WHY DO PEOPLE COMMIT SUICIDE? – Joan E. Childs

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This perhaps is the most common question asked after someone commits suicide and the most difficult one to answer. In her recent article, Sanity Break, Therese Borchard likens suicide to sneezing: something you can’t help, an impulse that has a life of its own. Although I agree in some cases; not in all. There are so many mitigating circumstances as to why someone chooses to end their life, that one simple answer is not enough. In the case of my daughter a clinical psychologist who leaped to her death from her father’s 15th story window, I am convinced that she was in a delusionary system unaware of that impulse when she made that choice. She was the victim of bipolar I disorder, an insidious illness that I believe was her executioner. By the time her illness reached the level of paranoia and delusional thinking, I don’t believe she was present at the time of her death. Her brain had ruptured, causing her to lose all conscious processes, perhaps not too dissimilar to Ms. Borchads’ belief, however, not exactly like a sneeze. In addition, I have worked with many depressed clients who have shared their suicidal ideation with me and clearly had a plan and desire to end their lives. Some were saved through the process of medical management and therapy, and some left well thought out notes explaining their reasons with apologies for hurting loved ones left behind. So in my thirty-seven years of clinical practice as a psychotherapist, I am not sure that suicide is just like a sneeze; sometimes perhaps, certainly not always.
I am convinced that suicide is perhaps one of the most threatening issues we are faced with as a nation. We hear about ISIS as a threat to our country, but what about bipolar disorder, depression and suicide? There are more than 6 million people in our country who suffer from bipolar disorder, and more than 9% have depression. There have been more than 40,000 suicides a year and the 10th leading cause of death and 2nd leading cause of death in the young adult age group of 16-25 according to the CDC. There are more suicides in the US than homicides. There are twenty-two suicide deaths committed daily by US veterans. Not that ISIS is not a serious threat, and perhaps not even something to be compared to, but suicide is a threat that we can predict and substantiate with statistics and yet more time, energy and media coverage is dealing with the possibility and perhaps the likelihood of a threat from a demonic force that perhaps may cause a tragedy if something isn’t done to prevent it. Well, not unlike ISIS, if something isn’t done to prevent suicide and create a better mental health system, we are going to see more deaths from suicide right here on our shores then the impending deaths that are yet to happen. We need a strategy for suicide prevention as much as a strategy to disempower ISIS. Our kids, husbands, wives, lovers, grandparents, daughters, and sons are jumping out of windows, strangling themselves, blowing their brains out or slashing their wrists every day on our shores yet more attention is given to ISIS than to our mentally ill citizens living, working and fighting for our country. I think there is something wrong with this picture!
Joan E Childs, LCSW
Author of WHY DID SHE JUMP? My Daughter’s Battle With Bipolar Disorder

LIFE AFTER LOSS: VICTIM, SURVIVOR OR THE PHOENIX? My choice! by Joan E. Childs

onlyono__s_new_tribal_phoenix_by_fameflame-d4q9v0mOn July 2, 1998, where this story begins.  LIFE AFTER LOSS: Victim, Survivor or the Phoenix?  My choice… My 34-year-old brilliant and beautiful daughter leaped to her death from the window of her father’s fifteen-story apartment. After the shock and grief swept through me like an emotional tsunami, I realized I had choices. Would I become a victim of this nightmare? Would I manage to survive and live my life in quiet desperation, forever swallowed in thoughts and images of her plunging to the concrete below, or would I find a mission and purpose for my life and meaning from her death? As a mother of five children and psychotherapist for nearly 40 years, I chose the latter and decided to take my story and rise from the ashes of my pain and suffering and regenerate to help others who suffered the same tragedy.
VICTIM, SURVIVOR OR THE PHOENIX is my story. It is the story of how I moved on from my loss and grief. It is a story of heartbreak and despair that morphed into victory. I, like many others before and after me, made a conscious choice to become a Phoenix, not unlike the mythological bird that rises from the ashes and renews itself to become more powerful than ever before. The ashes became the fertile soil for my rebirth. I felt that if I could do this, so could others. My mission is to share my story in order to give hope and courage to others who suffered loss and grief. It is also to wipe away the shame and stigma of mental illness.
Not unlike John Walsh, who’s son Adam was kidnapped and murdered, or Nicole Hackley, Dylan’s mom, and Mark Barden, Daniel’s Dad, and all the other parents who lost their precious children in the horrors of the Sandy Hook Massacre, as well as the husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, moms and dads, children and grandchildren who died on a battle field in some God-forsaken land, giving their lives to their country, and all those who passed away from terminal illness, accidents, murder, or suicide, I chose the path of the Phoenix. They too created meaning for their lost loved ones, never to be forgotten.
My book, WHY DID SHE JUMP? My Daughter’s Battle with Bipolar Disorder chronicles her story from diagnosis to death and the trials and tribulations we all endured along with her suffering and the sub-standard mental health system we couldn’t overcome. It was only after my first book signing event that I realized the need and importance of sharing my experience and knowledge with others who suffered the loss of a loved one. It was only after this event that I saw the hunger and yearning for information about mental illness and its manifestations in our culture causing more than 40,000 suicides a year with nearly one million attempts.
Adversity escapes no one. It’s part of life. It’s how we cope with our loss and grief that determines if we become a victim, a survivor or a Phoenix. The choice is ours.

