I am searching for the engine or the nudge to bring the community into focus on an integrated strategy to meet the challenges of mental illness-mental health. But we have been difficult to move.
Many of us feel the limitation of isolated responses to the rootlessness and hopelessness that characterizes so much of contemporary life. We could do better by putting our best resources to work on a community response that maximizes already limited resources and create new and more imaginative strategies. We should be a nudge. We should be telling everyone we know.
We all know tragic stories. We are on the front line so to speak. We are trying to seize the opportunity to assume a community mind on our tragedies so we can deal with them better than in the isolation of our socially gated communities.
We begin by telling the stories. Confidentiality does not mean secrecy. Secrecy is part of the problem.
rabbi james stone goodman, st. louis
She wrote me a note before we did a community session on suicide. She was not in a place, she said, to come to the session but she wanted to make a contribution.
She gave me permission to use her words as a prompt for the participants to write about their experiences. The following is from the original piece she wrote to me, her words:
I am a survivor I suppose. I have attempted suicide several times in serious ways and I believe I am alive to share a few things I’ve learned. I feel some sort of purpose, I am always looking for that but here goes — I hope this helps someone.
People could listen more with their eyes as well as their ears. When you are contemplating suicide, you don’t conceptualize it. You may not express it.
Be observant. Don’t ignore anything. Take everything seriously. I wanted someone to hold my hand – I’m not going to leave you, God will not leave you, I’m with you, I will never leave you, that’s what I wanted to hear.
And most importantly: This feeling is going to pass. You don’t think it’s going to pass. You think it’s never going away. It feels permanent.
I wanted someone to say to me: I wish I could be there with you. Call me. Don’t be alone.
Some time later I met with her at a coffee shop.
I’m starting to feel like I want to get out more, she said, to be of service to others. I often feel a terrible negative energy running through my being, but I think I can offer something. If I could help someone else, it would mean so much. Use my words, use them any way you can.
Commentary: I love this piece for the wisdom it contains and because it came from such a difficult place in this person’s life. This was not an easy piece to write.
She was at a low enough place in her struggle that she couldn’t make the session, still she felt the necessity to give away some of what she knew. She wanted to help someone else. Where does this kind of compassion come from? All she wanted was to give a little away what she had learned from her experience.
What she wanted most: to be of service to others. And she knew that because of her life she had some secret wisdom to give away: What it’s like to live with what she lives with, what it feels like from the inside, what she would have liked to hear from others, what someone else could have given her when she needed it most.
It think this is a remarkable document because it has a giving sensibility and because it has real wisdom about what it feels like when a person is struggling to stay alive, to find a way in the world when the inner world goes dark. To come back from the edge and describe what it felt like there.
It has strategies for living that come from the crucible of a person’s life. I think it’s a remarkable piece for all these reasons and every time I see the writer I remind her how much her piece has helped others because as she wrote: if I could help someone else, it would mean so much.