Jennifer McGregor writes about PTSD and its risks

Please welcome back Jennifer McGregor. Today she writes about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its effects on those who have it. The good news is: if treated correctly, PTSD doesn't have to mean a life of depression and addiction or a death sentence. PTSD: What are the Associated Risks? by Jennifer McGregor Image via Pixabay by googles People who suffer from PTSD will experience symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, paranoia, and depression. These are to be expected after a PTSD diagnosis. What is less commonly known are the coinciding effects PTSD can have on someone. Too often, one mental illness can trigger other illnesses, risks, or symptoms that may not be directly associated with PTSD. Here are a few of the associated risks to be on the lookout for if someone you love has been diagnosed with PTSD. Social Isolation is Very Common When a person is suffering from PTSD, they tend to withdraw into their homes, afraid of experiencing a trigger. The home is … [Read more...]

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To prevent suicides we must vote no on Proposition 64!

My son Paul's diagnosis of bipolar disorder was based on tests showing no drugs in his system even though his first psychotic break came upon him suddenly and disastrously. However, he used marijuana to self-medicate while he was struggling with the effects of bipolar, ignoring his psychiatrist's warning that using pot was as dangerous as walking a tightrope. After Paul's suicide death, my husband found marijuana and its paraphernalia hidden away in his closet. Dr. Christine L. Miller states that studies now show that marijuana use could bring on psychosis and suicide. Could marijuana have driven my son to his death? Of course we'll never know. However, I can help prevent more outcomes like my son's by sharing Dr. Miller's words here and being very much opposed to the passage of Proposition 64 and the legalization of recreational marijuana. The data about suicide rates in Colorado is astounding. Proposition 64 Means Nothing Good for California Suicide Rates by Christine L. Miller … [Read more...]

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Three ways to overcome addiction

  Since I’ve become an advocate of erasing the stigma of mental illness and suicide prevention I like to host writers who have healing ideas that could help people at risk. Jennifer McGregor has been my guest before – you can read her previous article here. I’m delighted to have her back. Her words make a lot of sense to me. Please join me in welcoming Jennifer to my website, Choices.  Three Mood-Boosting Activities for Those Overcoming Addictions by Jennifer McGregor Many people with mental illness find themselves self-medicating. Acquiring mental health care is very difficult for a number of people thanks to the ongoing stigma against mental illness. Whether a person goes undiagnosed or simply cannot afford care, self-medication is a rampant problem among those with mental illnesses. Self-medication, unfortunately, often leads to addiction, worsened symptoms of mental illness, and suicide. Preventing suicide is a crucial component to addiction recovery. So, if you … [Read more...]

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The suicide risk is high for ages 10 to 24

Since our son Paul's death by suicide as a result of his bipolar disease in 1999, I have made it my mission to help erase the stigma of mental illness and work hard toward preventing suicide. I applaud Jennifer McGregor's work to help teenagers who are suicidal.  I certainly wish I had had her advice when my son was struggling with his mania and depression. Thank you very much, Jennifer, for writing this piece for Choices. Your words are very helpful. How To Help A Teenager Who Is Suicidal by Jennifer McGregor   Photo via Pixabay by Giesje Death by suicide is a serious problem in America, and it doesn’t affect one particular age group. In fact, young people ages 10-24 are highly at risk, as suicide is the third leading cause of death. The reasons vary, as do the solutions, so it’s important to know what the warning signs are and how to address them. Because the teen years can be so full of emotion and distress – especially where school and friends are concerned – it’s d … [Read more...]

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I did it. Seventeen miles in eight hours and still here.

A few thoughts about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention AFSP San Francisco Out of the Darkness suicide awareness and prevention walk this past Saturday night: Last year in Boston we felt the pain walking in the cold and rain; this year we felt the pain trudging up hill after hill. Those were just small reminders of the pain our loved ones felt and had to release when they took their lives. It was fitting for us to feel that pain, but we will never know an nth of it. I also felt so blessed to walk with Team S.O.L.E.S. Everyone took such good care of each other, worrying where the laggers were and waiting so we could all be in the mile-marker photos. And once we were finished at 3:26 am we all held hands, walking along side the luminaria and under the I-did-it-arch. Thank you Keith Alan Hamilton, Deborah Lee Rose, Debi Hoyles-Girardi and your friend Jen, Joanne Marrazzo Fry, Aaron D. Schwartz, Christy Heitger-Ewing and your husband Eric. You all made my night worth while … [Read more...]

