushi lunch.

I met Maya in a memoir workshop last year. I have a family history of mental illness and suicide, so I connected with her work and motivation for sharing her story.

In 2021, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Americans ages 10 to 34, the fifth for ages 35 to 54, and the 11th leading cause of death nationwide, claiming the lives of more than 48,000 people, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The suicide rate among men in 2021 was nearly four times higher than the rate of women, according to the CDC. Research supports the assumption that men typically choose more effective and lethal means, such as firearms, to complete suicide, according to Dr. Ashwini Nadkarni, a psychiatrist and researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Additionally, men are less likely to seek treatment for depression due to gendered expectations that equate masculinity with emotional stoicism, Nadkarni said.

Suicide is a national health crisis, Maya told me, but when we hear of such a loss, we often attribute each death to the unique problem the deceased faced, such as financial or legal troubles.

These stressors don’t explain suicide, she said. “Lots of people lose money, and they don’t take their own lives. They figure things out.”

When her husband died, Maya knew he had back pain and was stressed about work and money, but she didn’t think these things added up to being suicidal. In retrospect, she can now spot clues, such as his review of his will shortly before he died.

“I wanted to turn back the clock after Sam died,” she said. “I felt so strongly that if I could get back to that morning, I could have changed everything. It’s hard to reckon with what cannot be undone, to face straight into what I did or didn’t do, where I failed, where Sam failed.”

“Whenever I say that Sam made a mistake, the mistake I mean is that he didn’t ask for help,” Maya said. “It’s hard to say you’re suffering when you’re suffering, so let your loved ones know you are available to help.”

Asking people directly about suicidal thoughts may reduce, rather than increase, suicidal ideation, according to a 2014 review of scholarly literature in the journal Psychological Medicine.

That does require that people look for and notice signs that others may be struggling, such as changes in mood, behavior, appetite or sleep habits or that they are giving away cherished possessions.

The writer has since remarried. The combined family includes Gregory Stratz (from left), Tim Stratz, Jason Maya, Parker (the dog), Charlotte Maya, Danny Maya and Daniel Stratz, here in 2011.

Speaking directly about mental health became a trademark of Maya’s single parenting. She aimed for her boys “to live full and fruitful lives, not defined by their father’s suicide, not limited by their father’s suicide, but also not ignoring their father’s suicide.”

Her sons grieved their dad in their own ways, including denial (one pretended his father was on an extended business trip) and rageful episodes that ended with destroyed Lego sets and tears. Maya mourned with them about the “daddy-shaped space in their hearts” but promised that someday they’d be able to say, “I survived my father’s suicide, and I can do anything.”

“It can be awkward to say yes when people ask to help,” Maya said. “Because I was so shocked and overwhelmed, I just said yes. I recommend that course of action to people. Let people show up and help you.”

The support from Maya’s village was so vast that she wrestled with which of her friends would be fully fledged characters in “Sushi Tuesdays” and which would have cameo appearances.

She dealt with this challenge — and the confusion caused by many friends with names starting with the letter J — by cleverly referring to her friends, collectively, as “The Janes.” Given her background as a lawyer, she thought of them as Jane Doe No. 1, Jane Doe No. 2 and so on.

In the book, readers meet District Attorney Jane who helped with the coroner’s office, Engineer Jane who gets the boys to school each day on time and Prayer Warrior Jane who prays for Maya while she’s “not exactly on speaking terms with God.”

One friend, identified not as a “Jane” but as “Bess” in the narrative, is Katherine Tasheff, a college friend from Rice University. When Sam Maya died, Tasheff was a single mother living on a budget in Brooklyn and couldn’t travel to California to visit. So, she did what she could: She wrote her friend an email. And then another. And another. Morning and night for 365 days following Sam’s death.

The emails were always heartfelt and genuine but often mixed with dark humor. In one, Tasheff wrote, “We did an informal poll on whose husband was most likely to take his own life, and I want you to know that Sam came in last place.”

Almost immediately, Charlotte Maya replied, “Dead last?”

This kind of banter fueled Maya, who told her therapist to “call 911” if she ever lost her sense of humor. Finding moments of levity, she said, helped her hold onto her humanity. “Humor doesn’t cancel out what is devastating,” Maya told me. “Just like gratitude cannot cancel out what is horrifying. What’s important is having the capacity to hold both of those things.”

After her husband's death, Charlotte Maya says moments of levity helped her hold on to her humanity.

Seven years after her husband died, in 2014, Maya felt ready to write about surviving his suicide. Tasheff acted with her signature hadn’t-been-asked swiftness, setting up a blog site for sushituesdays.com within an hour.

By then, Maya had met and married the most eligible widower in her town, now nicknamed Mr. Page 179 because that’s where he shows up in the book. They each brought two sons to the marriage. (Coincidentally, each has a child named Daniel, so they now have two Daniels.)

Maya continues to honor her Tuesdays with therapy and yoga, a hike with a friend, and sometimes a sushi lunch.

She urges everyone — especially single parents and anyone managing anxiety or depression — to carve out a similar weekly ritual, even if it’s just an hour to “treat yourself with the same compassion as you treat your dearest friends.”

The coping mechanisms that Maya relied on in her grief may further explain the gender disparity in suicide rates, according to psychologist Lauren Kerwin.

Men may be less likely to have strong support networks or to engage with them when in stress or emotional pain and may be more likely to use maladaptive coping strategies, such as substance abuse or isolation, Kerwin said.

Seeking social connection and professional help is critical to preventing suicide.

“Now, more than ever, we have a better understanding of the neuroinflammatory basis for depression — the medical framework gives us a model in which to consider depression as a medical condition and one which can be treated,” said Nadkarni, the Boston psychiatrist.

If you see warning signs or are worried about someone who may be struggling, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention recommends you assume you are the only one who will reach out. Find a time to speak privately and listen. Let people know their life matters to you and ask directly if they are thinking about suicide. Then encourage them to use the national suicide hotline by calling or texting the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, contact their doctor or therapist or seek treatment.

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Suicides and suicide attempts by poisoning rose sharply among children and teens during the pandemic | CNN


The rate of suspected suicides and suicide attempts by poisoning among young people rose sharply during the Covid-19 pandemic, a new study says. Among children 10 to 12 years old, the rate increased more than 70% from 2019 to 2021.

The analysis, published Thursday in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, looked at what the National Poison Data System categorized as “suspected suicides” by self-poisoning for 2021 among people ages 10 to 19; the records included both suicide attempts and deaths by suicide.

The data showed that attempted suicides and suicides by poisoning increased 30% in 2021 compared with 2019, before the pandemic began.

Younger children, ages 10 to 12, had the biggest increase at 73%. For 13- to 15-year-olds, there was a 48.8% increase in suspected suicides and attempts by poisoning from 2019 to 2021. Girls seemed to be the most affected, with a 36.8% increase in suspected suicides and attempts by poisoning.

“I think the group that really surprised us was the 10- to 12-year-old age group, where we saw a 73% increase, and I can tell you that from my clinical practice, this is what we’re seeing also,” said study co-author Dr. Chris Holstege, professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics chief at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. “We’re seeing very young ages ages that I didn’t used to see attempting suicide by poisoning.

