Saturday, August 10, 2013

Truth and Meaning: Shame and Guilt

Truth and Meaning: Shame and Guilt

During his high school years, a very good friend of my son committed suicide. Eddie had been to my house. He was successful in school, had many friends, and seemed to have it made in life. His suicide was sudden and completely unexpected. We will never know why this handsome and gifted young man took his life.

Tragically, there are stories like Eddie's every day. Over 36,000 people die yearly by suicide in the United States. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young adults and the third leading cause among teens.

Suicide is also strongly linked to mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health reports one in four adults experiences a mental health disorder annually. But, because of the stigma society attaches to mental illness, far too many people lack access to the help and support they need to treat their disease.

The shame and guilt felt by those who suffer from mental illness is unfair and unwarranted. Our society's inability to help the victims of mental illness is tragic and inexcusable. We can change this. We MUST change this.

Through education and awareness we can reduce the number of deaths by suicide and increase help-seeking behaviors. The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70 percent to 90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial treatments and supports.

Next Saturday, Aug. 17, my wife and I are joining others in a Walk for Hope — Depression and Suicide Awareness at Northwood University. All funds raised will be used in the Great Lakes Bay Region to host special events, training and education in an effort to build awareness of mental health and suicide prevention, intervention and aftercare. Just as important, this walk gives people the opportunity to come together and share their stories. And by sharing our stories, we may prevent just one person from reaching the desperate point where they view suicide as their only viable option.

If you believe that you suffer from depression or other symptoms related to your mental health, please seek help. If you suspect that someone you know suffers from mental illness, do not wait. Reach out to them and invite them to share their stories. Consider registering to walk with us or sponsoring a walker at

Together, let us eradicate the shame and guilt felt by our friends and neighbors in need.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Truth and Meaning: Taking Sides

Truth and Meaning: Taking Sides

As children, we were always taking sides. Whatever the game – red rover, tag, softball, or soccer – we set up “us” versus “them.” Winning always seemed to require that someone else lost. And expressions like “everyone is a winner” usually rang hollow in our ears.

Because even as children, we knew the score. Winning is better than losing. Winners are better than losers. One should be willing to do almost anything to avoid losing, even if that means bending a rule, being called for a foul, or spending time in the penalty box.

Well, listen up everybody. It’s a lie. The better player often doesn’t win. The playing field is never level. And life is rarely fair.

As adults, we know that hard work is not always rewarded. We know that some people get a head start, no matter what the race. We knowingly play a game that it is rigged. And we learn that “not getting caught” means the same thing as “following the rules.”

Why? Why must we endure unfairness and injustice? Why do innocent people get hurt while others seem to get away with murder. Why? Because we keep taking sides.

Well, do you want to know something? There are no sides. There are just people. There is just you and me and how we choose to treat each other. And right now, we are doing a pretty lousy job.
  • When a woman is molested, abused, beaten or raped, we fail as a society. I don’t care what she wore or said or did. We fail if our women feel unsafe, objectified, and unloved. 
  • When a gay person is taunted, bullied, or discriminated against, we fail as a society. I don’t care whether you believe homosexuality is nature or nurture. We fail if our GLBTQ folk feel hated, victimized, and afraid. 
  • When a person of color is mistrusted, pigeon-holed, stalked, and murdered, we fail as a society. I don’t care what neighborhood they are in or whether you feel misguided superiority. We fail if our Black, Latino, Asian, Indigenous and other neighbors live in constant fear of our judgment and violence.
  • When a person winds up homeless, jobless, or hopeless, we fail as a society. I don’t care how much money or political clout you have. We fail when those with privilege oppress those who build our machines, serve our food, or teach our children.
We need to grow up. We need to stop failing as a society. And we need to stop taking sides. Hunger does not care if you are Christian or Muslim. Hate does not care if you are young or old. Illness does not care if you are Republican or Democrat. Hopelessness does not care if you are liberal or conservative.

Life is not NASCAR. The only way to truly win the game is for everyone to cross the finish line together.