Mental Illness & Suicide

Recently, I read that director Tony Scott committed suicide. The 68 year old Top Gun director jumped to his death from the Vincent Thomas Bridge into the Los Angeles Harbor (Blankstein, 2012). He left behind a suicide note for his wife, Donna Wilson Scott, and their twin sons Frank and Max. Just days later, celebrity music manager, Chris Lighty, allegedly commited suicide. Police confirmed he was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head at his apartment in New York. He was 44 years old. (Samuels & Kemp, 2012).

Celebrity prompt many media outlets to bring the seriousness of suicide to the attention of everyday citizens. Journalists and bloggers have speculated why these deaths may have occurred. Some attribute it to marital problems, while others may blame financial difficulties. Regardless of the cause, the act becoming one that we as a society can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to. The National Institute of Mental Health says that 90 percent of all suicide “completers” display some form of diagnosable mental disorder (Anderson, 2008). Could these celebrities have been suffering from mental illness? One can never say for sure, but this highlights the overwhelming stigma on mental illness in our society. In 2005, approximately 32,000 Americans committed suicide, or nearly twice the number of those killed by homicide (Anderson, 2008).

Mental health professionals, as well as people who have experienced therapy first hand, need to educate others about the positives of mental health services. Now more than ever people need additional support. The unemployment rate has reached 8.1 percent last month (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). Government and personal debt is at an all time high as well (Lubin, 2011). These statistics make it clear that everyday citizens are facing unprecedented pressures. Do you have a positive mental health support experience that you can share with others? In today’s society, with all the challenges ahead, sharing positive experiences about mental health support can help others who may be looking for direction and guidance.

Anderson, S. (July 6, 2008) The New York Times. Retrieved from

Blankstein, A. (August, 19, 2012). The Los Angles Times. Retrieved from

Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012). Retrieved from

Lubin, G. (September 23, 2011) Business Insider. Retrieved from

Samuels, T. & Kemp, J.(August, 30, 2012) New York Daily News. Retrieved from

Children and Grief

A friend called me the other day asking advice about talking to her children about death. Her mother-in-law is dying of Cancer and her 11 year old twins are starting to ask questions. My heart goes out to her and her family. I can only imagine what her children may be thinking and feeling.

This is just one example of an issue that most people will eventually face one day if they have not already. I have two children and I began to think about how I will introduce the topic of mortality to them. The world our children live in is completely different than the world most of us grew up in. When I was a child, no one talked to me about death. I just figured it out and coped through laughter because that is what my mother did. But today, with more information at our fingertips, our children are exposed to a lot more tragedy. Think of September 11th. I know I felt hopeless on that day. I can only imagine how a child watching the 9/11 coverage must have felt.

In my work with children and adolescents I love to use books to open the conversation about death. Books are a great way to allow children to use their imagination and speak freely about the subject. One of my favorites, When Someone Very Special Dies by Marge Heegaard, offers an opportunity for children to use drawing to express their feelings about change and death. Children sometimes do not have the words to describe how they are feeling. Drawing allows them to speak freely and it also allows you, as the parent, to guide the conversation.

Check out the book here:

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do…

Most of us have been there. You meet someone and before you know it you are doing everything together. You enjoy spending all your time with this new person and you cannot imagine being apart from them. Then, the breakup happens. Sometimes we are blind sided and other times we initiate the split. Either way, breakups can have a large impact on our lives.

I work with many clients during the transition of a breakup. During this time it is necessary to normalize their experiences and to help them move forward and cope in a healthy manner. However, it is not my job to have an opinion on whether the breakup was warranted or if the ex is a good match for my client. A psychotherapists’ role is to remain neutral and provide a supportive environment for clients, not a judgmental one.

If you are going through a breakup, remember that there are stages of grief that you will experience (Kübler-Ross, 1969):

1. Denial and Isolation

When a breakup first happens, whether we ended it or not, it is common to deny the reality of the situation. A person rationalizes overwhelming emotions as a defense mechanism for the immediate shock.

2. Anger

Once we have accepted the breakup, we may feel resentment towards our ex and replay how things ended. It is typical to ask ourselves, “what went wrong in the relationship”. We may resent the person for causing us pain or for leaving us.

3. Bargaining

The normal reaction to feelings of loneliness and vulnerability is often a need to regain control. We may try to become friends with our ex or find a way to be around our ex to ease some of the pain and loneliness.

4. Depression

Once we realize that the relationship is definitely over, depression kicks in. This stage is often perplexing because during this time a person may find themselves crying frequently and feeling generally low. Sometimes it can be surprising, especially after going through the bargaining stage. Because this stage can be confusing, a person can go from depression, back to anger, back to bargaining, back to depression, and so on. Depression can be a hard stage to process and accept. It can be the hardest stage to complete.
5. Acceptance

Everyone does not reach this stage. Because of the back and forth exercise in the last stage, some people never reach acceptance. When we accept the breakup withdrawal and calm appears. This phase is not to be confused with happiness and it must be distinguished from depression.

Additionally, read books or articles that can empower your experience. Breaking up with someone is hard and you shouldn’t feel that you have to be strong and move on without feeling hurt or a sense of loss. Gaining knowledge about our experiences can only make us stronger. Lastly, during a breakup is a great time to seek counseling. A person can learn a lot about themselves through this process. A breakup usually allows a person to see things about themselves that they would like to change. Counseling can offer an extra source of support during this transitional period.