Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Soliciting Against Suicide

I hate solicitations and I've never considered using my blog to solicit but this isn't for me. It's for my kid, Molly Sumner, who has decided to take it upon herself on June 4-5, 2011, to walk 18 miles through the night throughout New York City to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in their Out of the Darkness campaign. In order to take that walk, Molly had to raise $1,000.00 and, thanks to so many generous friends and neighbors (If you're one of them, Molly and I can't thank you enough!) she has far surpassed it! Her personal fundraising goal is $2,000.00 and, while she's edging closer by the day, she has a little bit further to go.

Molly shoveled walks in the big snowstorm all around New Jersey in return for donations. She was contacted by our area newspaper for a story which they wrote about her quest. So things seem to be gaining momentum. But times are tough for all of us right now and it isn't easy to support a cause when we have to budget every penny we get. It's even harder when the cause is one that no one wants to think or talk about.

Our government has a policy that, for every soldier that dies on active duty in a war zone whether killed in action, accident or illness, the President of the United States writes a letter to the family - except when that soldier dies by his or her own hand. There is such shame attached to suicide, I can't imagine what that must be like for the soldier's family to have such condemnation placed upon them on top of their loss.

For survivors of someone who kills his or herself, there is such tremendous guilt, the sense that they should have been able to do something, that somehow they were at fault. For the one who dies, often there is little sympathy, as if the person actually had a choice. People say it's the coward's way out or that it's the most selfish thing a person could do. They connect it with character. Or people just shake their heads and say they never saw it coming or there's nothing you can do to stop someone anyway.

The thing is suicide is the end result of a physical illness that is all too often fatal. For anyone who has suffered from depression, you know the kind of pain - actual physical pain - that you endure. Clinical depression is a biological condition that affects the body and the brain in many ways. Some sufferers can't even get out of bed. Often they see no hope for ever getting better. Add to that the invisibility. It's extremely difficult to go out and engage in the world when you have no energy, when everything hurts, especially to be met with suggestions such as "cheer up" or "smile and you'll feel better" as if such a simple remedy had never crossed the person's mind. Can you imagine how awful it would feel that people thought you were just not trying hard enough?

Of course nobody wants to hurt a friend. You simply don't know what to do when your friend seems to just want to give up. I mean, haven't we all heard that there's nothing you can do when someone is hell bent on killing themselves? Or that you'll put the idea of suicide into a person's mind if you mention it? So, even if you're worried your friend might be suicidal, you don't dare ask.

But you see, no one in their right mind is hell bent on killing themselves.

It's not about wanting to die. It's about needing to stop the pain.

It's about getting medical help for a physical illness that is so painful, if left untreated medically, it can be fatal. So do ask. Do talk about it.

It's time to bring the subject of suicide out of the darkness. It's time to take away the stigma that is so undeserved to both victims and survivors. You are fortunate, indeed, and a rare human being if you've never, even if just for a fleeting moment, thought of suicide. I will tell you that I have struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide for much of my life as have some closest to me. And I and those closest to me have lost loved ones to suicide - as have most people. And many of those lost to the disease were sensitive, bright, compassionate people who would have made great contributions to society.

The ones we lose are the ones we can least afford to.

So here's the thing. If each of us can try to begin to change their beliefs about suicide and make just their own neighborhoods feel like welcoming, nonjudgmental places, then neighbors that they don't even realize are struggling with this right now might begin to feel hope. That's all we need to start - to have hope. To have an open dialog.

And if you are able to contribute to Molly's journey Out of the Darkness (see the link below), that will spread the word beyond the neighborhood to a day when shame is no longer connected to a disease for which no one is immune. We need to start here.

Much love and thanks,

The fine print:
Thank you for considering this request for your support. Checks must be received by May 20th to be counted towards my goal. Credit cards donations by June 3rd. Please visit my Overnight fundraising page if you would like to donate or see how close I am to reaching my personal goal:

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