“It was pretty stunning from our perspective,” he said.

Twenty or so years ago, when he started working at the University of Virginia, he said, they rarely treated anyone ages 9 to 12 for suicide by poisoning. Now, it’s every week.

“This is an aberration that’s fairly new in our practice,” Holstege said.

The records showed that many of the children used medicines that would be commonly found around the house, including acetaminophen, ibuprofen and diphenhydramine, which is sold under brand names including Benadryl.

There was a 71% jump from 2019 to 2021 in attempts at suicide using acetaminophen alone, Holstege said.

The choice of over-the-counter medications is concerning because children typically have easy access to these products, and they often come in large quantities.

Holstege encourages caregivers to keep all medications in lock boxes, even the seemingly innocuous over-the-counter ones.

If a child overdoses on something like acetaminophen or diphenhydramine, Holstege encourages parents to bring their children into the hospital without delay, because the toxicity of the drug worsens over time. It’s also a good idea to call a poison center, a confidential resource that is available around the clock.

“We want to make sure that the children are taken care of in regards to their mental health but also in regards to the poisoning if there’s suspicion that they took an overdose,” he said.

There were limitations to the data used in the new study. It captured only the number of families or institutions that reached out to the poison control line; it cannot account for those who attempted suicide by means other than poison. It also can’t capture exactly how many children or families sought help from somewhere other than poison control, so the increase in suspected suicides could be higher.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has noted that the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated existing mental health struggles that existed even. In 2021, the group called child and adolescent mental health a “national emergency.” Emergency room clinicians across the country have also said they’ve seen record numbers of children with mental health crises, including attempts at suicide.

In 2020, suicide was the second leading cause of death among children ages 10 to 14 and the third leading cause among those 15 to 24, according to the CDC.

Although the height of the pandemic is over, kids are still emotionally vulnerable, experts warn. Previous attempts at suicide have been found to be the “strongest predictor of subsequent death by suicide,” the study said.

“An urgent need exists to strengthen programs focused on identifying and supporting persons at risk for suicide, especially young persons,” the study said.

Research has shown that there is a significant shortage of trained professionals and treatment facilities that can address the number of children who need better mental health care. In August, the Biden administration announced a plan to make it easier for millions of kids to get access to mental and physical health services at school.

At home, experts said, families should constantly check in with children to see how they are doing emotionally. Caregivers also need to make sure they restrict access to “lethal means,” like keeping medicines – even over-the-counter items – away from children and keeping guns locked up.

Dr. Aron Janssen, vice chair of clinical affairs at the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Lurie Children’s in Chicago, said he is not surprised to see the increase in suspected suicides, “but it doesn’t make it any less sad.”

Janssen, who did not work on the new report, called the increase “alarming.”

The rates of suicide attempts among kids had been increasing even prior to the pandemic, he said, “but this shows Covid really supercharged this as a phenomenon.

“We see a lot of kids who lost access to social supports increasingly isolated and really struggling to manage through day to day.”

Janssen said that he and his colleagues believe these suspected suicides coincide with increased rates of depression and anxiety and a sense of real dread about the future.

One of the biggest concerns is that “previous suicide attempts is the biggest predictor of later suicide completion,” he said. “We really want to follow these kids over time to better understand how to support them, to make sure that we’re doing everything within our power to help steer them away from future attempts.”

Janssen said it’s important to keep in mind that the vast majority of children survived even the worst of the pandemic and did quite well. There are treatments that work, and kids who can get connected to the appropriate care – including talk therapy and, in some cases, medication – can and do get better.

“We do see that. We do see improvement. We do see efficacy of our care,” Janssen said. “We just have to figure out how we can connect kids to care.”

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Florida Bill Doing Best To Out-Worst All Other Bans On Gender-Affirming Care

As Yr Wonkette covered yesterday, and as brought to our attention by the invaluable Erin in the Morning, the state of Florida (Motto: “America’s Useless Appendage”) is considering a whole swath of terrible legislation that if passed, would make life even more miserable for LGBTQ+ people there. It’s understandable, really — there are so many Republicans in the state Legislature, and they all want a turn at proving that they can hate LGBTQ+ folks as much or more than their peers.

Read More:

Florida LGBTQ Hate Bills Want Some Bigot To Have ‘Parental Rights’ Over Everybody Else’s Children

Red States About Five Minutes Away From Legalized Lynching Of Trans People

What IS Gender Affirming Health Care For Kids Anyway, Because Texas Is Super F*cking Lying About It Right?

Today, we’ll take a closer look (again, thanks to Erin Reed) at just one of those very bad ideas, Florida HB 1421, which drunkenly tells other states’ bans on gender affirming care for trans youth, “Hold my beer” before jumping on a skateboard and launching itself into the abyss. A Florida House subcommittee yesterday voted to move HB 1421 out of committee. After hearings in a second committee, the bill is likely to be sent to the full House, where it’s likely to pass. It’s Florida, and Republicans have an 85-35 majority of seats.

It’s not only an extremist bill, it’s also so broadly written that in attempting to outlaw gender-affirming care for minors, it also may make mastectomies for breast cancer illegal and ban hormone treatments for menopause. We can’t entirely guarantee that’s a mistake. The bill doesn’t simply ban gender-affirming treatment going forward: It would force detransition on trans youth. All minors currently receiving puberty blockers or hormone replacement therapy would have to end treatment by December 31 of this year. Such forced detransitioning is almost certain to lead to suicides, not that the psycho bigots supporting the bill care.

As ever: If you’re having thoughts of harming yourself, call the national suicide and crisis lifeline at 988.

This being Florida, the bill keeps getting worse. One provision would allow the state to take trans kids from their parents to “protect” them from getting gender-affirming care in another state.

As with several similar bills around the country, the law also forbids insurance plans from covering gender-affirming care for adults, because the bill’s sponsor, the dubiously named Rep. Randy Fine — a former gambling industry executive, not a doctor — says he believes all medical care for trans people is merely “a cosmetic-type procedure, and not necessarily a procedure that would improve their health.” Yes, of course he’s ignoring the consensus among medical organizations that transition is the treatment for gender dysphoria, and that, yes, it saves lives.

Because the bill bans the state from paying for any gender-affirming care, it would also result in forcible detransition for incarcerated trans people. The bill’s sponsor was very clear on that when another state representative asked. Further, the blanket prohibition on puberty blockers and hormone therapy would probably prohibit some treatments for stunted growth in children. Another legislator said that, as she read the bill, it may ban contraception for minors, although Fine said he didn’t think it would.

HB 1421 also prohibits any changes to birth certificates to reflect an adult’s gender identity. State Rep. Kelly Skidmore (D) had questions about why a bill supposedly aimed at “protecting” children would do that; Fine (again, not a doctor) explained that “your biology cannot be changed,” to which Skidmore replied, “Doctors would disagree. […] You can change your biology. That’s the point of gender-affirming care and surgery.”

