Archive for depression

"We hear about murders, not suicides (until someone like Williams dies)."

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comedy tragedy masks suicides depression

We and the news media have the attention spans of gnats. Something monumental shocks us into a Rubbernecking Moment... until the next monumental thing comes along. Murder headlines get a whole lot of play and keep us looking, darting from one to the next. Lamenting. Opining. Outraging. Suicides? Not so much. At least not for long. In a previous post-- The aftermath #RIPRobinWilliams-- I wrote the following:

The news media swarm and hyper-focus on huge, painful stories like these, and we all listen and discuss and cry and scream and care immensely.

And then we stop.

We don't stop caring, but we stop being pro-active, because the next Big Story comes along and that wave of emotion or controversy or fear or sadness or tragedy or outrage or terror or death or civil unrest or trauma or injustice comes along and diverts our attention... again.

This country is dysfunctional and needs extended rehab. This country needs to pay attention. We need sustained treatment as a nation, not spot checks. We need to continue to listen, care, and respond, to seek help, to be vigilant, to reach out, to get well. We need to lengthen our attention spans and accept the therapy that will help heal us.

We must listen to and heed the advice we're getting from experts. Hanging ourselves is not an option.

Today in the Los Angeles Times, there was similar reaction to my old improv buddy Robin's tragic death, along with some excellent commentary on treating people with mental illnesses. Please read these very astute letters to the editor, because our voices matter:

Depression: It's so deep inside. No one can touch it.

Some days are unexplainable, when you have harmony with the Earth, racking your mind as to why — and knowing your crash awaits. It's lonely as hell.

I don't dismiss hope for a personal cure; I just want to share the unreal depth that embraces these sad souls who have survived countless years of secrets.

Thank you, Robin Williams, for possibly creating an awareness that yes, this can happen to someone as magnificent as you.

For now, much-needed attention is being paid to this issue. But if past tragedies are a guide, the discussion will probably fade over time until it is barely audible, only to be amplified by the next shock.

Cynthia Ingersoll, Sultan, Wash.

..

In 2009, there were about 36,500 suicides in the U.S. and "only" 16,500 homicides. Yet we hear about the murders but not so much about the suicides (until someone like Williams dies).

Likewise, we seldom see any headlines about depression, but depression affects nearly 15 million American adults, or about 6.7% of the population age 18 and older, in a given year. People who think depression is a choice are wrong (and often judgmental). Depression is no more a choice than baldness. However, I can get a hair transplant, but I can't get a brain transplant.

And then there's addiction. Let's just start by saying that the abuse of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs costs more than $600 billion annually due to crime, lost work productivity and healthcare. But again, we seldom hear about addiction unless someone is glamorized.

When will we be proactive and create some preventive measures? This is all treatable and preventable.

Ken Donaldson (Addictions and mental health counselor ), Seminole, Fla.

..

There is a precedent, of course, for Williams' suicide: Comedian and actor Freddie Prinze, who starred in the hit TV series "Chico and the Man," killed himself in 1977 at the age of 22.

Comedy, depression and substance abuse have an attraction to one another. My father was a comedy writer who used vodka and a barbiturate to get through his days. Thankfully, he didn't commit suicide.

Williams' death is surely a tragedy, but it did not come as a shock to me. I hope it shames our culture into taking depression seriously.

Wendy Werris, Los Angeles, CA

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Oh Captain, My Captain

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Robin Williams

The world lost a real treasure yesterday. Robin Williams gave us the gift of countless verses, of howls of hilarity, gleeful giggles and even snort-inducing snickers. For the laughs, I'll be forever grateful.

But he also had the ability to get truly serious, and to bring us to tears. His performances in Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, Good Morning Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire and even the under-appreciated Jumanji are among my favorites. But there were so many more thought-provoking, risk-taking roles (What Dreams May Come comes to mind) that made up the wealth of work he'll leave behind and insure that, to those of us who never had the privilege of meeting him, he'll live on forever.

I've battled depression since adolescence. I talk about it occasionally on the show because we need to remove the stigma associated with it. I know that Robin Williams battled those demons and, with them, drug addiction - a deadly combination. I only hope that he can now rest in peace.

Today, during our "Gliberal Goddesses" segment, GottaLaff, Amy Simon and I talked about the genius that was Robin Williams. I, as a fan; Amy, as an improv artist who met him once; and Laffy as someone who worked with him in an improv group in LA before he shot to stardom as our favorite Alien, Mork from the planet Ork.

