Four More Years

I am so fortunate to have had parents who worked to instill in me the very virtues that Martin Luther King, Jr. preached, and to teach me to dream big and lead with love.  As our country honors him today, I thought back to my very first public speaking ‘gig’ where the topic was ‘I Have a Dream’.  I believe I placed second in the competition (I know for sure I didn’t win!) but the messages that I learned in preparation for that stuck with me.

I truly believe that one of our great challenges as a nation lies in our difficulty in seeing past our own beliefs and our own views to understand where others are.  Or to meet them there.

My heart has had to grow a bit tougher over the past six months or so as I read things from many on social media sites that burn a bit.  I don’t agree with the majority of my circle of friends on quite a lot, namely politics and social issues.  And that’s okay.  I like being challenged to consider the different angles and examine my heart and mind for why I believe what I do.  I hope that from time to time I push them to do the same.

But I do hope that as we face the future (and the next four years), we can take a moment to look at things from the other side.  I’ll admit, that I haven’t been very good at this myself.  At all.

But we have to.  We have to realize that someone wanting tighter restrictions on guns may not be because they are {insert whatever name you want to call them} – that maybe, their life was altered in some way by a gun and they wish they could spare that pain from others.  Alternatively, we have to see that someone’s desire to have few limits may come from their belief in being able to protect those they love the best way they can, and maybe there was a day they weren’t protected.  We have to realize that someone’s belief in a social program, may be from their experience as a kid who didn’t have enough food and who’s mom worked hard but it was never enough.

The thing about sides is that they only divide.  I’m not asking you to change your beliefs.  But I am asking you (and I’m asking myself) to consider your words and your actions and your thoughts about people based on beliefs that you really don’t understand.  I’m simply asking you to first assume that the beliefs are based on desires of good, both for their family and for our nation.  And then, accept that we all may think that good will come best in different ways.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.  – Martin Luther King, Jr.


Prevent & Protect

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, a day to increase awareness worldwide about suicide and prevention. Did you know:

– Every year, almost one million people die from suicide; a “global” mortality rate of 16 per 100,000, or one death every 40 seconds.
– In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 years in some countries, and the second leading cause of death in the 10-24 years age group; these figures do not include suicide attempts which are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicide.
– Suicide worldwide is estimated to represent 1.8% of the total global burden of disease in 1998, and 2.4% in countries with market and former socialist economies in 2020.
– Although traditionally suicide rates have been highest among the male elderly, rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of countries, in both developed and developing countries.
– Mental disorders (particularly depression and alcohol use disorders) are a major risk factor for suicide in Europe and North America; however, in Asian countries impulsiveness plays an important role. Suicide is complex with psychological, social, biological, cultural and environmental factors involved.

As you probably know, we believe Austin was suicidal and that we’ve focused search efforts on a search for remains. If you’ve read any of my posts, you probably also know I have some guilt over that, because the issues were clear but no one realized how real. So I don’t like reading about prevention a lot, I don’t like the what ifs. What I could have or should have done.

But it’s there, the need to educate all over the world, and to make changes that can help. Suicide costs us all- those left behind, our society…. the true cost is too high to know, too tough to measure.

Austin helping me at a fundraising event for ACS

In Austin’s case, he worked at keeping us from knowing, and he succeeded.  But there is still one person that I think could have been educated more, could have been more aware, could have had policies to prevent those last steps.  Austin arrived at a pawn shop by taxi, and attempted to buy a pistol.  He obviously knew nothing about guns, nor about buying one.  He didn’t know that he’d have to wait three days to buy a pistol.  He didn’t know he wouldn’t be able to get ammo there.  So, he bought a shotgun instead.  He left it there while he went down the road to buy ammo, and came back to finish the purchase.  Him buying it was perfectly legal.  But I don’t understand why there weren’t warning flags seen, that he was intending to hurt someone.  He couldn’t wait three days?  He needed ammo before he walked out with the gun?  He preferred a pistol, but a shotgun would do as long as he could get it today?

Depression is what caused Austin to do what he did.  But why it was so easy….   And what can we do to put barriers up when there are warning flags?  The cost is too high to not be having this conversation on a global scale.  The World Health Organization hopes to bring awareness and believes that governments need to develop policy frameworks for national suicide prevention strategies. At the local level, policy statements and research outcomes need to be translated into prevention programs and activities in communities.

Take a moment today and visit the American Association of Suicidology and see what you can do to help.

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