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The April PAD challenge ends today

I feel so accomplished. I finished Robert Lee Brewer's April 2016 poem-a-day (PAD) challenge – 30 days of prompts from the Poetic Asides editor at Writer's Digest. Robert's prompts are a little out there but always a challenge, meant to find the quirkiness in my brain. Here are a few of my favorite ones this month, with my poem responses. 6. Write an ekphrastic poem. An ekphrastic poem is a poem inspired by art. You can pick your own favorite piece of art if you wish. Or you can use one of the examples below: Frieda Kahlo How could I not write about Frieda Kahlo? That little dark-haired woman With eyebrows that kiss at the center of her forehead Just above her nose, And a mustache hint on her upper lips. Here she lies prone on sand and shells, A vessel to promote life, The roots and leaves growing wildly From her open chest. I’ve also seen her with a necklace of thorns The blood seeping slowly down her neck. 16. Write a poem about (or at) a food establishment. … [Read more...]

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I’m getting ready for a big long walk

  I’ve started training in earnest for the May 21 American Foundation of Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness overnight walk in San Francisco for suicide awareness and prevention. I walk in memory of my son Paul who took his life in 1999 at age 27. He was bipolar and severely depressed at the time of his death. The recent data, according to AFSP, about suicide is astounding: Suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined. General In 2014 (latest available data), there were 42,773 reported suicide deaths. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 15 and 64 years in the United States. Currently, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. A person dies by suicide about every 12.3 minutes in the United States. Every day, approximately 117 Americans take their own life. Ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of … [Read more...]

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Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk – recap

Just wanted to share a few photos and tell you a bit about the AFSP suicide prevention and awareness Out of the Darkness walk Saturday night June 27. After a moving presentation - about the epidemic-like statistics of suicide and the numbers  of people struggling to stay alive - outside Boston's City Hall, we began walking at just past 7:30 pm. It was thrilling and inspiring with so many folks cheering us on along the way - thanking us and even offering free hugs. At first we walked slowly in a pack. Then after the numbers of walkers thinned out, the pouring rain and cold slowed us down. However, I'm not a quitter and neither was my walk companion, Keith Alan Hamilton, a fellow poet, very dear friend, and my newly adopted son. I loved getting hugs from his girlfriend Dee who was out to root us on as well. I knew I had to continue no matter what - I wanted to do my 44 supporters proud. They helped me raise a grand total of $3617, making me the top … [Read more...]

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A special to honor the Out Of Darkness walk

The Boston Out of Darkness overnight walk for suicide prevention and awareness is the night of June 27 – less than two weeks away. And I’ve been very aggressively training for it. I’ll need to walk 16 to 18 miles that night, so I want to be well prepared. Yesterday I walked almost 10 miles, so I think I’m right on track to be able to complete this personal challenge. I'll be posting photos of my team S.O.L.E.S. and me in this hat. In case you’re wondering why the walk is at night, here are my thoughts – it’s to bring the suicide word out of the darkness. We need to speak that word so we can help prevent it. If people will talk about their suicidal thoughts maybe others can help prevent those at risk from acting upon their thoughts. I wish my son had talked to my husband or me. I still think after almost sixteen years that maybe I could have changed his mind had he only told me what he was thinking. Here's one of the S.O.L.E.S. team captains, Deborah Lee Rose, wearing the&n … [Read more...]

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Let’s stop the suicide epidemic!

Suicide Prevention Includes Caring for the Bereaved I'm so glad Franklin Cook and I found each other. He's an expert on the effects of exposure to suicide on family and friends and has been part of a groundbreaking document he discusses below. I was so deeply affected by my son's suicide I considered suicide myself. Instead I decided to be an advocate for erasing the stigma of mental illness and helping to prevent suicide*. Looking at the effects of suicide on loved ones and working to help assuage their unique kind of grief  is one way to do that. Please help me welcome Franklin Cook, my Choices guest today. He's an expert on grief after suicide. Groundbreaking Guidelines Address Grief, Trauma, Distress of Suicide Loss By Franklin Cook A historic document, Responding to Grief, Trauma, and Distress After a Suicide: U.S. National Guidelines, was announced earlier this month at theAssociation for Death Education and Counseling conference in San Antonio and at theAmerican … [Read more...]

