Tag Archives: suicide

Positive Directions Offers Suicide Help

This week’s stories on suicide have stirred many responses. 

They’ve also shined a light on the good work so many people and organizations do to de-stigmatize, raise awareness of, and prevent this tragic, and increasing, cause of death.

Denique Weidema-Lewis — director of prevention at Positive Directions, the Westport-based substance abuse and mental health service — offers condolences to the Snedeker family, and appreciation for their post. She adds:

Tragically, the suicide rate has risen by about 30% in the past 20 years. This terrible increase reflects a need for public health efforts throughout our communities, focusing on creating a healthy culture, strengthening our families, developing workplace wellness, teaching coping skills, and making services available and affordable.

 

As someone who has been affected by suicide  both professionally and personally, I want to share some local resources on how we as a community are working to prevent suicide.

In recognition of National Suicide Prevention week (September 8-14), Positive Directions will host 2 free gatekeeper trainings.

Just as people trained in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver save thousands of lives each year, people trained in Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis, and how to question, persuade, and refer someone to help.

QPR will be offered at our office (90 Post Road West; click here to register) on Wednesday, September 11, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., and at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk on Thursday, September 12 (6:30 to 8 p.m.; (click here to register).

Additionally, we are proud supporters of the Connecticut Chapter of American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, and help sponsor the annual Westport Out of the Darkness Walk at Sherwood Island. This year’s event is Saturday, October 26 (10 a.m.; click here for more information).

The walk raises awareness and funds that allow the AFSP to invest in research, create local educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support survivors of suicide loss.

We encourage everyone to be aware of resources. Locally, we are members of The HUB CT which provides behavioral health resource guides (click here for great information).

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Lifeline 24/7 (800-273-TALK), or call 211 to be connected to a mobile crisis service near you in Connecticut.

The Crisis Text Line is another great option: text “hello” to 741741.

Remembering Emelia Worth

In the past few years, media reporting on transgender issues has moved from rare and/or gawking to serious and respectful.

Because of press attention, many Americans now know that suicide is an enormous issue in the trans community. Over 40% of people identifying as transgender have attempted suicide — 92% of them before the age of 25.

But statistics are just numbers. Now, one of those suicides has struck very close to home.

Earlier this month, Emelia Worth killed herself at the Kent School. She was 18, and a few years earlier attended Saugatuck Elementary School. Students there knew her as Carl.

A few weeks before her death, Emelia had given a chapel talk to the school.

According to the Norwalk Hour, she said:

For once, I’ve actually chosen my words very carefully … Let me explain myself to you, not as Carl the experienced senior giving a chapel talk. But as Carl, the really scared child who is worried that they may have waited too long to get real.

After announcing she was battling depression, she said: “I am transgender. I puzzle every day why I came out a boy.”

Emelia Worth

Emelia Worth

Emelia’s mother, Elsa Worth, said that suicidal depression — not a lack of support from family, friends or school officials — led to her death.

Emelia — a 4-year class representative at Kent, senior prefect, orchestra and jazz band musician — had already been accepted to the Universities of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Her mother told the Hour that she wanted to study linguistics and be a professor.

Worth also said that Emelia also planned to begin hormone treatments in March. The newspaper reported that Kent was planning to allow her to live in a girls’ dorm. No one there knew of any bullying.

Her death surprised a former Saugatuck El classmate. The boy — now a senior — had known Emelia as Carl: “an insanely good artist.” The two had camped out in New Hampshire as children, and played card games.

“I realized that he was gone. This kid who had only been happy, and made everyone around him happy, was dead because she was so sad.”

The senior says that at his public high school in Fairfield County (not Staples), there are 2 openly trans students.

“They are treated with the utmost respect,” he says. They can change in their own locker rooms if they choose, and use non-gendered bathrooms. Staples has the same options for trans students.

The senior says, “We treat our trans friends just like anyone else. They’re some of the nicest people I know.”

We’ll never know how much that feeling of being trapped in the wrong body contributed to Emelia’s depression. Sadly, we do know she leaves behind her mother and father (Steven), and brothers Bo and Orion.

Memorial services are set for Friday, February 10 (St. James Church, Keene, NH) and Tuesday, February 14 (Kent School). In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Emelia Carl ’17 Scholarship. Click here, or send to Kent School, PO Box 2006, Kent, CT 06757.

Be The Voice. #StopSuicide.

An alert “06880” reader writes:

On Sunday I attended my first “Out of the Darkness” event. Over 550 people went to Sherwood Island, for an important cause: raising awareness of, and preventing, suicide.

Suicide is the 4th leading cause of death in adults, and the 2nd leading cause in children.

