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  • sheila.matsubara

    Thank you for sharing this and enlightening me to issues I didn't realize existed, such as mistrust of health care professionals by some of the black community - and why. The pain of losing your brother will not go away because you wrote this, but you are honoring him by helping to educate others.

  • Gabriela Bhaskar

    Thanks for sharing your brother's story and discussing this poignant issue.

    • Liz Dwyer

      Thanks for reading, Gabriela. It's really appreciated.

  • Anthony Saffer

    Thanks for taking the time to respond Liz - your heartfelt comments are appreciated. Whilst it has not been an easy period for me, the experience has made me stronger as a result. When you face death, you question your life - and the lesson I've taken away is that I need to make the most of every minute, of every day. That's what I'm doing, from this day forward. Everyone's time is equally as precious, but I plan to spend each moment wisely. Warmest regards Anthony

    • Liz Dwyer

      Truly, learning to spend each moment wisely is a lesson we should all take to heart. I'm glad you're on that path to making the most of every minute--what a different world this would be if we all were to take that step. Take care of yourself.

  • Neilson Spencer

    I dated a girl for half a year - who became a great friend - commited suicide a few years ago, and it pained me terribly. I always wished that she could have found something to put her energy into that could have possibly swayed her from taking her own life. I've personally suffered from bouts of thinking things would never get better, but never thought of taking my own life. I cannot begin to understand what it must be like to suffer from thoughts such as this.

    My heart goes out to all of you who are suffering from depression, drug dependence, or other personal problems.

    One thing that I can share with everyone is something that has not only changed and transformed me on a physical level, but on a mental one as well. I started doing yoga back in July 13'. Through this challenge of yoga I hardly drink alcohol anymore. Maybe a beer or two in the evening (you can't handle a hangover if you're dedicating yourself to yoga, your body physically hates it). The thought of being hungover and doing yoga actually sounds terrible, and if you begin to love the way yoga makes you feel, then you won't want to drink because yoga becomes more important than alcohol.

    Yoga is easy on the body, and is a style of exercise you can do every day. Your legs will wobble in balancing positions, and it may take you months to get strong enough to start doing inversions, but the joy you get in believing in yourself that you WILL be able to forward fold over your legs, grab your toes, and rest your forehead on your knees is truly amazing.

    Most importantly, you begin to believe in yourself. Breathing is an integral part of living, and I believe it has an immeasurable and profound affect on our physical health, and psyche as well. When you believe in yourself, you begin to shine a light that wasn't there previously. People will notice that you've lost some weight, gotten in better shape, have better posture, and that there is a newfound light being lit within you.

    I wish more than anything that I could have introduced my friend to yoga and it's healing benefits before she took her own life by hanging herself, overdosing on pills, and hanging herself. If there are any of you out there who are over it completely, please give yoga a try for a week before you do anything that can't be undone.

    Popular Yoga studios with a free week of yoga or discounted rates: I know these studios are in the LA area, but they do have studios across the US.

    CorePowerYoga - http://www.corepoweryoga.com/yoga-beginners/new-students-one-week-free-yoga
    Yogaworks - http://www.yogaworks.com/en/newtoyoga

    Namaste

    My soul honors your soul. I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides. I honor the light, love, truth, beauty, & peace within you, because it is in me. In sharing these things we are united, we are the same, we are one.

    Love & Light
    Neilson Spencer

  • Constance Houck

    I am bipolar and in tremendous pain because I need my hip replaced and I can't afford it. I can't even afford to see a decent psychiatrist on a regular basis. When I do see one they charge about 100 dollars for 15 minutes, load you down with expensive prescriptions that rarely balance the mood swings.Heaven forbid they return your call if you are in a crisis! Dec. 12, 2013 I tried to hang myself, couldn't even do that right. It sounds like your brother had the same condition. He was in unthinkable pain, don't be sad because he is finally found some peace.

    This condition is inherited, looking back my father and his mother were both either beauties or beasts. I knew at a young age I was like them and never had children as I would not want to put anyone thought this hell. I don't have a family support system, they all died. Social Security told me to eff off. Luckily, I moved to Portugal, a socialist country with access to some medical care so I can at least get medication I request from the health clinic for under 2 Euros. I now use Google as my shrink. In October I may get to see an Orthopedic specialist. If I were still in the States, my ashes would be scattered. I wish I could go to that "bipolar summer camp" that Richard Dryfuss and Catherine Zeta-Jones talks about, sounds like heaven, but most people just don't like "eccentric" employees, I am not employable, hey,
    maybe Social Security will give me a job. They said I could work.