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Academy Awards revisited

I’m a movie junky. I can’t see enough of them. So of course I love the Academy Awards television special. I never miss it. And in preparation I try to see all the movies with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress. Unfortunately I didn’t quite make that goal for the 2014 movies. I didn’t see “Two Nights, One Night” for which Marion Cotillard had a best actress nomination. That movie is still on my to-see list along with the documentary shorts. I also looked forward to seeing Neil Patrick Harris on this year’s award show. I loved him as Doogie, so I was sure I’d love him Sunday night. And I wasn’t disappointed – at least with his opening joke and opening song and dance number. So sorry Jack Black interrupted it. I did think, however, that he looked a little embarrassed trying to emulate “Birdman’s” undies scene. Anything to spice up the show, right? Doogie’s opening joke in welcoming the audience to 2014’s movies as the best and the whitest seemed to open the … [Read more...]

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A walk for suicide prevention

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know how obsessive I am about writing. My life is about the actual writing or thinking about writing when I'm not at my computer. I also am obsessive about exercise. I workout in some way every day - either at the gym or taking long walks in my beautiful beach neighborhood. Working out and writing were instrumental in saving my life after my son Paul died by suicide in 1999. Since my son's death I've also become obsessive about working toward erasing the stigma of mental illness and helping to prevent suicide. I've volunteered and participated with others whose mission aligns with mine. I've also written much about mental illness and suicide here and in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. This coming June 27-28, I'll take an amazing journey in Boston - another way to memorialize my son and show what I stand for.   The Out of the Darkness Overnight Experience is a 16-18 mile walk over the course of one nigh … [Read more...]

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In memory: suicide prevention resources

I usually post suicide prevention and mental health resources in December in memory of our son Paul. He would be 43 on his December 31 birthday. This year I’m sharing about the suicide prevention groups I belong to on Facebook. These groups vary in that some are open, secret, or closed. But in all cases they are caring and sensitive to the needs of someone trying to survive the death of a loved one by suicide. If you want to join, just ask, and some kind person in charge will more than likely accept you into the group. I’ve listed these in no particular order except for the first one. I was actively involved with Putting a Face on Suicide as volunteer admin for a couple of years. This organization has been priceless in always remembering our loved ones on their death and birthdays. I look forward to seeing my son’s face on that site on his New Years Eve birthday. Putting a Face on Suicide - A project that lovingly pays tribute to those lost to suicide. 2792 Faces on Day 29 (Pa … [Read more...]

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Saturday, November 22, is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

Throughout the  fifteen years since our son took his life, I've met many folks in person and through  groups on Facebook who like me are survivors of suicide loss. So, I thought I'd remind all of us that tomorrow, Saturday, November 22, is International Suicide Survivors Day, an event always falling on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. I did a little research about how this day started and found out that Senator Harry Reid introduced a resolution to the United States Senate which led to the creation of National Survivors of Suicide Day in 1999. Senator Reid is a survivor of his father's suicide. Every year since the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sponsors the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. The AFSP website says: International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is the one day a year when people affected by suicide loss gather around the world at events in their local communities to find comfort and gain understanding as they share stories of healing and hope. On thi … [Read more...]

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Paul’s CD is almost ready

Last December I wrote that I was intent on putting out a compact disc of my son Paul's music and have all proceeds go to charities that work toward erasing the stigma of mental illness and/or preventing suicide.  And I am pleased to say that it is almost ready to go. My plan now is to launch it sometime in the week of September 23 to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of Paul's death. As the date gets closer, I'll let you know where and when the launch will take place. I must credit the three people who have helped make this project a reality: Martin Borsanyi, Paul's friend from their Crossroads high school jazz ensemble days, copied all of Paul's music from the original cassette tapes that Paul left us onto CDs Patrick von Wiegandt, a brilliant recording artist and singer and musician (he leads a band called Swanky), produced and engineered all the songs. He also helped me pick the songs for the CD and the order in which they will appear. Paul Blieden, photographer ex … [Read more...]