Over the past year here, many of us have been affected by the loss of someone we know, by their own hand. Included in this list is a teenager, and a police officer.

Sherwood Island State Park, last Sunday. (Photo/Oliva Schoen)

Sherwood Island State Park, last Sunday. 

After the recent suicides in Westport, I was impacted personally and strongly. I suffer from deep depressive episodes, during which I cannot see through the dark forest.

My episodes last 1 to 2 weeks at a time. But the severity increased over the last few years. Finally I could not take the pain and suffering any longer.

A couple of months ago, I attempted suicide, by overdosing on medication. I landed in the hospital. Fortunately, I survived.

Many do not.

It’s hard to deal with the reality that I tried to kill myself. The reason I did not succeed is because someone saw the signs, and called 911. That saved my life.

Fast forward several weeks. I stood with hundreds of other people here in Westport, shining a light on this important cause.

Everyone was there for a different reason. Some lost loved ones to suicide; others lost friends or colleagues. Some suffer with depression, and need the support of those around them.

Some actually attempted suicide, but survived.

You may be aware of someone right now in your life who is suffering, and in so much pain that they want to take their own life.

Be the voice! #stopsuicide

Ask. Call. Help. Support. Love.

Walking Out Of Darkness

When the Out of the Darkness Walk — a fundraiser aimed at understanding and preventing suicide — begins at Sherwood Island this Saturday (October 27), Peter and Nancy von Euler will be there.

It won’t be easy — their daughter Emma committed suicide 3  years ago. But they would not be anywhere else.

Emma was a gifted musician at Fairfield Ludlowe High. Last spring, awarding a scholarship in Emma’s name at her school, Peter — an elementary school teacher in Westport — said:

It’s ironic that I’m here presenting a music scholarship award. If anyone asks me, I usually say, “I’m not particularly musical,” or “I don’t really have a great ear,” or “I could never carry a tune.” It’s also ironic because my daughter, Emma had everything that I lacked.

Emma von Euler, doing what she loved.

In creating this scholarship, my wife, my daughter, and hundreds of family members and friends are trying to continue Emma’s music legacy where she left off. Before we present the scholarship that bears her name, I hope you’ll allow me to make a plea.

My plea is for you to never say the things about yourself that I just said a few moments ago. Don’t ever say you’re not musical. Music is about bringing different notes together to create a sound that moves people to smile, to dance, to cry, or find peace.

Most importantly music is about pulling different sounds together and creating harmony. I could easily hear my daughter’s musical talents when she sang or played the flute, but I may have missed her most important musical gift. She accepted people. She celebrated differences. She loved the quirky, the unconventional, the disconnected, and she often brought them together in a beautiful way. I’m striving for that kind of musicality in my life.

Don’t say, “I don’t have a good ear.” Maybe I don’t have perfect pitch, as some say my daughter had, but that doesn’t mean I can’t train my ear. I can listen for subtle notes of trouble or struggle in someone else’s voice. I can say, “How are you doing?” and insert a rest, leaving room for an honest reply.

Friends and family appreciated Emma’s warm smile.

Don’t say, “I can’t carry a tune.” When Emma died by suicide just 5 days short of her 17th birthday, I lost my voice. I was rendered mute by shame at how she died, by guilt at what I could have done, by fear that I might never be happy again.

In the 3 years since Emma died, my wife has helped me find my voice. She stunned me by singing part of her eulogy at Emma’s memorial service. She then started writing down all of the beautiful memories from Emma’s life and sharing them in a public blog.

She wrote, “I refuse to allow Emma, or our lives together, to be defined by [her last] desperate act.” In effect, she echoed the lines we hear sung so movingly at Relay for Life every year: “I will remember you,” and, “Weep not for the memories.” She has shown me how to carry that tune.

In these past 3 years, the broader tune we have tried to carry is that we should strive to be a musical community. Though we may sound different notes in race, religion, opinion, or sexual orientation, we all need to work toward harmony. Our goal was never uniformity or perfect agreement. That makes for a boring song.

Instead, our goal is to become part of some bigger composition that holds together beautifully. To appreciate some music, and some people, you have to stop and listen. You may have to get used to a new and unfamiliar sound. Usually, if you listen openly, your ear can find something to appreciate, even in a piece that challenges you or makes you uncomfortable.

Here’s a challenging note, but one we hope you’ll try to carry forward:  Mental illness is a legitimate health issue that you cannot and should not try to solve alone. It must stop being a cause for shame. Please carry that refrain with you as you move on from this school.

(To register for the Out of the Darkness walk — or make a donation in Emma von Euler’s name — click here.)