Adventure

#FreeTheChildren

UPDATE: Last week, Donald Trump signed an Executive Order that supposedly ends his own administration’s policy of separating children from their families at the border.  The Executive Order includes no plan about how to reunite the children who have already been separated from their families.  Without walking back his zero-tolerance policy, the Executive Order is largely unhelpful as it will result in children being detained in detention centers with their parents.  The Flores Settlement Agreement makes it illegal to hold children for longer than 20 days, so while the children may not be separated from their families immediately upon entry into the United States, they will still ultimately be separated as many families apply for asylum, which can take months or years.  The current administration is trying to get the Flores Settlement Agreement decision changed by the courts so that children can be detained for longer amounts of time because without a change to the settlement agreement, Trump’s Executive Order is mostly unenforceable.

 

 

Words are powerful. As Voltaire and Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben say, “with great power comes great responsibility.”  That’s why we need to have a little chat, family, friends, and strangers.

As you may or may not be aware, the current administration has made it policy to separate children from their families when they cross the border, even if those families are seeking asylum from violence and devastating poverty in their home countries. Make no mistake about it that the administration is attempting to deter people from entering this country from our southern border.  It isn’t working.  May saw the highest number of family units apprehended at the border since 2014, when violence in Central America led to a surge in border crossings.

This should be a nonpartisan no brainer.  Children don’t belong in tent cities or former Walmart stores or detention centers or institutions.  Children belong in families.

Separating children from their families is, by the UN definition, torture.   Not only is it torture by definition, but it has similar effects on children.  According to an article in the Washington Post, “The science leads to the conclusion that the deprivation of caregiving produces a form of extreme suffering in children. Separating migrant children from parents, then, increases the likelihood that their experience in immigration detention will cause lasting mental and possibly physical health problems.”  Scientific studies have shown again and again and again that separating children from their caregivers has detrimental effects.

Regardless of where you stand on immigration policy and asylum seekers, surely your heart goes out to these children.  This is not the way to deter immigration.  It’s cruel and it isn’t working.

You may be thinking to yourself now, “Ok Catherine, that’s fine, but what can I do about it?”  Here are three simple things you can do:

I’ll even help you write the letter to your representatives:

For Your Congressman or Congresswoman:

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is _________________________ and I am a constituent from zip code _______________.  It has recently come to my attention that the current administration has made it policy to separate children from their families at the border.  I’m urging Congressman / Congresswoman _______________ to denounce this family separation policy and use all of Congress’ authority to stop it.  I am incredibly troubled by the forced separation policy for a variety of reasons, not least of which being that it is torture by definition.  The separation of children from their families has been scientifically proven to have adverse effects on mental health.  Please use all of your power to stop this policy.

Sincerely,

___________________

For Your Senators:

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is _________________________ and I am a constituent from zip code _______________.  It has recently come to my attention that the current administration has made it policy to separate children from their families at the border.  I’m urging Senator _______________ to denounce this family separation policy and use all of your authority to stop it.  I am incredibly troubled by the forced separation policy for a variety of reasons, not least of which being that it is torture by definition.  The separation of children from their families has been scientifically proven to have adverse effects on mental health.  Please use all of your power to stop this policy.

Sincerely,

___________________

If you’d rather call your representatives, the ACLU has created a script.  It says:

Hi, my name is [YOUR NAME] and my zip code is [YOUR ZIP]. I’m urging the Senator / Congressman/ Congresswoman to denounce the current administration’s family separation policy and use all of her/his authority to stop it.

Adventure

On Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts

suicidal thoughts

 

**I want to very specifically note that what works for me will not work for everyone and that different people need different things when they are feeling suicidal, but this may help give you some information you didn’t have before.**

This week, the world lost Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain to suicide.  Of course these losses were very sad and they are worth talking about.  However, since the news broke of each death, I’ve seen a plethora of Facebook posts and tweets urging people to call the suicide hotline if they are having suicidal thoughts and encouraging people to check on their friends who have mental health issues and those who seem the “strongest” but may be struggling without you realizing.  I have even shared a post or two myself.