In the first hour, after sharing my thoughts about our collective loss, I spoke about the madness unfolding in Ferguson, MO, where a town is grieving its own tragic loss of an 18 year old at the hands of one who should have been protecting him.

Instead, in what's looking more and more like murder and a cover-up, a police officer shot and killed an unarmed Michael Brown. Of the two stories that have emerged about the shooting, the one told by Dorin Johnson, who was walking with Brown at the time, is the more credible.

“Me and my friend was walking down the street in the middle of the street. And we wasn’t causing any harm to nobody. We had no weapons on us at all. … A police officer squad car pulled up and when he pulled up these were his exact words: ‘Get the F on the sidewalk.’ … He reversed his … car in a manner to where it almost hit us. … He tried to brush his door open but he was so close to us that it ricocheted off us and it bounced back to him, and I guess that, you know, got him a little upset. And at that time ... he didn’t get out the car, he just reached his arm out the window and grabbed my friend around his neck and … as he was trying to choke my friend, he was trying to get away, and the officer then reached out and he grabbed his arm to pull him into the car. … His weapon was drawn and he said, ‘I’ll shoot you’ or ‘I’m going to shoot,’ and in the same moment the first shot went off. And we looked at him, he was shot, and there was blood coming from him, and we took off running, and as we took off running, I ducked and hid for my life because I was afraid for my life … . My friend kept running and he told me to keep running because he feared for me, too. So, as he was running, the officer was trying to get out of the car and once he got out the car he pursued my friend, but his weapon was drawn. Now, he didn’t see any weapon drawn at him or anything like that. I was going for no weapon. His weapon was already drawn when he got out the car. He shot again and once my friend felt that shot, he turned around and put his hands in the air and he started to get down but the officer still approached with his weapon drawn and he fired several more shots, and my friend died. He didn’t say anything to him, he just stood over and was shooting.”

Dorian Johnson spoke with Chris Hayes last night on MSNBC's All In:

The police- via St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar- are pushing a different story.

“Yesterday about noon in the 2900 block of Canfield, a Ferguson police officer had an encounter with two individuals on the street. In fact, one of those individuals … allegedly pushed the police officer back into the car where he physically assaulted the police officer. It is our understanding at this point in the investigation that within the police car there was a struggle over the officer’s weapon. There was at least one shot fired within the car. After that the officer went back, came back out of the car, he exited his vehicle, and there was a shooting that occurred where the officer in fact shot the subject, and … they were fatal injuries. The entire scene from approximately the car door to the shooting is about 35 feet. There were shell casings recovered, the shell casings are all matched to one weapon, that’s the officer’s weapon. There were more than a few shell casings recovered. I cannot say at this time how many times the subject was struck by gunfire. It’s hard to know, it was more than just a couple but I don’t think it was many more than that.”

Protests and clashes between police and protesters continue, as police have still not released the identity of the officer who shot Michael Brown. This is far from over.

This morning, I spoke with George Sheldon, candidate for Attorney General of Florida.  I asked him about the situation in Ferguson and the seeming rise in police militarization and violence, as well as Florida's Stand Your Ground law. The primary is two weeks from today.

We'll be back tomorrow with Susie Madrak of Crooks and Liars, and whatever else the day brings. Stay safe and hug your loved ones, and I'll talk to you tomorrow, radio or not...

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Young Master Chef Lost to Guns and Mental Illness, Melissa Harris-Perry Notes

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pliviapope

Master Chef finalist, fan favorite and troubled Chicago student Josh Marks lost his life and dreams to suicide, in the tragic intersection of mental illness and the shockingly normal high availability of guns.

It's probably more difficult to get good weed in Chicago than a firearm, if anything in that cute Ted movie can be believed.

MasterChef Finale Image Courtesy ClickClaque.com

MasterChef Finale Image Courtesy ClickClaque.com

Melissa Harris-Perry did an amazing piece on Josh Marks … the charismatic African American contestant from Chicago that won American hearts with his chaffy chops and fighting spirit. The hubs and I watched, and rooted for him. [We're oddly Gordon Ramsey fans but it Twas before Chef Graham lost like half of himself if you've caught Master Chef.]

The easy access to guns in the street … Chicago has so much gun violence … there are so many gun loopholes that the supply is always there … or they can go over the [state] border."