Fine then muttered something about chromosomes, which kind of ignores the fact that hormone therapy very definitely changes a person’s biology, what with the differences in hair growth, body chemistry, and so on. But not chromosomes!

Fine went on to explain that gender-affirming care for minors is “child abuse,” although he acknowledged that’s his personal opinion, not actually a law. But co-sponsor Rep. Ralph Massullo — who somehow is a doctor — insisted it was just like “If you chop your sons arm off it’s child abuse,” so there’s a doctor who knows his stuff. Massullo also explained, contrary to the medical consensus, that since gender dysphoria is all in trans people’s heads, they should see a therapist and get cured through good old conversion therapy, which doesn’t work.

The most glaringly insane part of the bill is the former gambling executive’s medically muddy definition of “gender clinical interventions,” a term that isn’t actually from medicine. HB 1421 defines such interventions as

procedures or therapies that alter internal or external physical traits.

The term includes, but is not limited to:

1. Sex reassignment surgeries or any other surgical procedures that alter primary or secondary sexual characteristics.

2. Puberty blocking, hormone, and hormone antagonistic therapies.

The bill allows a few exceptions, such as for treatment of infants born with ambiguous genitalia, and of course for treatments to reverse gender-affirming care, but that’s about it; as House Democrats pointed out, the broad prohibitions on altering “primary or secondary sexual characteristics” appears to ban mastectomies, breast reduction or enhancement, maybe prostate surgery, and who knows, maybe even penile implants for treatment of erectile dysfunction.

But wait! Since it only applies to minors, Fine figured that wouldn’t be a problem. During questioning by state Rep. Christine Hunschofsky (D), Fine was surprised to hear that minors can even have breast cancer, though he remained skeptical of that anyway, and mocked what he said was the “pervasive problem of youth breast cancer.” Probably just an excuse to get top surgery, right sir?

Oh yes, and because it’s so sloppily written, the bill would also ban insurance from covering breast cancer mastectomies — for adults too, since the insurance ban is for all “gender clinical interventions,” regardless of the patient’s age.

Will Larkins, an 18-year-old high school student, testified against the bill, telling the committee members that his transgender friends would be directly harmed by the bill, not “protected.” He begged the lawmakers to at least agree to a Democratic amendment that would allow youth who have already begun treatment to continue it.

“That health care has saved their lives. You will kill them. I am telling you right now — look me in the eyes — you will kill them if you pass this bill and you don’t pass this amendment. […] You will kill them if you force them to detransition.”

The committee rejected the amendment, because there are no trans people in Florida, just punching bags to beat up on for the cameras.

This is where we wish we could tell you that HB 1421 is so obviously unconstitutional that there’s no chance it will pass and be signed into law, but you’ve been here for a while and you wouldn’t ever fall for a hopeful lie like that. We don’t even think they’d listen to our new hero, Grace Linn, that wonderful centenarian wonder woman. But who knows? Bet she’d make a trans lives matter quilt if she thought it would help.

[HuffPo / Florida HB 1421 / Erin Reed on Twitter / New Republic / Image generated by DreamStudio Lite AI]

Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please give $5 or $10 a month so we can keep you up to date on the horror show parts of our nation seem bent on becoming. We can’t let the bastards get away with this.

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Links Found That Tie Encephalitis to Potential Suicide Risks

Feb. 23, 2023 – In 2017, during a year of study abroad in Paris, Michelle Cano Bravo began to have hallucinations, insomnia, and paranoia. She also had problems with her thinking skills – she would get lost frequently, even in places she knew. 

“I had no idea what was happening,” the 25-year-old says. “I was like a dying dog under a house and just looked for solitude.” 

During that period, Bravo, who today is a law student based in New York, tried to take her life twice. 

After she returned to the U.S. in early 2018, she began to have more disturbing symptoms. Once, when visiting Times Square, “I thought the people on the big screens were talking to me,” she says.

She panicked and couldn’t find her way to the subway. She doesn’t remember how she got home. But when she did, she collapsed, screaming that she was dying. She was rushed to the hospital, where she was admitted to the psychiatric unit.

Days later, she was getting worse. She became unresponsive and comatose. Finally, she was diagnosed with encephalitis and multi-organ system failure. 

Unfortunately, people with Bravo’s symptoms often are regarded as having a psychiatric illness rather than encephalitis, says Jesús Ramirez-Bermúdez, MD, PhD, of the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery in Mexico City.

Caring for patients with encephalitis, he says, is “challenging,” because the patients can have sudden and severe mental health disturbances. 

“They are often misdiagnosed as having a primary psychiatric disorder, for instance schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, but they do not improve with the use of psychiatric medication or psychotherapy,” Ramirez-Bermudez says. Rather, the disease requires “specific treatments,” such as antiviral medications or immunotherapy. 

What Is Encephalitis?

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain caused either by an infection invading the brain (infectious encephalitis) or through the immune system attacking the brain in error (post-infectious or autoimmune encephalitis). 

The disease can strike anyone at any age, and more than 250,000 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with it during the past decade. Worldwide, 500,000 people are affected by it annually.

Unfortunately, about 77% of people don’t know what encephalitis is, and even some health care professionals don’t recognize that psychiatric symptoms can be signs of acute illness in encephalitis.

Along with psychiatric symptoms, encephalitis can also include flu-like symptoms, fever, headache, sensitivity to light and/or sound, neck stiffness, weakness or partial paralysis in the limbs, double vision, and impaired speech or hearing.

Suicidality in People With Encephalitis

Between 2014 and 2021, Ramirez-Bermúdez and his colleagues studied 120 patients hospitalized in a neurologic treatment center in Mexico with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis – a condition in which the antibodies produced by the person’s own body attack a receptor in the brain.

This receptor is particularly important as part of the way the body signals itself and is required in several processes that lead to complex behaviors, he explains. Dysfunction in this receptor may lead to times when these processes are disturbed, which may result in psychosis.

“In the last years, we observed that some patients with autoimmune encephalitis … had suicidal behavior, and a previous study conducted in China suggested that the problem of suicidal behavior is not infrequent in this population,” he says. 

Ramirez-Bermúdez and his colleagues wanted to investigate how often patients have suicidal thoughts and behaviors, what neurological and psychiatric features might have to be related to suicidality, and what the outcome would be after receiving treatment for the encephalitis.

All of the patients had brain imaging with an MRI, a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to check for signs of infection in the brain or spinal cord, an electroencephalogram (EEG) to detect possible seizures or abnormal electrical brain activity, as well as interviews with the patient and family members to look at mental skills, mood, and suicidal thoughts. 

Of the 120 patients, 15 had suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors. These patients had symptoms including delusions (for example, of being persecuted or of grandiosity), hallucinations, delirium, and being catatonic.

After medical treatment that included immunotherapy, neurologic and psychiatric medications, rehabilitation, and psychotherapy, 14 of the 15 patients had remission from suicidal thoughts and behaviors. 

Patients were followed after discharge from the hospital between 1 year and almost 9 years, and remained free of suicidality.

“The good news is that, in most cases, the suicidal thoughts and behaviors, as well as the features of psychotic depression, improve significantly with the specific immunological therapy,” Ramirez-Bermúdez says. .