    • Liz Dwyer

      Constance, I really hope you're getting the help that you need in Portugal. I'm not familiar with the health resources there, but please make sure that you're talking to someone and getting the medication you need. Wishing you all the best.

  • Dawn

    My brother died this past year at the age of 47. I don't have the heart to ask my dad (who was the one who unfortunately found his body) if he had committed suicide. Regardless, I feel as if he had been slowly killing himself through alcoholism for the past 20 years. Thanks for sharing your story. I really appreciate not being alone. <3

    • Liz Dwyer

      Dawn, thanks for sharing your family's experience, too. It must have been so awful for your father to find his body--that's the kind of thing that I, as a parent, hope and pray I never ever have to experience. I hope you and your family are hugging each other tight.

  • alliesw

    I am so sorry that you lost your brother, especially in such a horrible way. Many years ago, my cousin committed suicide on the steps leading up to his church. I can't even imagine the pain he was in when he decided to make the decision to end his life. Suicide doesn't discriminate--it affects every color, religion, race, etc., and leaves behind loved ones who feel confused, guilty, and brokenhearted. Thank you for sharing your story, Liz.

    • Liz Dwyer

      I am so very sorry to hear about your cousin. The brokenheartedness and the wishing for what could have been are so difficult to deal with. I'm sorry you know what it's like, too.

  • Melinda Anderson

    Liz: This is so heartbreakingly beautiful, sad, touching, everything. I think it's going to stay with me forever. I just can't find the words to fully express its impact. Thanks for sharing your personal story and trusting us with your truth.

    • Liz Dwyer

      Thanks for saying that, Melinda. I think about him every day, and I hope this helps other folks so that they can get the help they need.

  • Trinity A. Lubneuski

    Liz,

    Thank you for sharing this. I was deeply touched by your willingness to share. My brother, too, committed suicide when he was 17, me 15. We were both raised by the foster care/group home system in various states. We share the same mother, but have different fathers. Both our fathers are Latino. But for whatever reason, my brother "looked" Hispanic and I didn't. I was always treated as a white girl. He bore the name Garcia with much pride and I was given my mothers name of Thorpe (though my father's last name is Ruiz). In my opinion our difference (mostly in looks and how people chose to identify us) led to differences in placements with me always being more likely to placed in foster homes while my brother went to behavioral and mental health institutions, jail, and group homes. In fact, he committed suicide while jailed in an adult facility at the age of 17. I have never forgiven nor will ever forgive the child welfare system or the criminal justice system that created the circumstances around our childhood upbringing and his death.

    I almost never share this story. I once had a counselor tell me that people can't handle what I've been through so I shouldn't talk about it. I never listened well to that. Though I don't give all the details, I tell people that I have 4 brothers (2 foster, 2 biological). I tell people he lives in New Mexico (where he is buried) and would be 32.

    I've spent the majority of my adult life trying to encourage and empower youth, especially those of color and/or living in poverty. I agree, there needs to be more attention to this. There need to be clear avenues to get family members help before they become a risk to them themselves or others. My and my brother's mother suffers from an untreated mental illness diagnosed shortly before my brother committed suicide. I pray everyday that she would seek treatment. I hope everyday to have wisdom to know how to help her.

    Again, thank you.

  • Anthony Saffer

    Liz

    Your article made me cry. And gave me strength at the same time. I've re-posted it to every person I know in the world via LinkedIn (see below), Twitter and Facebook. Thank you for having the courage to write about this - I have no doubt it is helping others as we speak. You honour the memory of your brother everyday. That's a life worth living. Warmest regards. Anthony

    There's nothing funny about suicide. I've recently had experience with this. No joke. http://lnkd.in/bhTsCQz Please read this and pass it on to everyone you know.

    • Liz Dwyer

      Thanks for reading and sharing, Anthony. I hope this does help others and I'm so sorry to hear that you've recently had personal experience with this.

  • CrummyVerses

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. You sound like a wonderful human being. Thanks for letting your light shine on such a difficult and personal subject. I happen to be white and struggle with deep-seated depression, at age 55, under-employed. Maybe I should consider myself fortunate (perhaps indeed) that I am white. I never considered that our white-privileged society would effect those stricken with depression more profoundly if they happen to be brown or black. Thank you again.

    • Liz Dwyer

      Hi CrummyVerses, Thanks for your kind comments. There are definitely real challenges at the intersection of race and mental health, but I hope you're finding the assistance you need, too.