THE ART OF AUTHENTICITY – JOAN E. CHILDS

town-sign-924570_960_720The Art of Being Authentic
The Art of Being Me
The Art of Loving Yourself
Part 1

The poet says, “What I am is me, for that I came.” To go to your death, never knowing who you are, is the greatest tragedy of tragedies.
Not being an art aficionado, however recognizing the basic elements of art with all the great artists, is to see a reflection of who they are in the works they produce. In fact they have no choice. It’s a compulsion for their true selves to be expressed in their work. If denied their authenticity, they clearly could not produce the greatness that we are all fortunate to share throughout the centuries. I recall in the movie, FRIDA, when Frida asks Diego Rivera if she was as talented as he. Diego replied, “You Frida, are even a better artist than me. I paint of what I see on the outside. You paint what you see on the inside.”
Not unlike great artists, great musicians, writers and the like, we who may not be artists as such, are artists in our own being. We must be ourselves, mainly because everyone else is already taken. What do I mean by that? We need to reflect what is within us; who we are, how we feel, our perceptions, our visions and our I am-ness.
It was Socrates who said, “A life unexamined is not a life worth living.”
So much of our lives have been lived in what I call survival roles, the adapted self. The adapted self, suffocated much of our authentic self. This is a gradual, insidious progression over time due to assignments and expectations of our family, teachers, social norms and mores, cultivating a need to adapt in order to matter and in some cases, to survive.
Somewhere within each of us lies the essence of our being. Without it, nothing really matters and nothing really works. Relationships suffer if we are not in our essence. Our work suffers, our families suffer, our mental and physical well-being is compromised. Relationships become “the killing fields” when our relational space becomes polluted. That space is where we live and our children play. It doesn’t improve unless we clean up the space. We can’t clean up the space unless we are in our essence. When two people are in their true essence, time is eternal, says, Martin Buber. When we don’t know what to do, what to say, how to be, we feel awkward, uneasy and uncomfortable in our own skin. We would rather be what others may want or expect us to be rather than reveal our true selves, fearing we will be rejected or shamed. This is a learned behavior. We weren’t born like this even if our nature is to be introverted or shy. This is a survival self; an adapted self, a false self; not our authentic self. To really be free; to know our soulful content, to know our purpose in life, not to be defined by what we do, but rather, who we are; that is our true self; who we truly are.
I grew up in the last age of innocence, the fifties, in Miami Beach a city that practiced apartheid, but we didn’t know it. We did not even know the word. There were colored and white fountains, colored and white bathrooms. The “colored”, later to be referred as black, were not even allowed onto Miami Beach without a pass after 5:00 PM. Sign on the public buses stated, “Colored to the back”. We never even knew that was wrong. It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I developed a social conscience. We lived in a bubble. Miami Beach was a special place; the 50’s a unique time. We thought we were going to marry, have children and live happily ever after. When reality struck, we were in shock. I suppose it was the assassination of John Kennedy that ended the age of innocence, followed by a raging, reckless war that woke us up to a new reality. The world had changed and has not stopped since, gaining momentum as the years pass.
I grew up in a time that as kids, we listened to our parents. We were more fearful of our fathers than the principal. We were free to skate in a park on Friday nights, never concerned about being mugged, raped or shot. Guns didn’t exist in my world. Drugs didn’t exist. Pot was a cooking utensil. Coke was a soda. Girls didn’t sleep with boys until they were married and if they did, they risked their reputation. Thing weren’t perfect. We had our share of dysfunction as most families, to a greater or lesser extent. Yet, those were the happiest times of our lives. We went from the age of Victorianism to the sexual revolution followed by the New Age, which morphed into the “Me Generation” that grew into a culture of addiction. The values we grew up with were replaced with narcissistic, self- serving, ego-driven, materialistic “stuff”. With that exchange, we grew into multi-generational addicts that was driven by our lost selves. Now replaced with technology, our authentic selves are being supplanted by computers, I pads, cell phones, and other robotic creatures that are destroying our humanness, and our I amness. We need to pull ourselves out of this mess, out of this black hole and find a way to be present to our inner self, to our partners, our children and our friends. God help us if we lose ourselves to technology. What a world this will be!
Next blog: PART II – OUR NEEDS

Why Did She Jump? Audible and Kindle Edition

 

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AUDIBLE_BOOK COVER

There is one day in Joan Childs’ life that she wishes she could do over: the day her daughter, Pam, a brilliant psychotherapist, plunged from a 15-story building to her death. In this vivid memoir, Childs (herself a psychotherapist) explains how her daughter’s life was taken by the most unforgiving of executioners: bipolar disorder. It was the delusions, not her daughter, who made the final decision to end her life. Read more

NOW Available on AUDIBLE –  NARRATIVE/AUDIBLE FORMAT

Why Did She Jump_Book coverSix million people in America suffer from bipolar disorder. Joan Child’s daughter, Pamela, suffered from the disorder, bouncing from doctor to doctor in search of treatment. Yet the demons became louder, and on a summer day in July 1998, the same day that the Oprah Winfrey Show aired a segment on bipolar disorder, Joan Childs’ 34-year-old-daughter leaped to her death from the window of her father’s 15-story apartment. Why Did She Jump? is her mother Joan’s haunting story of grief and guilt, yet it is a beautiful story of love and the courage to find peace and purpose once again.

With brutal honesty and vivid detail, Joan recalls how the entire family became entangled with Pam’s illness as they watched her dive deeper into the darkness where no one could reach her. Ironically, Pam and Joan were both psychotherapists yet, with all their credentials and medical knowledge, Pam still could not be saved.  Why Did She Jump? is her mother Joan’s haunting story of grief and guilt, yet it is a beautiful story of love and the courage to find peace and purpose once again.

Why Did She Jump? Kindle Edition

 

 

IT’S OFFICIAL! I’m an Academy Member of NSA and FSA!

 

PrintI have so much to share and to give to the masses, that the muse that lives inside me won’t allow me to consider my age, my topic, or the money, effort and time it will take to manifest. I have always been a Phoenix or sort, and at this age, I cannot stop what is already in motion. So, I am hoping you will share my quest or know of anyone who would want to hire me as a professional speaker, I would welcome and appreciate your support!

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