Categories
Mental Health Prevention Recovery Service Suicide Teen Activism

Visions Walks for Suicide Prevention: Staff Stories

On September 28, Didi Hirsch hosted their 16th annual Alive Walk 5k Walk/Run for Suicide the walk Prevention. Visions had a team this year, and several staff and alumni walked in honor of suicide prevention and to raise awareness and erase the stigma of suicide. Many of us have had the misfortune of losing someone to suicide, and finding a way to honor the lives of those lost while raising awareness to prevent a similar loss is a big deal. It can be profoundly healing to be amidst those who have had similar experiences. Dr. Noelle Rodriguez, Jenny Werber, and Nick Riefner were among the staff that were there. I had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Noelle Rodriguez and Jenny Werber, and they were gracious enough to share their experiences with us:

Noelle:

“I’m so glad I participated in this 5k. I am recently grieving the loss of my dear friend who was 38, married, a father and a firefighter. He, like so many others, did not ask for help nor did he show obvious signs he was in despair.

Being a part of this while I am grieving was powerful, moving and profound. Many of the participants had a sign that read “In Memory Of” pinned to their shirts with the names of their loved ones–so many young lives gone, and gone way too soon.  We were together in solidarity. We were sharing our sadness but in no way loving the person less for how they departed. We were simply showing others there may be hope for them.

I was struck by a team that wore matching shirts that read H.O.P.E., which stood for Hold on Pain Ends. I thought about so many who have given up maybe much to soon before they realized there was a solution. We are all affected by suicide, a topic no one talks about and when they do it’s treated like the plague. I felt a sense of compassion and acceptance like I never have before. I am not angry for the loss of my friend; just sad he would not reach out for help.

While we may never stop people from committing suicide, talking about it will hopefully help someone else who may be thinking it’s their only option.

I love Marcello, I always will.”

Jenny:

“It was personal to me, as my cousin Matt committed suicide 12 years ago at the age of 26.  My Aunt and cousin (my late cousin’s mom and brother) walk each year in honor of Matt and in support of suicide prevention.  I did not know they participated in this event until this year, and a team was formed in memory of Matt, where family and friends surprised my Aunt and cousin at the race’s starting line the morning of the race.  It was a pleasure and honor to walk with them to honor Matt and support them.

I created a team for Visions staff and clients to join and participate to honor those they may have lost.  Being there with my family and also with my Visions family was extremely touching.  While you wish there was never a reason for any of us to be at such an event, I believe it is the hope for all of us there that our contributions aid to awareness and prevention for someone else and their family.”

 

This event was a wonderful way to close out Suicide Awareness Month. However, this doesn’t mean we stop talking about suicide prevention and awareness. We can always raise awareness about suicide prevention and make concerted efforts to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health.

Categories
Holidays Mental Health Recovery Teen Activism Wellness

Practicing Kindness, Compassion, and Generosity Every Day

Kindness (Photo credit: -Reji)

Every day is a day for practicing kindness, compassion, and generosity. In fact, these qualities and practices shouldn’t be relegated to once a year around the holidays. However, that’s often the time when we hear about it the most.  Around Thanksgiving, there’s a flood of people who commit to feeding the homeless. Ironically, that’s the one time of year that the homeless aren’t actually seeking food. The shelters, the food banks, the plethora of good Samaritans are all providing that one hot, nourishing meal. The day after Thanksgiving, however, many of us move on with our lives…until next year, when we commit to feeding the homeless of helping the helpless.

 

What happens if we consciously choose to practice kindness and compassion in this way every day? What if we decide to be of service, and practice kindness, compassion, and generosity as a way of living our lives? Would we be happier? Would we be less stressed? Would our mental health improve or at least be less overwhelming? I would garner a resounding yes to these questions.

 

Consciously choose to be kind, compassionate, and generous…every day:

 

By doing so, we have the opportunity to get out of ourselves and realize that we are not, in fact, the center of the universe. In the AA big book, alcoholics (and I am going to include addicts as well) are referred to as “selfish and self-seeking” or as the “actor, director, and producer” of their own show. By choosing to be kind, compassionate and generous in our daily lives, we have a chance to overcome this state of mind. Being of service is key.

 

Practice Joy:

 

Happiness is contagious. If you can find one joyful thing to focus on or go back to during your day, your day will be brighter. Surround yourself with joyful people, have random dance parties, revel in the little things that bring you joy. I giggle every time I hear my dog snore, or when little kids laugh, or when my son cracks a joke. Joy is everywhere, even when things feel dark.

 

Practice Gratitude:


Pay attention to the little things and find gratitude in that: the way the light hits a flower, the fact that you got a parking spot…right in front, waking up at home with family, seeing your kids, a shared smile with a stranger, or a shared joke with a coworker.  The list can go on. Essentially, begin looking at the seemingly banal and find some gratitude there.

 

Things that have gone wrong or which present difficulty for us is also something to be grateful for: These are often our greatest teaching moments.

 

Thanksgiving may have passed, but your ability to engage in compassionate acts, kindness, and gratitude are alive and well.  These practices contribute to better mental health, a fuller life, and a higher level of optimism. Being present and honoring what’s happening right now is a gift and an opportunity to open your heart.  When you show someone kindness, they are more apt to show someone else kindness. It’s a wonderfully positive domino effect!

__________________________________________________________

Great read and inspiration:

4 Happy Feelings That Are Contagious

Emotions Are Contagious–Choose Your Company Wisely

Categories
Adolescence Recovery Service Teen Activism

Teen Activism: Mutt Match LA

Lulu via @saritphoto

Activism is something that has informed my life since I was a teen. In recovery, activism has been something that has allowed me to soothe my soul and be of service on a deeper, more profound level. Activism has allowed me to step out of myself, opening my heart and invoking deep intentions and inspiration to work with not only my shadow side but also the shadow side of others.  To truly be of service is to allow yourself to hold space for others regardless of the depth of their suffering, finding a way not to take things personally but to instead be a beacon of altruistic light.

 

At Visions, we have been encouraging our teens to take an activist stance as a way to be of service. For example, over the last year, we have sponsored dog adoptions for Mutt Match LA, a “non-specific breed rescue committed to Rescue, Rehabilitation and Re-homing of abandoned, homeless and unwanted dogs.” Jesse Engdahl has been a huge source of encouragement in this regard, showing up the first two Saturdays of every month on behalf of Visions with alumni and current outpatient clients alongside him.  It has proven to be a wonderful way to give back to the community.

 

Animal rescue has been an activist cornerstone for the Visions kids. It’s something that’s always touched the hearts of our teens; in fact, my dog, Lulu, was a rescue from one of our alumni!  There’s a visceral sense of being of service when you are active in the process.  Suffice it to say, helping helpless animals feeds the soul.  I asked Jesse about his experience in taking the kids to Mutt Match, and he said, “The kids stay really engaged caring for the dogs.  Walking and feeding the puppies offers a really easy way to be responsible and be of service. They love it. They get to be at Visions with a bunch of puppies!” What’s not to love, right? Puppies and dogs love you regardless of your fashion sense, weight, or financial status. They just love you and want love in return. What a cool way to be of service!

 

If you are an alumni and interested in getting involved with the next Mutt Match LA adoption event, you can email Jesse. The next Mutt Match event is THIS Saturday, 10/12,

 

This is the first of many blogs inspired by activism. The possibilities are endless! If you are interested in sharing your experiences with activism or want to share some ideas with me, please email me directly at srogers@visionsteen.com. Your stories and experiences bring hope and inspiration and I would love to share them.