  • Kristin Pedemonti

    thank you for sharing your story, so sorry to hear of your brother's death, may be finally be at peace. Sending HUGS to you from my little heart to yours. I grew up economically disadvantaged, always struggling. My father was out of work more than in & tried to kill himself 5 times before I was 21. He died when I was 22, he was 47. He too self medicated with hand fulls of painkillers every morning. I have a huge amount of compassion for him, being mis-diagnosed in the mid 1960's, placed in what they referred to incredibly unkindly as the "crazy ward." He Never recovered from that experience or the stigma of being mentally ill at that time in history. I often wonder how he might be if he lived today. A rough road, but maybe just maybe he'd still be alive.

    • Liz Dwyer

      Thank you for the hugs, Kristin, and I'm so very sorry to read about your father. It has to have been so awful for your family to have him be misdiagnosed and then suffering for so many years. Hugs back to you.

  • Scott Dorman

    THANKS for writing about this Liz. I've lost family members and friends to suicide so I know the pain and loss too well. If more people would open up about mental health issues we feel uncomfortable about, the stigma and discrimination around mental health issues will erode. By talking about your brothers' suicide, it empowers others to talk too. I've been managing part of a state-wide campaign in California specifically designed to reduce the stigma around these issues (http://www.eiconline.org/teamup/). We work with the media to accurately portray people with mental health issues, whether it be a news article, film, tv show....whatever. For example, most people assume those with mental health issues are violent but in reality, the opposite is true. When those with mental health issues are stereotyped, it fosters stigma and discrimination making it harder for people to seek the support they need. Our campaign was created to reach out to under-served populations dealing with these mental health issues: African-America, Asian-American, Latino, LGBTQ, Native American. I hope I live long enough to see that a mental health issue is regarded the same as any other health issue like diabetes. I'm terribly sorry for your loss Liz but thanks again for doing something positive and opening up about this to others.

    • Liz Dwyer

      Thank you for reading, Scott. I'd love to know more about the work you're doing--sounds like you should be writing an op-ed about this issue instead of me! Would you email me at liz@goodinc.com?

      • Scott Dorman

        Hi Liz,
        I sent you an email. Hopefully it didn't go to Spam. Contact me when you can.
        Scott

  • Sue Ann Sterkowicz Kainz

    Liz, I am so sorry for your loss! You are so courageous to share your story. Every time you take a deep breath and do so, you are helping to stop the stigma. Good for you! It's a hard road to tramp a difficult path, but you are a champion of mental health education, and I thank you!

    • Liz Dwyer

      Thanks for the condolences. It's really kind of you to say I'm a champion--I don't know if I'd say that, but I'm trying to do my part to help. :)

  • Zora Bloom

    Thank you for honest share. I see taboos as a challenge for us: when I over come them I overcome my fears.
    For those who dare I suggest you a book "Me before you" from Jojo Moyes. Try not to judge the writing, but focus on the message the authors is try to deliver.
    Soul, brain and body are as one.
    I am 41, just like your brother and, although I had challenging "run", I discover that pills and therapy alone will not help, unless acknowledge my soul, and when I start taking care of it, my physical and mental problems did not disappear, they just became more manageable.
    Love!

    • Liz Dwyer

      Thanks for suggesting the book, Zora. And I'm glad that you've found the things you need to take care of yourself--and your soul is certainly a part of that. I know it sounds "new age-y" to some, but our souls absolutely need nurturing and care.

  • Jennifer Barbour

    I've worked in the addiction and mental health treatment space for several years now. There is so much stigma that surrounds both issues and it's much worse for minority groups, as you noted. We need more stories like this to be shared so people can understand they are not alone. Suicide can be prevented, but we need to acknowledge why it happens. Thank you for sharing your brother's story. I am sorry for your loss.

    • Liz Dwyer

      Thank you, Jennifer, for reading, but moreso, I'm glad that you're doing the work you do. It is so very needed.

  • Alissa Nelson

    This is such a great piece. Thank you so much for writing and sharing.

    For many of us, the worst part of mental illness is the isolation -- the feeling that no one else is sharing in this incredibly confusing and often difficult to predict reality. The more we are able to speak openly about the things we experience and the more we are able to connect with others, the safer we are.