Tragically, this gun availability here led to suicide. CNN highlights from reporting on Marks (last and successful try) late 2013 suicide.

It is overwhelming to think that with proper, intensive treatment, Joshua may still be with us," his lawyer, Lisa Butler, said Sunday. "He was a jewel with so much talent to offer this world. But, in his state of mind, he turned to the streets for a gun and easily got it."

Marks, 26, died from a gunshot wound to his head. His death has been ruled a suicide, a spokesman for the Cook County, Illinois, medical examiner said Sunday.

The NRA has framed the question as one about 'strangers' said expert Eugene O'Donnell, and he showed why that gun-fondling fantasy is balderdash.

"Do we not care about suicide?," pled Melissa.

Bryan Smith who wrote a great piece on the story for Chicago Magazine, was there to discuss, below, as was 'Law and Order of the Mind' segment expert Eugene O'Donnell joined the discussion following revelations that Marks had both prior attempts at suicide and time at Cook's County Jail - from his nearby troubled term at college. And guns were no problem at all to obtain.

The 'vacuum of fear' theme was spot on, especially when this discussion is framed in politics, social stigma and racism.

Ironically, the writers of Law and Order and House of Cards add more to the human dignity questions at the heart of this conversation than the Know Nothing Do Nothing Congress and gridlocked D.C. with SCROTUS and Open Carry gun nuts running amok.

Maybe 'Scandal' can take a stab in Season 4. No doubt Ms. Shonda Rhimes would give the pitiable Congress a hand in common sense, reality and dignity of purpose. Calling Olivia Pope!

scandal-memes-olivia-pope-6In the meantime we have Melissa Harris-Perry's coverage to the sad story of one more life lost too young to mental illness, and over-availabilty of guns for either homicide or suicide tragedies … and where those volatile and violent issues intersect.

 

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Blogger interrupted: Apparently I'm suffering from "complicated grief"

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writer interrupted
doctor's orders

So as some of you recall, this happened last May: Final Dad Report: To the so, so many of you kind enough to ask and care.

Since my dad passed away, I haven't been doing all that well, and as it turns out, worse than I thought. Now before all my well-meaning pals tell me that I should have been taking care of myself, I promise you, I have been. Having been brought up by a truly superb doctor, I'm hyper-aware of how to stay in the best possible health. But despite being good to myself, resting, taking breaks when I can, and cutting back, my blood pressure's up and I'm not myself, as I told you here: Note to Readers.

In the past two days I've been to two doctors. Both were concerned about my stress level, both ordered me to stop doing what I do, at least for awhile, and to take a very mild, children's dose of anti-depressant until I get past this.

Did I mention I hate meds? But in this case I didn't argue. Well, maybe a little.

I have what they call "complicated grief depression" which is when grief symptoms persist for longer than six months. I had pretty much self-diagnosed, but didn't realize that what I was going through was a real "thing" with an actual name. Via the Harvard Medical School website:

[I]f the symptoms linger and become increasingly debilitating, the condition turns into what is now being called unresolved, protracted, traumatic, or complicated grief. It has features of both depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). ...

The most characteristic symptoms are intrusive thoughts and images of the deceased person...

Bingo. Thankfully, most of the symptoms described in the article didn't apply to me.

Yes, this is really personal stuff, but I'm sharing it with you in case anyone else out there who is dealing with the death of someone close to them feels as confused as I've been feeling lately. It's a relief of sorts to get a handle on what the hell is going on in my tiny, rattled little noggin.

So, until I'm given different marching orders, I won't be posting much, if at all. Mandatory down time.

However, I will be paying close attention to politics, and will likely keep up with my Tuesday radio spot with Nicole Sandler. I will also still be on the Twitter Machine (albeit not as much), mostly commenting, snarking, and tweeting Paddy and David's always excellent posts. Actually, my "Miss This?" automated tweets will take care of most of that, but I'll make every effort to bring attention to the most newsworthy TPC items when I can.

I admit, I don't quite know how to do this, and I'm sort of floundering. For the first time in my life, I have no real direction, at least for the moment, having been forced to ease up on the pace and intensity I've become accustomed to over the past seven years covering politics... and before that, decades passionately immersed in show biz.

But health comes first. Period.

Thank you for all the support you've given me since May, and for always understanding and caring. You guys rock.

And please be good to Paddy and David!

drunk wine doctor

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