Suicide Prevention

From the NIMH Website:

Last year, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Research Prioritization Task Force released an action plan for suicide prevention, which outlines the research areas that show the most promise in helping to reduce the rates of suicide attempts and deaths in the next 5-10 years. A series of webinars organized around 6 key questions in the plan will run from January 29-June 24, 2015 to register go to:

National Suicide Statistics at a Glance

Smoothed, Age-adjusted Suicide Rates* per 100,000 population, by County, United States, 2000–2006

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Suffering is not enough

“Suffering is not enough. Life is both dreadful and wonderful…How can I smile when I am filled with so much sorrow? It is natural–you need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow.” 

Thích Nhất Hạnh


During our holiday festivities yesterday we got started on the topic of the “resting bitch face” and how at some point in our lives, we’ve all had that moment of being told to smile when we didn’t feel like it.  The women at the table were especially sensitive to these encounters, believing them to be somewhat sexist in nature.  My son-in-law quickly pointed out that it happens to men as well, and  he was tired of people asking him “what’s wrong” because he usually has a serious look on his face.

So how do we “smile” during those tough moments.  Do we pretend to be happy when we are not?  I do not believe that is what he is suggesting in his quote above.  Rather, I believe he is reminding us that we are not defined by the circumstances that happen in our lives.  At the core of our beings, we are radiant and beautiful, and peace can always be found within us.

I chose to post this picture of myself because I was going through a really tough time when it was taken, having experienced the recent death of my brother, my daughter’s illness, and the deterioration of my marriage. I smiled not because I was happy about those circumstances, but because I was able to find a glimpse of peace in that particular moment.



Happy Birthday Dear Daughter

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”  Louisa May Alcott

em running into surfHappy Birthday Dear Daughter!

I am so glad that you made it from your darkness to sunshine, and that you asked for and accepted help in your time of need.  It is so wonderful to see you doing what you love now.  It has been a pleasure watching you learn to develop your many strengths and talents, and also to navigate the hard times.  I know it isn’t always easy and I am so proud of you for persevering.  I see the joy of a child in your spirit.



My plea to anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings of hopelessness is to reach out and call for help:  Suicide Prevention Hotline

Eating Disorders, Depression, and Substance Abuse in Elite Athletes

What do Amanda Beard, Cathy Rigby, Britany Viola, Andre Agassi, and Jenny Kirk have in common?   They are all elite athletes who have struggled with either some type of eating disorder, substances abuse, and/or depression.  I am thankful that they were willing  to openly share their experiences.

In future blogs I will discuss the prevalence of eating disorders and other mental health issues in elite and college competitors, and what can be done to recognize the early signs and assist those who are suffering to find help.  Early recognition of symptoms can lead to a smoother recovery process.

Depression and eating disorders are issues that are close to my heart, since I watched my daughter struggle with these during her college swimming career. She has agreed to contribute her first-hand experience and insight with these topics in my upcoming posts as well.

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) and USA swimming have some great tips for coaches, athletes, and their parents about how to handle these important issues.

Stay tuned!

The Message Matters – How to Talk About Suicide

hope-in-focusIn the wake of Robin William’s death from suicide, there have been many posts and messages circulating about suicide.  While most of these sentiments are well-meaning, it is possible to actually perpetuate certain misconceptions and stigmas about mental illness and depression, leading to a negative impact on those who may be most vulnerable.  The  Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention offers some great pointers on “promoting the positive in the form of actions, solutions, successes, or resources” as seen below:

What is the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Framework for Successful Messaging?

Framework GraphicThe Framework is a research-based resource that outlines four key factors to consider when developing public messages about suicide:

The central resource for the Framework is this website, (link is external).

The Framework was created by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention as part of its priority to change the public conversation about suicide. For background on the Action Alliance priority, see How does the Framework “Change the Conversation?”

Who is the Framework for?

It’s for anyone who is messaging to the public about suicide and suicide prevention. This includes, for example:

  • Suicide prevention organizations and projects
  • Government officials
  • Mental health organizations
  • Researchers
  • Community-based organizations
  • Institutions conducting suicide prevention activities, including colleges, schools, workplaces, and faith communities
  • Advocacy groups
  • Individuals speaking to the public about their personal experiences, including survivors of suicide attempts, survivors of suicide loss, and consumers of mental health services

The Framework initiative complements important and ongoing efforts to promote safer coverage of suicide in the news and entertainment media.

What do you mean by “public messaging?”

“Public messaging” is defined broadly as any communications released into the public domain. Examples include:

  • Education and awareness campaigns or materials (posters, PSAs, flyers, giveaways, etc.)
  • Organizational websites
  • Newsletters
  • Fundraising appeals
  • Publicity for events and observances
  • Social media
  • Press releases, media interviews
  • Public presentations
  • Publicly-available advocacy materials
  • Any other public-facing messages or materials

All of our messages and materials contribute to the public’s perceptions about suicide and suicide prevention.

What isn’t public messaging?

The Framework addresses only public messaging. It is not intended to address other important types of communications that relate to suicide, including:

  • Private conversations
  • Doctor-patient interactions
  • Interactions with individuals in crisis or who you think might be suicidal
  • One-on-one conversations with legislators or policy makers
  • Talking in support groups or other therapeutic settings
  • Training delivered to professional audiences, e.g. clinicians
  • Reporting by the news media

Not looking for guidance on public messaging? See resources for other types of suicide prevention communications.

Why was the Framework developed?

The background research section summarizes the research literature and background work that led to the Framework. In brief, we found that:

  • Resources exist to improve news and entertainment coverage about suicide (“the media”), but little guidance has been available for others communicating publicly about suicide (“the messengers.”) The Framework fills that gap.
  • Some prevention messages violate safe messaging guidelines, such as portraying means or talking about suicide in a way that normalizes it, i.e. makes it seem more common than it actually is.
  • Public messaging about suicide often has focused more on describing the problem than on conveying concrete actions or solutions. This unbalanced picture contributes to a harmful social narrative suggesting that trying to prevent suicide is hopeless  and no one recovers from suicidal thinking. Because the media often perpetuates these negative and inaccurate narratives, it is even more important that the prevention field counter them.
  • Suicide prevention messaging would benefit from adhering to recommendations from the broader communications literature, including:
    • Defining a clear purpose for communications before  crafting the message itself
    • Designing messaging as one component of a broader suicide prevention plan
    • Promoting specific behaviors in defined audiences
    • Using information about the audience to design more effective messages
    • Choosing delivery channels that match the message and audience
    • Assessing message success
  • The suicide prevention field is not taking advantage of the many extant best practice guidelines that can and should be used when developing messaging related to particular goals (e.g., stigma reduction), populations (e.g. LGBT populations), channels (e.g., social media), and other areas. The “Guidelines” section of this website provides links to many such resources.

What is the purpose of the Framework?

Our background work revealed that the most successful messaging will be shaped by at least four key factors. The Framework brings these together:

  • Strategy involves planning and focusing messages, so they are as effective as possible.
  • Safety is avoiding content that is unsafe.
  • Positive Narrative means ensuring that the collective voice of the field is “promoting the positive” in the form of actions, solutions, successes, or resources.
  • Guidelines means using any existing guidance or best practices that apply.


The Washington Post also offered some great insight into how to prevent a phenomenon called Suicide Contagion  that can be particularly prevalent amongst teens who are suffering from depression.


Ultimately the goal is to save lives through raising awareness and promoting resources that send a message of hope to anyone affected by these treatable illnesses.