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Reflecting on preventing suicide and building community


By Trish Olson, director of programs, Extension Center for Family Development

Hello,

I am sharing the authorship of the blog with week with multiple coauthors. A little over a week ago I sent a reflection to my colleagues on 4th floor Coffey Hall about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide and it sparked many thoughtful responses and resources. So, with their permission, I am re-posting this email trail (something I usually do not recommend). I thank my colleagues for letting me share their reflections to my initial email.

I think posting my email conversation reflects a way to build community in the Extension Center for Family Development (FD). The first step is sharing a concern, a joy, or a vulnerability, and the second step is for the rest of us to provide a simple acknowledgement to tell someone they are heard and to inform them of resources if we know of any.

We structure the Family Matters blog so you can respond or reply or simply say… “I hear you.” Please use the blog in this way to build our community in FD.

In addition, if discussion of this topic of suicide evokes a need you or your family has for mental health resources, please use our U of M Employee Assistance Program. I urge you to call them. As an employee and supervisor, I have accessed this U of M resource and they are extremely helpful.

Best,

Trish

Here’s the email trail, starting with my initial message:

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Trish Olson

Trish Olson
Jun 8 (10 days ago)
Director of Programs

Hello,

I don't know, just thought I would share, but I am struggling this morning with the second suicide of a celebrity this week. And it is not about the "celebrity" part—it is the suicide part.

Through Anthony Bourdain's shows, my family has watched with interest and anticipation about food and culture from around the world. We used his show to "virtually" understand more about the locations our children were visiting through their college adventures around the globe. We all felt better knowing what our children would/could experience and what they could expect when they visited different countries. AND we either loved or feared the food that Anthony shared about in his shows!

I love the quote below about the power of food as an entry point to understanding someone:

"Journalists drop into a situation, ask a question, and people sort of tighten up," Bourdain said. "Whereas if you sit down with people and just say, 'Hey what makes you happy? What do you like to eat?' They'll tell you extraordinary things, many of which have nothing to do with food."

Gives me pause. In our work we often focus on the nutritional content of the food we eat, rather than the "meaning" of food in people's lives and in turn the "meaning" of their lives.

Have a good weekend, and in honor of Anthony, thoroughly savor some amazing food this weekend and while you are eating perhaps ask, "Heh what makes you happy? What do you like to eat?"

Trish

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Mary Vitcenda

Mary Vitcenda
Jun 8 (10 days ago)
Senior Editor

Thank you for your beautiful note, Trish. The idea that we eat not only for nutrition but for meaning might make a good Family Matters column. Just a thought...

I also assume you saw the CDC statistics about suicide that came out this week. Of course, they just amplify the importance of suicide prevention.

Mary

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Ruth Ellis

Ruth Ellis
Jun 8 (10 days ago)
Web Production Assistant

I also saw in the Star Tribune last night that Minnesota suicides have increased by 40.6% over the last 18 years!

http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2018/06/07/minnesota-suicide-rates-rising/

What the heck is going on???

Ruth

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Two rocks in an ocean, icon for Michael Brott's email

Michael Brott
Jun 8 (10 days ago)
Communications Manager

He was one of my family's favorites. He struggled with addiction in his life, he was honest in his reflections on himself and world culture. We are deeply saddened by the loss of him and for what seems to be a growing epidemic of suicide. This hits our family hard.

MJB




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Emily Becher

Emily Becher
Jun 8 (10 days ago)
Research Associate


Thanks Trish.

Also, I don't know if any of you are familiar with the musical Dear Evan Hanson, which addresses suicide. But You Will Be Found is one of the big songs from it that I think is just really impactful and worth a listen if you're ever having a sad day or knowing someone who is. We listen to it in the car so picture a 5-year-old and two 2-year-olds belting this out every morning on our way to school.

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Karen Shirer

Karen Shirer
Jun 9 (9 days ago)
Associate Dean


Tough news yesterday. How do we as a society address these diseases of despair without blowing everything?

I know this brings up difficult memories— take care of yourself this weekend and celebrate life. It is so fragile.

Karen

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Jeanne Laqua
Jun 11 (7 days ago)
Office/Administrative Services Supervisor

From @shawnking on twitter

4 ways I hope we will live our lives to honor Anthony Bourdain:

  1. Search out good food. Eat it. Tell everybody.
  2. Find cultures other than your own. Value the people. Tell their stories. Lift them up.
  3. Travel like crazy.
  4. Speak out unapologetically on injustice.
Jeanne






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Comments

  1. Thank you, family development team.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My family and I revisit favorite episodes of No Reservations when we want to daydream about places we want to visit or just to remember "what was that meal that we really want to make?"
    Food is the great equalizer. And Bourdain was one of its shaman.

    ReplyDelete
  3. For every celebrity we mourn as a nation, I think about how many other families are mourning local tragedies. I hope that they feel seen & heard as well.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sorry for the delay in responding ... but I'm just catching up on emails ... and felt compelled to bring forward information about suicides of our military Service members and Veterans.

    The Center for Deployment Psychology reports on their website (https://deploymentpsych.org/disorders/suicide-main) that "Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. military. According to the calendar year 2015 Department of Defense Suicide Event Report (DoDSER) annual report, the standardized suicide rate was 20.2 per 100,000 for the Active component. For the Selected Reserves component, the rates were 24.7 per 100,000 for the Reserves and 27.1 per 100,000 for the National Guard."

    Our National Guard & Reserve Service members are typically geographically dispersed ... away from military installations ... they live in our communities.

    In addition, suicide impacts our Veterans. The Center for Deployment Psychology indicates "Veterans account for approximately 18% of all adult suicide deaths in the U.S. Interestingly, Veterans represent only 8.5% of the U.S. population, highlighting the disproportionate number of suicide deaths in this population. This means that approximately 20 Veterans die each day by suicide."

    Sara Croymans



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