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Remembering Stanley Lelewer, chair of Didi Hirsch Board of Directors

My dear friend, Stanley Lelewer, died on Sunday, December 1. I’ve known Stan since eighth grade in Glencoe IL. He used to be the driver when his brother David and I went out on movie dates. He was in my brother’s class at high school, three years a head of me. After I moved to California I didn’t hear about him again until I saw him on the news talking about the suicide death of his son, who shot himself on the beach in Santa Monica. Six years later when our son Paul killed himself in our home in Manhattan Beach, a mutual friend said I had to meet Stan. Small world. I told her I knew him from our very distant past. This friend called Stan and told him about Paul. Within minutes he called and an hour later he was at our home. He was my savior. He knew what to do; he knew what to say. And since we had a personal relationship, he told me to call anytime day or night – and I did. We also met his wife and the four of us went out to dinner. He took me out to lunch as well. Stanley and w … [Read more...]

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Suicide Prevention Day – Monday, September 10

In honor of Suicide Prevention Day, my publisher Mike O'Mary of Dream of Things is offering free Kindle copies of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Suicide and Surviving His Suicide. Here's what he says: Hello Friends! I have a couple of updates for you... First of all, next Monday, September 10, is Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day, and on September 8, 9 & 10, Amazon will be giving away free copies of the Kindle edition of Madeline Sharples’ Leaving the Hall Light On. Madeline’s memoir is an informative and inspiring story about the circumstances surrounding her son’s suicide, and about how she and her family have been affected. Here’s what Fran Edstrom of the American Association of Suicidology had to say: "Sharples tells it like it is, baring her soul to the reader. In doing so, she allows the reader to address and ponder the usually unspoken side of coping with mental illness and suicide. I recommend this book to sui … [Read more...]

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Call to action – April Platform Challenge – Day 19

As part of the April Platform Challenge my task today is to ask you to do two things: Please click on the share buttons - they are big and prominent at the top of the right side bar on this page Please sign-up for my email feed – see the little box just under the share buttons. It has room for you to type in your email address. Please click Submit when you've finished. And one more thing that is not part of my assignment: Please join me at the LA Times Festival of Books on the University of California campus either or both Saturday and Sunday June 21 and 22, from 12 noon until 2:00 pm. I’ll be at the Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Society booth number 970. Hopefully I’ll be signing lots of copies of my book: Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide (Lucky Press, 2011). You can’t miss me. I’m the one with the long gray hair. … [Read more...]

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Thank you for sharing my memory of Paul

A big thank you to all of you who have donated and/or signed up to join me on September 25 for the Didi Hirsch annual suicide prevention Alive and Running 5K. Now that I'm on the 5K committee I was asked to set a fundraising goal. And at the outset I set my goal only at $500. But thanks to you I just upped it to $1000.00 and I'm only $48.00 short of reaching that because so many of you responded to my Ask. Just to give you a little background, I first discovered Didi Hirsch after Paul died. My husband and I participated in their eight-week Survivors after Suicide workshop. And as depressing as those sessions were, they had a lasting effect on me. I also found out that as horrific a story of loss as mine was, it could always be worse. I also reconnected with a person I've known since grade school in Glencoe, IL through my involvement with Didi Hirsch. Stan Lelewer's son killed himself about six years before Paul, and when he heard about Paul through a mutual friend he was … [Read more...]

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24/7

I wear this turquoise bracelet 24/7. Paul is always with me. The other side of the bracelet gives our local Suicide Prevention Hot Line number at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, reminding me how important suicide prevention is. On this day, his birthday, and what has been our end-of-year custom, we donate to our favorite charities. Among them are those we added to our list after Paul died: Didi Hirsch, The Compassionate Friends, Congregation Tikva Jacob, and the Paul Sharples Memorial Endowment at Crossroads High School to support the jazz music program. The jazz program at Crossroads was such a great influence on Paul and his performance abilities, that I hope the endowment in his name will provide the same kind of inspiration to other young musicians. So Happy Birthday, Paul. No matter what, you are with us 24/7. … [Read more...]

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