Fighting Stigma, Breaking the Taboo

Study co-author Ava Easton, PhD, chief executive of the Encephalitis Society, says that encephalitis-related mental health issues, thoughts of self-injury, and suicidal behaviors “may occur for a number of reasons. And stigma around talking about mental health can be a real barrier to speaking up about symptoms – but it is an important barrier to overcome.”

Easton, an honorary fellow at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, says their study “provides a platform on which to break the taboo, show tangible links which are based on data between suicide and encephalitis, and call for more awareness of the risk of mental health issues during and after encephalitis.”

Ramirez-Bermúdez agrees. There are “many cultural problems in the conventional approach to mental health problems, including prejudices, fear, myths, stigma, and discrimination,” he says. “This is present in popular culture but also within the culture of medicine and psychology.”

Bravo, the law student who dealt with encephalitis and its mental effects, told no one about her thoughts of suicide.

 “It was cultural,” she says. 

Even though her mother is a doctor, she was afraid to share her suicidality with her. In her South American family, “the subject of mental illness isn’t a fun topic to talk about. And the message is, ‘if you’re thinking about killing yourself, you’ll end up in an asylum.’”

Unfortunately, these attitudes add to a “delay in the recognition” of the diagnosis, Ramirez-Bermúdez says.  

After treatment and as the acute disease lifted, Bravo slowly regained day-to-day function. But even now, more than 5 years later, she continues to struggle with some symptoms related to her mental skills, as well as depression – although she’s in law school and managing to keep up with her assignments. She’s not actively suicidal but continues to have fleeting moments of feeling it would be preferable not to live anymore. 

On the other hand, Bravo sees a psychotherapist and finds therapy to be helpful, because “therapy refocuses and recontextualizes everything.” Her therapist reminds her that things could be a lot worse. “And she reminds me that just my being here is a testament to the will to live.” 

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Finding Comfort and Meaning After a Child’s Suicide

Feb. 16, 2023 – Janet Shedd lost her youngest son to suicide 7 years ago.

“Tom had suffered from depression for about 9 months. We had gotten counseling for him, and he had been taking medication. We thought things were starting to turn around,” says Shedd, who lives in Kentucky. 

But as soon as he turned 18 and was legally allowed to buy a gun, he died by suicide. Shedd’s life was shattered. “After his death, I became the walking wounded. It was hard to function,” she says. “I spent days crying and not getting out of bed.”

She calls the loss “devastating because, as a parent, one of your major functions is to keep your child safe. When you’re not able to do that – usually through no fault of your own – you go through a lot of guilt.” 

Shedd is far from alone. In 2020, suicide was the second leading cause of death in youngsters and young adults (ages 10 to 34) and the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S..

And more young people are apparently considering taking their own lives. 

Just this week, the CDC released a study showing a crisis in mental health among teen girls. The report found girls are experiencing record high levels of sexual violence, and nearly 3 in 5 girls report feeling persistently sad or hopeless.

Nearly one-third of girls (30%) reported seriously considering suicide, up from 19% in 2011. In teenage boys, serious thoughts of suicide increased from 13% to 14% from 2011 to 2021. The percentage of teenage girls who had attempted suicide in 2021 was 13%, nearly twice that of teenage boys (7%).

All these hurting children, and all those lost lives, have left a significant number of bereaved parents.

No Universal Pattern

William Feigelman, PhD, a professor emeritus of sociology at Nassau Community College in Garden City, NY, lost a son to suicide 20 years ago. 

“He had a lot of winning characteristics, was engaged to be married, and was getting ahead in the film industry,” Feigelman says. “We were shocked and stunned, and it was the worst experience of our lives.”

It turned out that their son had been “coming off a drug high in an industry where drugs are commonplace and was depressed and self-punishing at the time.” 

The decision to die by suicide is complex and shouldn’t be reduced to single issues, Feigelman says. 

“Drugs are common and played a role in my son’s suicide. But people take their lives for a variety of reasons. Maybe something went wrong. They were jilted by a girlfriend or boyfriend or lost their job. They feel dishonored and humiliated and can’t face other people. Maybe they feel they’ve let their families down. They’re in deep psychic pain and see suicide as the only way out.”

Traditional bullying and cyberbullying have played a role in suicides of youngsters. Last week, a 14-year-old girl in New Jersey died by suicide. She had been beaten up in school, with a video of the assault posted online afterward. Unfortunately, many parents aren’t aware if their child is being bullied. The girl’s father says the school and the school district have not done enough to respond. 

Just being aware of a child’s mental health problems doesn’t guarantee they’ll be resolved, Feigelman says. Many parents have struggled, “going from one clinic to another, one medication to another, and never successfully getting the right kind of help for their child who was in pain.” 

On the other hand, some parents have seemingly successful, high-functioning children “who suddenly have one mishap – such as a bad math test – which pushes them over the edge into suicide, and they feel they can’t go home and tell their parents about it.”

The point, according to Feigelman, is that “the reasons for suicide vary from case to case, with no universal pattern.” 

A Combination of Events

Erin Hawley and Angela Wiese agree. They are sisters in Lexington, KY, who lost children to suicide. 

Wiese’s oldest son, Mason, died by suicide when he was 19 years old. She describes him as a “quiet kid, but also fun, outgoing and athletic, with lots of friends.” 

“He had just graduated from high school and was going through a transitional time,” she says. “He wasn’t sure he wanted to go to college, so he enlisted in the Navy Reserves on a delayed entry.”

She wonders if he was overwhelmed or stressed by his schooling or perhaps didn’t want to open up to his family out of fear of upsetting them.  “We don’t know why he chose to kill himself. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing.”

Then, 23 months later, Wiese’s 18-year-old son, Ethan, also took his life. “We didn’t realize at the time how much at risk Ethan was after Mason’s suicide. We now believe he was struggling and just didn’t know how to cope with that loss,” she says.

Hawley, whose 13-year-old daughter, Myra, also died by suicide, says her daughter’s death was particularly shocking and “came out of the blue” because she “came from a family who already had two children – her first cousins – die by suicide, and we talked about it all the time in our house.”

For Hawley, the “hardest part was her choosing not to tell us that she was struggling or having these thoughts and that she wanted to kill herself. I never imagined we would lose another child to suicide in our family.”

Some research suggests that the risk of suicide is higher in those who have been bereaved by another family member or close friend’s suicide. But Feigelman says that multiple suicides in the same family are “relatively rare.”

And Hawley has learned that the motives for suicide are “unique to every situation, and it’s usually a ‘perfect storm’ of several events, some of which may be common, everyday things that parents may think they understand and can connect to.” 

At the end of the day, “our children were the only people who knew the reasons, and we don’t want to speculate,” Hawley says.

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After her older son’s death, Wiese “reached out to resources and grief therapists, but they didn’t have experience with suicide grief and the understanding how complicated a suicide grief is to the bereaved, especially to a sibling. Ethan was mourning the loss of his brother, as we all were, but he did not have the coping skills to handle his grief.” 

