With the recent suicide completions by celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony
Bourdain combined with the recent numbers from the CDC about the increase
in suicide completions in the United States, there is greater detail being
paid to suicide in New York State and the country. New York State has been
a leader in this area through the work of Governor Cuomo, NYS Office of
Mental Health, the Suicide Prevention Center and the New York State
Legislature. On Friday, we sent out an update featuring some of the new
initiatives from Governor Cuomo in this arena.
MHAs are also national leaders in this arena as the National Mental Health
Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a creation of the MHA-NYC. Many MHA’s across
NYS are also doing innovative work around suicide prevention as well. Feel
free to use our directory at www.mhanys.org to find out information about
an affiliate in your region.
Over 90% of individuals who complete suicide have an underlying
depression. The stigma of depression and other mental health issues creates
an undercurrent of despair that leads to people not seeking support or
remedies for their depression. Ironically, the rates of recovery for
depression are higher than for most physical health issues. Don’t let
stigma stop you from seeking support. There are many resources out there.
Make a call…make a connection if you have feelings of despair. There is
help available if you ask for it.
Listed below are two articles. The first one from yesterday’s New York
Times feature advice about how to respond to an individual who is severely
depressed. Among others, the article highlights advice from MHA-NYC CEO and
President Kim Williams. There is also well done article from the
Schenectady Gazette about some local efforts being done to raise awareness.
MHANYS Director of Education, Amy Malloy provides some important insight in
What to Do When a Loved One Is Severely Depressed
There are no easy answers for helping someone struggling with depression,
especially if you’ve already tried and tried. Here are some tips from
By Heather Murphy
At a suicide prevention event at Walla Walla High School in Walla Walla,
Wash., last month, participants choose necklaces of different colors
representing how suicide had affected their lives.CreditGreg Lehman/Walla
Walla Union-Bulletin, via Associated Press
Reports of Kate Spade’s suicide and struggle with depression
instantly transformed her from symbol of polished prep to a blunt reminder
that suffering affects all types. Three days later we woke to the news
that another beloved figure, Anthony Bourdain, had taken his life.
These two tragedies have inspired hundreds to tweet some version of the
same message: Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.
But deep in the comment threads, some have also been debating a more
uncomfortable question: What do you do when a friend is depressed for such
a long time that you’ve started to feel that that nothing you can do will
make a difference, and your empathy reserves are tapped out? There are no
easy answers. But here are some tips from experts:
Don’t underestimate the power of showing up
You may not feel that your presence is wanted. But just being by the side
of someone who is depressed, and reminding her that she is special to you,
is important to ensuring that she does not feel alone, said Dr. Norman
Rosenthal <www.normanrosenthal.com/about/>, a clinical professor of
psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine.
If she acknowledges she’s depressed, that’s a good sign, said Dr.
Rosenthal. He recalled the story of a patient who stopped feeling suicidal
after telling people he was close to how he was feeling.
“When you shine the light on the shame, it gets better,” Dr. Rosenthal said.
Don’t try to cheer him up or offer advice
Your brother has an enviable job and two lovely children. He’s still
ridiculously handsome even though he hasn’t gone to the gym for six months.
It’s tempting to want to remind him of all these good things.
Not only is that unlikely to boost his mood, it could backfire by
reinforcing his sense that you just don’t get it, said Megan Devine
<www.refugeingrief.com/about/>, a psychotherapist and the author of
“It’s O.K. That You’re Not O.K.”
“Your job as a support person is not to cheer people up. It’s to
acknowledge that it sucks right now, and their pain exists,” she said.
Instead of upbeat rebuttals about why it’s not so bad, she recommended
trying something like, “It sounds like life is really overwhelming for you
If you want to say something positive, focus on highlighting what he means
to you, Dr. Rosenthal advised. And though offering suggestions for how to
improve his life will be tempting, simply listening is better.
It’s O.K. to ask if she is having suicidal thoughts
Lots of people struggle with depression without ever considering suicide.
But depression is often a factor.
Although you may worry that asking, “Are you thinking about killing
yourself?” will insult someone you’re trying to help — or worse, encourage
her to go in that direction — experts say the opposite is true.
“It’s important to know you can’t trigger suicidal thinking just by asking
about it,” said Allen Doederlein, the executive vice president of external
affairs at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
If the answer is yes, it’s crucial that you calmly ask when and how; it’s
much easier to help prevent a friend from hurting herself if you know the
Take any mention of death seriously
Even when a person with depression casually mentions death or suicide, it’s
important to ask follow-up questions. If the answers don’t leave you
feeling confident that a depressed person is safe, experts advised
involving a professional as soon as possible. If this person is seeing a
psychiatrist or therapist, get him or her on the phone.
If that’s not an option, have the person you’re worried about call a
suicide prevention line, such as a 1-800-273-TALK
<suicidepreventionlifeline.org/>, or take her to the hospital
emergency room; say aloud that this is what one does when a loved one’s
life is in danger.
In some cases, calling 911 may be the best option. If you do, ask for a
crisis intervention team, Mr. Doederlein urged.
But remember that interactions with law enforcement can vary wildly,
depending on race and socio-economic background. In cases where you’re
concerned that calling police could put a person in danger, try to come up
with an alternate plan in advance.
Make getting to that first appointment as easy as possible
You alone cannot fix this problem, no matter how patient and loving you
are. A severely depressed friend needs professional assistance from a
psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker or another medical professional.