  • Bernard M Lynch Jr

    Liz – I, too, have walked this route. I know I've put my family on edge, but I really couldn't help it. I lost an 11 year relationship to depression. And now I have a friend who's going through something who's never used his insurance EVER for ANYTHING...and he's limited to 8 visits @ $30 each. I urge people who are plagued with this invisible illness to look into their local colleges, universities and hospitals and see if they are running any programs for which they can enroll. Some will provide meds, therapy and, in exchange for enrollment in a "test program" money for your time. I would caution people about going to "self-help group therapy" which are run in a fashion similar to an AA meeting. Sometimes it's NOT HEALTHY to hear of the problems of others. It all depends on you. And don't be afraid when you are seeing doctors to move on to another doctor until you find a doctor with whom you "click." It's a tough walk, but make it. Do whatever you have to do. And if you are feeling like "it's not going to get better" FIND SOMEONE YOU CAN TALK TO and MAKE THE CALL. And if you DON'T have someone to talk to, either start writing until you fall asleep, or call a local help line. CAUTION: If the police become involved and are sent to your residence on a "possible suicide", they might not be terribly sympathetic. Better you drive yourself or get yourself to a hospital than compound the situation with less than caring boys in blue. It DOES get better.

    • Liz Dwyer

      Bernard, THANK YOU for sharing these lessons learned. This is exactly why I write about this--we need this kind of dialogue and if someone's never been able to talk openly about what they're going through, they may not know these kinds of things.

      • Bernard M Lynch Jr

        I'd say "thank you, Liz" but you've paid the ultimate price. I still fight every day with this demon, but am determined not to cave in. I don't have the "perfect" support system, but I do have a support system in place. And I have a wonderful psychiatrist with whom I have an 11 year (weekly) relationship. And he's going to turn 83 this year. Whatever anyone is feeling, DO SOMETHING ELSE to get your mind off suicide. Listen to DISCO, take a shower with soaps and shampoos made of scents which you find relaxing, watch a movie or three, write write write (I started a blog six years ago, and I'm still going) and find that "one" little cell in your body which tells you to stay here. You will triumph just by seeing the sunrise. And, if it's any help, pick up a camera (or your cell phone!) and challenge yourself to take a picture a day. If you need "reference" or "training" just start looking at books of photographs. Write. Paint. Photograph. FIND YOUR NICHE. And even if you can't picture it, in a few months or a year, you will be glad you're still here. And Liz, I posted my name and photo. I am not ashamed to be a poster boy for depression or whatever you want to call it. In the end, I'll still be here. Thank you for getting this discussion going. In memory of your brother, look what so many have shared...

    • Liz Dwyer

      Thanks for reading and saying so, Erik.

  • Wendy92

    Thank you for this. My brother also took his own life eight years ago today. We do need more education and ways to help those suffering with such pain that they see the only way to escape it is death. That's not the case - but when someone is deep in depression it's hard to reach them and make them believe that things can get better. I appreciate you opening up this dialog and being so frank.

    • Liz Dwyer

      I am so, so sorry for your loss, Wendy, and that you and your family have experienced this. Glad to open this dialogue and hugs to you.

  • maryalice.shemo

    Thanks for this. It's much needed, & beautifully done as well. I have a little different take on the spiritual (afterlife) aspect of suicide. I believe that God, w ho is far more compassionate than the patriarchal mentality realizes, welcomes such a soul into heaven with an extra-big, soothing, healing hug, knowing what it's been going through. You did a marvelous job of touching on the various aspects of the roots of suicide, which gives us a good starting place for solving gthe problem. One would be to end & reverse the cruel, counter-productive approach to school "reform" which has opened a school-to-prison pipeline, & deprived schools of the guidance counselors & social workers who ought to be dealing with student misbehavior instead of police. Another might be to start clubs in high schools which would nurture studentsfrom the black community who want to go into the healing professions, with peer support, adult encouragement, & help finding scholarships. "More black therapists" is a worthy goal, but doesn't help much if they are all people like Clarence Thomas or Barack Obama, who may mean well but didn't grow up in the black community & haven't a clue about the pressures on kids who are doing so.

    • Liz Dwyer

      The idea of starting clubs geared toward mentoring students of color so that their interest in mental health careers is catalyzed and nurtured is an excellent idea. Here in California, you have schools that have one school counselor for every 600 students--there is no way a counselor can truly know what's going on with each student or do anything other than fight fires. The counselors get put into "solve urgent problems" mode instead of being able to truly focus on prevention. And, because the counselors are only involved when there's a problem, they may suggest solutions that are not relevant to an individual child's situation. Also, because they are themselves overworked, they may lack some of the love, compassion, and cultural understanding that's needed--so students begin to dread the interaction.

  • Lisa Lightbourn-Lay

    Its interesting you bring up HIV and the need for education. Still. The need for education and safe places to talk are so necessary. I'm in the middle of producing a doc/edu series on HIV and Long Term Care. This part on the series is specific to mental health. The stigma is so strong with both HIV and mental health...yet I would ask people if they have not been effected or touched by both and I'm certain of the answer. I'm sorry for your loss as well. Open talk and inclusion is a start.