Wiese recommends that parents seeking help after a child’s suicide – for themselves or their other children – should “find professionals and support systems that deal specifically with suicide bereavement.”

Shedd agrees. “My advice to other parents is to know you’re not alone. One of the best things I did was to hook up with someone else who had gone through the experience of losing a child to suicide, which was a touchstone during the early days,” she says. “Having someone to talk to who had been through it and was standing upright and functioning in the world was incredibly helpful to me.”

Feigelman and his wife, Beverly Feigelman, a licensed social worker, joined support groups for people who lost loved ones to suicide. Eventually, they founded a support group of their own – Long Island Survivors of Suicide.

“The group is still flourishing, and we’ve been running it for the last 15 years,” Feigelman says. “It’s important to be with people who have sustained a similar loss because we have unique issues that don’t affect people bereaved by other losses – we’re racked by guilt, shame, and anger toward the loved one who died by suicide, and we’re shaken and mystified that our children, whom we loved and even thought we knew well, could take their own life.” 

Turning Pain Into Purpose

“I’m definitely in a better place than I was immediately after Tom’s death,” Shedd says. “Time helps, and you move slowly forward. But even 7 years later, it’s still very fresh, and little things can tick off the memories – if I see someone who looks like him walking down the street, for example. And of course, you miss your child forever.”

Nevertheless, “Helping other people who have gone through this type of loss and working to change things has been very helpful.”

Shedd became involved in advocating for changes in gun laws. “If I can save someone else from going through a similar tragedy, this honors Tom, and that’s a comfort,” she says.

After the death of her second son, Wiese founded Brothers’ Run, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising money for suicide prevention efforts within schools and communities. The money also supports critical services and mental health professionals who care for suicide-bereaved families. 

“Since losing my sweet boys, I’ve found that pain can be turned into purpose,” says Wiese.

Beyond running the support group, Feigelman and his wife joined forces with two psychologists to conduct a large study of people bereaved by suicide, including 462 parents. And together, they also wrote Devastating Losses, a book for health care professionals working with suicide-bereaved family members.

Some parents may not be drawn to involvement in volunteer work, advocacy, or similar activities. But there are still many healing approaches, including spiritual practice, yoga, mindfulness, art, and physical exercise. 

“But I think the most helpful thing is working with a good, trained clinician and getting the support of other parents,” Feigelman says. “Engaging with other bereaved parents contributes to posttraumatic growth.”

Shedd says her posttraumatic growth led to a deepening of empathy and compassion. 

“I hesitate to say this because some people might regard it as a punch in the face, but a mentor told me, ‘You’re going to get gifts from this experience.’ I didn’t want any ‘gifts.’ I just wanted my child back. But I have to admit that – although I would never have chosen to pay the price for these ‘gifts’ – what happened has indeed changed me into a better person.”

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Bullying doesn’t look like it used to. Experts share how to fix it | CNN

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health matters, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 (or 800-273-8255) to connect with a trained counselor or visit the NSPL site.


Every generation has tales of bullying, but perhaps today’s adults are not as familiar with what it means now for a kid to be bullied.

Physical bullying — like confrontations involving hitting or shoving — actually showed very little association with a risk for mental distress, according to a new study.

“For adults doing this research, you kind of assume that bullying consists of being stuffed in a locker and beaten up on the playground,” said lead study author John Rovers, professor and John R. Ellis Distinguished Chair in Pharmacy Practice at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. “We found out that that really has remarkably little effect.”

Researchers took data from the 2018 Iowa Youth Survey of sixth, eighth and 11th graders to see whether there was an association between bullying and mental health and suicidal ideation, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.

The results showed different forms of bullying did have an impact on feelings of sadness or hopelessness or thoughts of suicide — but that they did not impact students equally.

Identity bullying, which includes bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity as well as sexual jokes, was correlated with significant feelings of distress or suicide attempts, the study said.

Cyberbullying and social bullying — leaving someone out or turning peers against them — followed identity bullying on degree of impact.

The study is limited in that the sample did not include a high level of racial and religious diversity, but it does show “a theme very consistent with recent surveys as well as what I’m seeing in my clinical practice,” said child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Neha Chaudhary, chief medical officer at BeMe Health who is in the faculty at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Chaudhary was not involved in the research.

The teachers and school administrators surveyed were worried most about physical bullying, however, according to the study.

“This is a good learning for schools and families as they think about anti-bullying initiatives and how to talk to young people about the effects of bullying,” Chaudhary said.

It makes sense that identity would be a particularly painful form of bullying.

“Identity is so incredibly important for kids and teens as they develop, and not being able to be themselves without fear of judgement or bullying from others is not only isolating, it can significantly alter their confidence, peace of mind, and ability to see a future for themselves that’s free of pain,” Chaudhary said in an email. “People just want to be themselves, and be loved for who they are.”

The survey data reviewed by the study team revealed a troubling statistic when it came to the state of adolescent mental health.

“About 70,000 students responded to this survey. Five percent of them had attempted suicide in the last year,” Rovers said. “That’s 3,500 kids.”

And this week’s results of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s biannual Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed mental distress among teens is getting worse.

In rates that “increased dramatically” over the past decade, most high school girls (57%) felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, double the rate for teen boys (29%), according to the CDC. Nearly 1 in 3 teen girls seriously considered attempting suicide.

Most LGBTQ students (52%) have also recently experienced poor mental health, and more than 1 in 5 attempted suicide in the past year, the CDC survey showed.

Solutions that address adolescent mental health may come from families and schools working together — not in focusing on what the kids themselves can change, Rovers said.

“Blaming this on some 9-year-old kid is not right,” he added.

When it comes to bullying, there are three types of players: the bully, the victim and the child that is both being bullied and bullying others, Rovers said.

All three need support, said Dr. Hina Talib, adolescent medicine specialist at the Atria Institute in New York and associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

“Bullying is such a pattern of behavior that causes harm to the victim of the bully, the children that might just be witnessing the bullying happening and even to the bully themselves,” said Talib, who was not involved in the research.

Rarely is a child exerting power over others just for its own sake, Talib added.

While caregivers may have the first reaction to punish their child when they hear they are bullying others, it is important to probe a little deeper into what is going on with them, she said.

“There are likely reasons there that are causing them to act out in this way,” Talib explained. “Underneath that, I think it’s important to see that their child is hurting also.”

She recommended coming to them with the mindset of “this is not acceptable behavior, and this is why, and I’m here to help you through it,” Talib said.

“The bully can and should be helped as well,” she added. “There’s almost always more to it.”

There are many ideas about what motivates bullying behavior, but one could be that kids are emulating how they see the adults in their lives resolve conflict, Rovers said. These adolescents might learn that violence is a way to protect themselves.

For children that are being bullied, they may not always be direct in telling the adults in their lives what is wrong, Talib said.

Instead of hearing about cruel words or isolating actions, families might first see stress, anxiety, depression, stomachaches and avoiding school, she said.

She recommended being attentive to your child and their individual behaviors and stepping in when you see a change. That could mean asking directly, having their pediatrician speak to them about it privately or even coming to them indirectly.

A helpful way in could be to ask about their friends’ experiences.