I do my best to post about mental health on a regular basis, but there are some people who only seem to care about mental health and/or suicide when there is a school shooting or a prominent celebrity death.  This is disheartening for a variety of reasons, but what I really want to focus on today is the fact that there are ways that you can help someone who is actively feeling suicidal that are not posting the suicide prevention hotline number on your social media.  Posting the suicide hotline number on your Facebook wall is unlikely to help everyone who is truly feeling suicidal.  Not once have I been suicidal, seen the hotline posted on Facebook, and thought “well, that was helpful.  I’m all better now!”

It’s hard to talk about feeling suicidal because there is so much stigma surrounding mental health and, specifically, suicide.  Many people think that a person who dies by suicide has chosen a selfish way out, when in reality people who die by suicide do so because they believe that life will never get better and that they have exhausted all other options.  I know this because I have had suicidal thoughts in the past and because there have been times when I was so depressed that I considered it as a possible solution.

As my best friend so astutely posted on social media this week, when a person dies by cancer, people often say they “lost their battle” with cancer.  This also happens with other diseases.  What many people don’t realize is that depression and, subsequently, suicidal ideation are physical diseases.  They are diseases of the brain, which is an organ much like any other in your body.  When a person dies by suicide, it is appropriate to say they lost their battle with mental illness.  It is not appropriate (or in any way accurate) to accuse them of being selfish or cowardly.  Many people who die by suicide have been suicidal at other points in their life and successfully fought off their mental illness until they were in a place where they were safe again.

It’s important for people with suicidal ideation to know that even though it feels like things will never get better and you will always be stuck in a deep dark hole, there are people who really care and things ultimately will get better, though it may take time for that to happen.  I have been suicidal a number of times in my life but have only chosen to call the suicide hotline once, my freshmen year of college.  That isn’t to say that they aren’t a great resource for some people, but in my situation they weren’t what kept me alive – my family and friends were.

What has been helpful for me personally when I’ve been feeling suicidal is talking to people who don’t stigmatize suicidal thoughts.  Specifically, when I’ve let people know that I am suicidal it is helpful for them to check in with me every day or a couple of times a day to see how I’m doing and if I am a danger to myself.  Not everyone who has suicidal thoughts will attempt suicide and not everyone who has suicidal thoughts needs the police called on them or to be taken to the hospital immediately, though some people do.  If you are unsure, it’s best to call someone.  While this will likely piss off the person you are calling on behalf of, it’s better to have them pissed off and alive than not pissed off and dead.

What I have needed in the past is for people to check on me until I can contact my mental health providers and go to appointments with them.  One of my best friends and I came up with a rating system of 0-10 with 0 being so depressed and suicidal that I need to go to the hospital, 5 being fairly stable, and 10 being so manic that I need to go to the hospital.  While I was feeling suicidal, she would text me a couple times a day and ask “what’s your number?”  We talked about it ahead of time and decided that if I was at a 2 or lower, she had my permission to call my parents if she felt it was necessary.  If I was at a 0, she had my permission to call 911.  I don’t use that system with everyone and it isn’t always necessary for me to give someone a number on a scale describing how safe or unsafe I am, but I’m thinking of one bout of suicidal thoughts in particular when it was very very helpful.

I tend not to post about suicidal thoughts on social media when I’m actively suicidal as I don’t want to create panic for those who care about me and don’t want people to think that I’m just seeking attention, but maybe I should change that.  Maybe it would help other people to know that they aren’t alone and that they can survive even the darkest times.  Maybe it would help derail some of the stigmatizing thoughts that people have about mental illness and suicide.

Of people with my illness (Bipolar Disorder), 1 in 3 will attempt suicide and 1 in 5 will successfully complete suicide according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.  22 veterans die by suicide every single day.  These statistics are disheartening, but you can help change them.  If it seems like someone you know is struggling, reach out to them and let them know that you are a safe person to talk to.  Even if it seems like the people you know aren’t struggling, check up on them and ask how they are doing every once in a while.  Let them know that you really want to know how they are and don’t just expect them to say “fine thanks, how are you?”  Who knows, you may even save a life.