    • Liz Dwyer

      So glad that you're making this documentary, Lisa. Folks have surely been affected/touched by both, and we need this open dialogue and education to help our loved ones.

  • Karen

    I'm so sorry for your loss. I had a beautiful, brilliant brother who was troubled from his teen years. He didn't die from suicide, per se, but his relentless and anquished self-destructive drive meant that we were always waiting for the phone call. The call came when he was 50. I once read an article in The Atlantic by David Dobbs, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/12/the-science-of-success/307761/
    that mentioned " 'orchid' children, who will wilt if ignored or maltreated but bloom spectacularly with greenhouse care." The analogy applied to the gentle, sensitive, talented man who could always con mental health professionals into releasing him from 72-hour holds and who always would chose to self-numb his pain instead. I mourned his loss long before he died.

    • Liz Dwyer

      Oh that is a wonderful article, Karen. Thank you for sharing. We, too, mourned my brother's loss long before he died--such an apt way of putting it. We truly need so many societal reforms and shifts in perspective so that the orchids can thrive.

  • LaShuanta Harris

    I grew up in South Los Angeles and my community in dire need of mental health services. I like your brother suffer from chronic depression, but by me being a healthcare provider I gained the courage needed to get help, and it's been a positive life change.

    As the New Year turns and seeking out my passions, one of which is creating mental wellness centers in my community. You seem to be a transparent person like myself, I can talk about anything to most anyone, particularly when it comes to issues of disparities in community.

    Thanks, your post it's inspiring.

    • Liz Dwyer

      Thank you for reading, LaShuanta, and I'm so glad that you're getting the help you need--and that it's been a positive experience--because we need you to create that wellness center! :) What a beautiful way of putting your passions and experiences into action so that you can help others.

  • Alessandra Rizzotti

    This is incredible. I really appreciate that you opened up and started an honest discussion about the importance of mental health and education.

    To this point: "However, mental health stress builds up over time—most people who decide to take their life have been thinking about it for awhile. That means that if they get help, they might be able to better cope with what's going in their lives before they get to a point of extreme distress."----- It's unfortunate that mental health is not a major focus in the health industry. It's seen as an added extra benefit-- when really, it should be the focus.

    To this point: "People are generally uncomfortable talking about death, and suicide is such a taboo. The taboo stems from religious beliefs that the soul of a victim is forever damned—they're going to hell and there's no redemption for them—and that make us especially reluctant to have real conversations about it."---- I wish more religions talked about mental health in services.

    To this point: "That reluctance is particularly dangerous for African Americans since black folk are disproportionately affected by issues that can trigger mental health problems: Nearly half of homeless people are black—one-third of us live below the poverty line. Around 40 percent of children in the foster care system are black, and we're 40 percent of the incarcerated population. But, we're less likely to get help."---- When you say 'we're less likely to get help'- is that bec of the stigma against it or bec of the fact that it's not accessible bec it's expensive, or both?

    • Liz Dwyer

      I was telling someone the other day that I wish that taking care of your mental health was so normal that just like you get an annual physical with a doctor, or you go see the dentist every six months, at a bare minimum folks would be able to check in with a mental health professional in the same way.

      And yes, the reason many POC are less likely to get help is due to everything I wrote after that sentence: Stigma, suspicion of health providers due to previous experimentation on POC, racism, cost, etc. Even when you don't have all that to think about, it can still be a scary thing to take that step due to all of the general stigma in our society, so with all that on top of it...it's tough.

      • Tippy Tippens

        Thank you for your openness and big love to you & yours. I wholeheartedly agree that mental health needs to become an everyday topic. It's completely illogical that we can ask for advice or recommendations on anything else from finances to smoothies to..., but if you'd like to sort out some thoughts in your mind, you're suddenly crazy. Why can't the United States let this taboo or stigma go?

        I'm so grateful for the therapy sessions that I've had and wish that I could afford to visit regularly. It's great for your brain health & I loved it so much started calling it the brain spa.

        I also agree that more people talking about these realities is a great place to start changing this stigma.

      • Mary Specter

        Men, of all racial backgrounds, seem to be less receptive towards seeking mental health services not only for themselves but also for family members. It's as if they see mental health problems as a defect that causes embarrassment rather than as an illness that can be helped. My own father, who was white, was adamantly opposed to anyone in the family going to see a therapist even though he was instrumental in creating an unhappy home. I work with children and I have found, over the years, that many fathers are in denial about the mental health issues that afflict their children and will not seek mental health care.