Say something like: “There was an interesting research report about bullying, and it made me think about bullying. It made me interested in if your friends were bullied or if you ever witnessed a bullying situation,” Talib said.

If you do find that your child is the victim of bullying, Talib said it’s a good idea to get in contact with the school and the other family to develop an action plan together.

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What’s Behind Rise in Girls’ Report of Sadness, Sexual Violence?

Feb. 14, 2023 – The recent discovery of a dramatic spike in the number of teen girls saying they’ve been victims of sexual assault could have a now-familiar cause: the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The CDC reported Monday that teenage girls are experiencing record high levels of sexual violence, and nearly 3 in 5 girls report feeling persistently sad or hopeless. 

The numbers were even worse for students who identify as LGBTQ+, nearly 70% of whom report experiencing feelings of persistent sadness and hopeless, and nearly 1 in 4 (22%) LGBTQ+ teens had attempted suicide in 2021, according to the report. 

Protective factors, such as being in school and participating in various activities, were largely nonexistent for many teens during the pandemic, which could explain the spike in sexual violence cases, says Carlos A. Cuevas, PhD, clinical psychologist and Center on Crime Race and Injustice co-director at Northeastern University in Boston.

That — on top of other mental, emotional, and physical stressors amid the COVID-19 crisis — created an unsafe and unhealthy environment for some girls.

“Once people started to kind of come out of the pandemic and we started to see the mental health impact of the pandemic, there were waiting lists everywhere. So being able to access those resources became more difficult because we just had a boom in demand for a need for mental health services,” says Cuevas.

Teen girls are also more likely to be victims of sexual assault than teen boys, which could explain the why they are overrepresented in the data, Cuevas says. 

If your child experiences sexual assault, there are a few things parents should keep in mind. For one, it’s important that your child knows that they are the victims in the situation, Cuevas says.

“I think sometimes you still get kind of a victim blaming sort of attitude, even unintentionally,” he says. “Really be clear about the message that it’s not their fault and they are not responsible in any way.”

Parents should also look out for resources their child might need to work through any trauma they may have experienced. For some, that could be medical attention due to a physical act of assault. For others, it could be mental health services or even legal remedies, such as pressing charges.

“You want to give those options but the person who was the victim really is the one who determines when and how those things happen,” Cuevas says. “So really to be able to be there and ask them what they need and try to facilitate that for them.”

One more thing: Your teen sharing their sexual assault experiences on social media could result in several outcomes. 

“Some teens will talk about this [sexual assault] and post on TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram, and that means that they may get people giving feedback that’s supportive or giving feedback that’s hurtful,” says Cuevas. “Remember that we’re talking about kids; they’re not sort of developmentally able to plan and think, ‘Oh, I may not get all the support that I think I’m going to get when I post this.’”

Goldie Taylor, an Atlanta-based journalist, political analyst and human rights activist, has her own history with sexual assault as a young girl. She experienced it as a 11-year-old, a story she shares in her memoir, The Love You Save. 

When Taylor saw the news of the CDC study, she hurried to read it herself. She, too, see signs of the pandemic’s work in the report. 

“While notably mental health continues to be a post-pandemic story given the issues surrounding quarantine, I also believe it fueled a renewed interest in seeking care— and measuring impacts on children,” Taylor says. “What was most startling, even for me, were the statistics around sexual violence involving young girls. We know from other studies that the vast majority of pregnancies among girls as young as 11 involve late teen and adult males.”

Unfortunately, Taylor says little has changed since her own traumatic experience as a child. There was little support available then. And now, she says, “there are far too few providers in this country to deal effectively with what can only be called a pandemic of sexual violence.”

The study’s findings are indeed a stark reminder of the needs of our children, says Debra Houry, MD, MPH, the CDC’s acting principal deputy director, in a press release about the findings.

“High school should be a time for trailblazing, not trauma. These data show our kids need far more support to cope, hope, and thrive,” she says. 

The new analysis looked at data from 2011 to 2021 from the CDC’s Youth Risk and Behavior Survey, a semiannual analysis of the health behaviors of students in grades 9-12. The 2021 survey is the first conducted since the COVID-19 pandemic began and included 17,232 respondents.  

Although the researchers saw signs of improvement in risky sexual behaviors and substance abuse, as well as fewer experiences of bullying, the analysis found youth mental health worsened over the past 10 years. This trend was particularly troubling for teenage girls: 57% said they felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, a 60% increase from a decade ago. By comparison, 29% of teenage boys reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless, compared to 21% in 2011. 

Nearly one-third of girls (30%) reported seriously considering suicide, up from 19% in 2011. In teenage boys, serious thoughts of suicide increased from 13% to 14% from 2011 to 2021. The percentage of teenage girls who had attempted suicide in 2021 was 13%, nearly twice that of teenage boys (7%). 

More than half of students with a same-sex partner (58%) reported seriously considering suicide, and 45% of LGBTQ+ teens reported the same thoughts. One-third of students with a same-sex partner reported attempting suicide in the past year. 

The report did not have trend data on LGBTQ+ students because of changes in survey methods. The 2021 survey did not have a question about gender identity, but this will be incorporated into future surveys, researchers say. 

Hispanic and multiracial students were more likely to experience persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness compared with their peers, with 46% and 49%, respectively, reporting these feelings. From 2011 to 2021, the percentage of students reporting feelings of hopelessness increased in each racial and ethnic group. The percentage of Black, Hispanic, and white teens who seriously considered suicide also increased over the decade. (A different CDC report released last week found that the rate of suicide among Black people in the United States aged 10-24 jumped 36.6% between 2018 and 2021, the largest increase for any racial or ethnic group.)

The survey also found an alarming spike in sexual violence toward teenage girls. Nearly 1 in 5 females (18%) experienced sexual violence in the past year, a 20% increase from 2017. More than 1 in 10 teen girls (14%) said they had been forced to have sex, according to the researchers.

Rates of sexual violence was even higher in lesbian, bisexual, gay, or questioning teens. Nearly 2 in 5 teens with a partner of the same sex (39%) experienced sexual violence, and 37% reported being sexually assaulted. More than 1 in 5 LGBTQ+ teens (22%) had experienced sexual violence, and 20% said they had been forced to have sex, the report found.

Among racial and ethnic groups, American Indian and Alaskan Native and multiracial students were more likely to experience sexual violence. The percentage of white students reporting sexual violence increased from 2017 to 2021, but that trend was not observed in other racial and ethnic groups. 

Delaney Ruston, MD, an internal medicine specialist in Seattle and creator of Screenagers, a 2016 documentary about how technology affects youth, says excessive exposure to social media can compound feelings of depression in teens — particularly, but not only, girls. 

“They can scroll and consume media for hours, and rather than do activities and have interactions that would help heal from depression symptoms, they stay stuck,” Ruston says in an interview. “As a primary care physician working with teens, this is an extremely common problem I see in my clinic.”

One approach that can help, Ruston says, is behavioral activation. “This is a strategy where you get them, usually with the support of other people, to do small activities that help to reset brain reward pathways so they start to experience doses of well-being and hope that eventually reverses the depression. Being stuck on screens prevents these healing actions from happening.” 