Yeah, you know. You’ve told your boyfriend this, but it’s been months — or
maybe even years — and he still has not set anything up.
“You can’t control someone else’s recovery,” said Kimberly Williams,
president and chief executive of the <mhaofnyc.org/>Mental Health
Association of New York City. But you can try to make getting to that first
appointment as easy as possible.
That might mean sitting next to your friend as he calls to make the
appointment, finding counseling that he can afford, or even going with him
that first time, if you’re comfortable with it.
What if you’re not sure whether you should start with a therapist or a
psychiatrist, or whether you’ve found the perfect person? Ask around for
recommendations, and know that one practitioner may ultimately lead to
But don’t overthink it. The key initially is just getting a professional
involved so you are not the only person managing this situation. (That
said, if that first appointment seems really unhelpful, trust your
instincts and find someone else.)
Take care of yourself and set boundaries
When the thoughtful and kind people we’ve loved for years are depressed,
they may also become uncharacteristically mean and self-centered. It’s
exhausting, painful and hard to know how to respond when they pick fights
or send nasty texts.
“You don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to,” Ms. Devine
Still, just because someone is depressed is not a reason to let their
abusive behavior slide. Set clear boundaries with straightforward language
such as, “It sounds like you’re in a lot of pain right now. But you can’t
call me names.”
Similarly you may find that your friend’s demands on your time are starting
to sabotage other relationships or your job. You’re not going to be able to
help if you’re not in a good place yourself.
It’s O.K. not to be available 24-7, but try to be explicit about when you
can and cannot help. One way to do this, Ms. Devine advised, is to say: “I
know you’ve been really struggling a lot, and I really want to be here for
you. There are times that I physically can’t do that.”
Then come up with a contingency plan and kindly push her to stick with it.
Coming up with a consistent schedule for when you’ll see each other every
week can be helpful to you both.
Remember, people do recover from depression
It can be hard when you’re in the middle of the storm with a depressed
friend to remember that there was a time before, and hopefully an after,
this miserable state. But it’s essential to remind yourself — and the
person you’re trying to help — that people do emerge from depression.
Because they do.
I have seen it. Every single one of the experts quoted here has seen it,
too. But it will take patience and time.
Schenectady restaurant aids effort to help prevent suicidesSlidin’ Dirty
raising money for the national organization
Jake Lahut <dailygazette.com/node/434245>
| June 8, 2018 Updated 8:50 PM
SCHENECTADY — The owners of a local bar and restaurant, in reaction to the
death of food icon Anthony Bourdain, have launched an effort to help
suicide prevention programs.
Bourdain’s death on Friday was the second high profile suicide this week.
Fashion innovator Kate Spade took her own life Tuesday. And a study
released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
revealed a significant increase <www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/suicide/>
in the suicide rate nationally.
The owners of Slidin’ Dirty, a restaurant on State Street, announced on
Friday they will donate all proceeds from the sale of a new cocktail,
called “Better Than Death,” to the American Foundation for Suicide
Prevention (AFSP). Jeff Buell, a Schenectady resident and philanthropist,
has pledged to match those donations dollar for dollar.
The cocktail, according to Slidin’ Dirty general manager Alex Berta, was
inspired by Bourdain. It consists of mezcal, amaro and orange bitters.
Bourdain was known to be fond of Negroni cocktails.
“For me personally, this whole issue hits home really super hard,” Berta
said. “The idea of being a successful 61-year-old human being and still
having to struggle through this on a regular basis, it’s just mind blowing.
I woke up today and I just couldn’t deal, so this is the best thing I could
think of doing.”
Suicide rates vary widely by county, according to CDC data. New York has
the second-lowest overall suicide rate in the nation, but rural upstate
counties see higher rates than the state average.
Suicide among people younger than 34 in New York state is now the
second-leading cause of death <mhanys.org/mhanys/staff/>, according to the
most recent CDC data.
Amy Molloy, project director at the Mental Health Association in New York
state, said more research is needed to determine the underlying causes of
the rising suicide rate, both statewide and nationally.
“When we see rises in things like suicide or mental illness, we ask is it
really an increased prevalence, or is it that we’ve gotten better at
tracking data and at identifying a suicide when it’s a suicide,” Molloy
said. “So for many years, generations in fact, [suicide] was really taboo
… People would report deaths as something other than suicide because they
wanted to protect the family. So when we see a rise in rates, it’s hard for
us to know if it’s truly an increase or if it’s the result of this cultural
shift, where we really have been more comfortable talking about mental
illness, and substance abuse, and suicide.”
As for the disparity in regional suicide rates from cities to rural
counties, Molloy pointed to three main contributing factors that agencies
like hers have honed in on to understand some of the causes. Social
isolation is often more prevalent in rural communities, as is access to
firearms. At the same time, there is often less access to mental health
services in rural areas.
Molloy said it is a good idea, in the wake of high-profile suicides like
those experienced this week, to check in with family members.
“Too often, there’s sort of this myth that if you ask this question [of
thoughts of suicide], you’re going to put the idea [of suicide] in their
head,” Molloy said. “But this isn’t a bad time to say, ‘Gosh, there’s been
a lot of attention to suicide in the media lately, and I’m just wondering,
how are you doing? Are you having thoughts of suicide?'”
On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a campaign to raise awareness of
suicide through the Office of Mental Health. The program will tap a $3.5
million federal grant to expand the state’s suicide prevention
The Suicide Prevention Line can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. Experts
recommend offering to call the line with a loved one if that person is
apprehensive about calling.