The report also emphasized the importance of school-based services to support students and combat these troubling trends in worsening mental health. “Schools are the gateway to needed services for many young people,” the report says. “Schools can provide health, behavioral, and mental health services directly or establish referral systems to connect to community sources of care.”

“Young people are experiencing a level of distress that calls on us to act with urgency and compassion,” Kathleen Ethier, PhD, director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health, says in a statement. “With the right programs and services in place, schools have the unique ability to help our youth flourish.”

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Healing and Rebuilding Your Life After a Spouse’s Suicide

Jan. 24, 2023 — Betsy Gall, a real estate agent, seemed to have everything: three children, a comfortable home, a handsome, “life-of-the-party” oncologist husband whom she loved. But her world shattered on Thanksgiving Day 2019, when her husband, Matthew, took his life.

The couple had just moved from Minneapolis to Charlotte, where Matt took a new position in a private practice. “He felt the move had been a mistake and referred to it as ‘career suicide’” Gall says. “I wanted him to get help and take antidepressants, but he was afraid of losing his medical license if he took medication.” 

A few months after moving, he ended his life.

Lynette Eddy, a Reno, NV-based social worker, lost her husband to suicide in 2010. 

“I watched Bob depart from his own value system over the years, giving up on his true self,” she says. “Unfortunately, he was swayed by money and greed, got involved with gambling, and got in over his head. I had no idea of the life he was leading, but I know he was suffering greatly.”

Both Gall and Eddy had to find ways to heal and rebuild their lives in the wake of the self-inflicted death of a husband.

Haunting Questions

Losing a loved one to suicide is a loss like no other, says Julie Cerel, PhD, professor at the University of Kentucky College of Social Work and director of the Suicide Prevention and Exposure Lab.

Unlike other causes of death (like illnesses or accidents), which happen to the person, suicide is an act performed by the person who has chosen death, leaving bereaved survivors with guilt and haunting questions, says Cerel, who is the co-author of Seeking Hope: Stories of the Suicide Bereaved.

“When you lose someone to suicide, you instantaneously become an investigator,” Gall says. “Why did it happen? What did I miss? What could I have done differently? Everyone who knew my husband was asking themselves the same questions. We all blamed ourselves in some way, feeling that we should have been able to anticipate or stop it,” says Gall.

Eddy agrees. “Survivor’s guilt is super common. I look back and asked myself the same questions a million times.”

Sometimes, according to Cerel, “we really don’t know what motivated the person.”

Gall now realizes “there was nothing else we could have done. Mental health issues are excruciatingly difficult. People have to be willing to help themselves, and we can’t force them. Matt refused to go on antidepressants and there was no way I could ‘make’ him do so.”

Eddy has reached a similar conclusion. “I feel he had some serious things going on and it didn’t matter what we did or didn’t do. I got him to go to counseling, but that didn’t work. I tried to get him to open up, but never got the truth out of him. I know he was suffering and can only imagine how tortured he was. Obviously, I would have done anything I could have done to alleviate that, but he wouldn’t let me in.”

Stigma, Secrecy, Shame

Research comparing suicide-bereaved people to people who have sustained other losses has found higher levels of shame, stigma, and feeling the need to hide the loved one’s cause of death. Secrecy often develops, both within the family and toward people outside the family, and can lead to family dysfunction. Withdrawing from social networks and friends can make mourning and recovery more difficult.

“Many people bereaved by suicide are reluctant to tell others about the cause of death or to talk about it,” Cerel says. “But our research has found that being able to talk openly about the death and the loved one is actually very helpful.”

Gall and Eddy have spoken openly about their losses. And both have written books describing their experience. Gall is the author of The Illusion of the Perfect Profession and Eddy is the author of The Fight Inside. Both hope that their books will pave the way for deeper understanding of why people might end their lives and how families can cope with such a major loss.

Family members don’t have to reveal personal details, but memorializing the deceased and allowing people to offer love and support helps with feeling less alone and reduces stigma. 

‘Complicated Grief’

Grief researcher Katherine Shear, MD, writes: “Mourning is the process by which bereaved people seek and find ways to turn the light on in the world again.” Mourning is normal and healthy following loss. But suicide can lead to “complicated grief” (also called prolonged grief), which can “prevent the natural healing process from progressing.”

Some people feel anger, rejection, or betrayal when their loved one dies by suicide, which can compound their sense of guilt and place them at greater risk for complicated grief. 

But not everyone reacts that way. “People say to me, ‘you must be so angry at your husband, he betrayed, you, he lied,’ but I never did get angry and I’m not angry today,” Eddy says. 

She attributes her reaction to her spiritual practice, which has enabled her to “see through the heart” into her husband’s pain. “I know he was suffering greatly and trying to fill a void with quick-fix pleasure.”

Getting Help

Cerel encourages suicide-bereaved people to seek professional help if necessary. “They often have symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder or even full-blown PTSD, even if they weren’t there to see the actual event happen.” 

There are effective treatments for PTSD and complicated grief, as well as other aspects of suicide-related grief, like anger and guilt. Support groups are also helpful, particularly consisting of people bereaved by suicide. Resources can be found at the end of the article.

“It’s taken thousands of hours on my therapist’s couch to realize that my husband had no more control over his mental illness than his cancer patients had over their cancer,” Gall says. “I’ve accepted that and no longer wake up every morning with that thud in my heart and that searing, searing pain that goes along with the kind of grief I had.”

Not only family but also friends, classmates, community members, and co-workers can be devastated by a suicide, Cerel points out. Getting professional help or joining a support group can be valuable for them too.

Spiritual Practice as a Resource

Gall and Eddy draw upon their spiritual practice for comfort and strength.

“Faith in a higher power is where I turned first,” says Gall. “I’ve always been a Christian but didn’t go to church every Sunday and wasn’t extremely religious.” In the months before her husband’s death and since then, she’s turned to the Bible and to devotional readings “for some sort of road map as to how to get through the most tumultuous, confusing, awful, torturous, chaotic time of my life.”

Eddy also draws on her spiritual practice — A Course in Miracles — and mindfulness-based approaches. “The spiritual path I took started years before this even happened and played a huge role in giving me strength.”

The phrase from A Course in Miracles that had a profound impact on her was: “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Therein lies the peace of God.” In other words, “I feel that there’s an outside drama happening. I can be one of the ‘actors’ in the play or I can ‘watch’ the play and be the observer.” 

Eddy developed Open-Heart Mindfulness, an approach that involves “observing and witnessing feelings, thoughts, and reactions without becoming judgmental.” She says, “everyone has an ego voice that can drive them to despair, as happened to my husband. But everyone also has another voice — the spirit voice — and we can tune in to that and release our suffering.”

She advises others: “Grieve, of course, but don’t be identified with the grief. Stay in the witness seat. Understand and be gentle with yourself, and recognize that healing will take time.”

Spirituality and mindfulness-based approaches don’t resonate with everyone, Cerel points out.

“Spiritual practices are very individual. Faith or mindfulness may be exactly what some people need, but not others. There are many paths.” And mindfulness doesn’t necessarily mean meditation. Any activity demanding close attention — for example, exercise, art, music, even horseback riding — can bring that quality to the fore. 

Moving Forward

As horrific as the experience is of losing a loved one to suicide, some people emerge changed for the better, which is often called “posttraumatic growth,” says Cerel.

“I think anyone who’s had a traumatic experience that brought them to their knees and stripped them down to the core has a decision to make,” says Eddy.

“I had identified as Bob’s wife and he was my rock, and everything was about him. Then all of a sudden, that was gone, and I knew I had to reinvent myself, rebuild my life, and do something positive.”

Eddy, who completed her MSW after the death of her husband, was working with homeless teenagers and decided to open up a facility, Eddy’s House, for this vulnerable population. “It was a deep feeling I had in my spirit as a way of helping young people. It’s been a big healer for me.” She teaches Open-Heart Mindfulness to the teens and feels it’s made a difference in their lives.

Writing her book contributed to healing. Eddy wanted to shed light on the inner conflicts that had led her husband to die by suicide and to “get the reader to see how, collectively, we have to move toward our authentic selves.”

Gall wrote her book not only as a way of processing her loss, but also to highlight forces that might drive a doctor to suicide. “I’m sharing my story and Matt’s experience to open up a conversation because our [medical] system is broken.”

Gall has been able to start feeling joy again. “Life is so precious, and I feel blessed that I had such a beautiful life with Matthew, and I still have a beautiful life, even without him. Difficult some days, but we must move forward. You never ‘move on’ — you only move forward.”

If you are having suicidal thoughts, call or text the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or text HOME to 741741.


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New 988 mental health crisis line sees ‘eye-opening’ rise in calls, texts, chats in first 6 months, data shows | CNN


Since the summer launch of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, the new three-digit number has seen a significant rise in call volume – routing more than 2 million calls, texts and chat messages to call centers, with the majority being answered in under a minute.

“The average speed to answer year-over-year was about three minutes in 2021. It’s now 44 seconds in December of 2022,” said Dr. John Palmieri, a senior medical advisor at the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, who serves as 988’s deputy director.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, launched last July, transitioning the former 1-800-273-TALK phone number to the three digits of 988. The new number is intended to be easy to remember, similar to how people can dial 911 for medical emergencies.

Since that transition, in the past six months, about 2.1 million calls, texts and chats to the new 988 number have been routed to a response center and, of those, around 89% were answered by a counselor, according to a CNN analysis of data from SAMHSA, which oversees 988. Many of the calls that went unanswered were due to callers hanging up before reaching a counselor.

“We know that there are many individuals in this country who are struggling with suicidal concerns, with mental health or substance use concerns, who aren’t able to access the care that they need. And in many respects, historically, because of funding limitations or other limitations, the system has let them down,” Palmieri said. “So, this is truly an opportunity with 988 – as a catalytic moment – to be able to transform the crisis care system to better meet those needs in a less restrictive, more person-centered, more treatment- and recovery-oriented way.”

Since the summer launch of 988, more than 300,000 calls, texts and chats have come in each month. SAMHSA data on the new lifeline show that in December 2022 versus December 2021, calls answered increased by 48%, chats answered increased by 263% and texts answered increased by 1,445%.

“We see the uptick in volume as an indicator that more people are aware of the service and able to access it,” Kimberly Williams, CEO and president of Vibrant Emotional Health, the nonprofit administrator and operator of the 988 lifeline, said in an email Thursday.

She added that Vibrant was “not surprised” by the increase in volume and has been “working strategically” with the more than 200 call centers in the 988 network to respond.

“In December of 2022 compared to December of 2021, over 172,000 more contacts were answered as part of the lifeline system,” Palmieri said.

The average amount of time counselors spent talking, chatting or texting with contacts was about 21 minutes and 55 seconds.

“It’s really eye-opening to see the increase in the texts, chats and calls that are coming in. But to see that more states have a more than 90% answer rate for contacts coming from their state – and that average speed of answering is down, so people are getting help more quickly,” said Hannah Wesolowski, the chief advocacy officer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

She added that before the launch of 988, there were likely many people seeking mental health support but didn’t feel like there was a call service available for them.

“With the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, even though they did answer a range of crises, it was billed as the ‘National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.’ So a lot of people who are not feeling suicidal but were in distress didn’t feel like that was a resource for them,” Wesolowski said.

“I think awareness of 988 continues to grow each month,” she said. “This country is in a mental health crisis at large. I believe that many more people are feeling that they’re approaching a crisis situation or are in crisis.”

The 988 lifeline also has been testing a pilot program specifically for the LGBTQ+ community, in partnership with the Trevor Project, in which calls, texts or chats from LGBTQ+ youth have the option of being connected with counselors specially trained in LGBTQ-inclusive crisis care services.

The pilot program began around the end of September, and “there has been a lot of demand and a lot of utilization of that service,” Palmieri said. He added that LGBTQ+ youth are at a higher risk of suicide.

“With that pilot program, it is so important that particularly a young person who’s feeling alone, who’s feeling isolated, is able to connect to somebody that they feel can share their experience and that comes from a similar place of understanding,” Wesolowski said. “I’m very anxious to see what the data shows when the pilot ends in March, but I feel very encouraged by my conversations with the Trevor Project and others involved in this.”

Since its launch, the 988 lifeline also has increased the number of call centers taking Spanish calls from a total of three to seven. Spanish language options will increase for text and chat messaging as well, Palmieri said.

“We are also implementing video phone capabilities for people who are deaf and hard of hearing,” he said.”In addition to that, in Washington state, there’s a pilot currently providing specialized care access for individuals who are American Indian/Alaskan Natives to be able to be connected to an organization that’s focused more specifically on their needs.”

HHS announced in December that through SAMHSA, more than $130 million has been awarded in grants to support the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. The funding comes from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The federal spending omnibus bill includes about $500 million for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, according to SAMHSA.

In total, the Biden administration has invested nearly $1 billion in the 988 lifeline.

“Our country is facing unprecedented mental health and substance use crises among people of all ages and backgrounds,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in the announcement last month.

“Although rates of depression and anxiety were rising before the pandemic, the grief, trauma, and physical and social isolation that many people experienced during the pandemic exacerbated these issues. Drug overdose deaths have also reached a historic high, devastating individuals, families, and communities,” he said. “The significant additional funding provided by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act will have a direct positive impact on strengthening the behavioral health of individuals and communities across the country.”

The 988 lifeline is just one tool in the ongoing effort to improve our nation’s mental health, which Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, calls “a key concern of public health” right now.

“It is also one of the root causes of substance abuse and misuse, which is fueling the national epidemic that we have. We’re also concerned about, of course, rates of suicide and what we can do to alleviate and lower those rates,” Freeman said.

“This is very much also a primary public health crisis of concern and leads to many other public health issues that need to be addressed: homelessness, food insecurity, substance misuse, and poor health outcomes,” she said. “We need to get people healthy and well, and connected to the right resources and professionals that can help them overcome their mental health crises.”

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