Sunday, October 11, 2015

Out of the Darkness, Preventing Suicide and Fighting Stigma

Many people prefer to deny life's harsh truths. This doesn't change reality. (Wouldn't that be nice?) Fact is, depression and mental illness are rampant. They strike millions of people who have only one thing in common: they're human. These days and very sadly, most of us have lost loved ones to suicide, whether or not we acknowledge this publicly (or privately). 

Twenty-seven years ago, I lost my brother, Glenn-David Engel, to suicide. He'd been diagnosed with paranoid Schizophrenia. Only in the past several years have I come out with my story. And I've been honored to serve as Event Chair in 2014 and 2015 for our local Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention.

This year's Walk took place on 10/10. Over 400 folks gathered from as far as 80 miles away to honor loved ones lost to suicide, to support each other, and to fight the stigma attached to mental illness. It was truly awesome. Though the greater community is impoverished in terms of dollars, it's rich in generosity and heart. We raised almost twice as much as ever - a grand total of over $17,400 and counting! I'm so proud! The money goes to the AFSP/American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, so it all translates into saving lives and squelching stigma.
 Me at our Remembrance Tree.  -photo by Dawn Horwitz-Person, 10.10.15

Here's the poem I shared during the closing ceremony. Several people approached me afterwards to ask for copies, so I'm posting here - in hopes it offers comfort to as many as possible, as often as needed. 

Thank you. Take gentle care. None of us is alone. Everyone of us is worthy. 

Please Believe

Please believe we know your pain
Your broken soul. That smile you feign.
You say "I'm fine," but that's a lie.
You dare not share your urge to die.
We know your rage, your hate, and shame.
The burn that set your heart aflame.
Consumed by grief - your life, a curse.
Cold lonely days; still
Nights are worse.
Please believe us when we say
Keep holding tight. You'll be okay.
Monstrous ills you cannot halt.
Go gentle now. 
IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT.
Mental illness has no cure.
You're human with a heart that's pure.
We know not how. We know not when
You will reclaim your life again
Embrace a faith you never knew
You'll be so glad you wrestled through.
Please believe, and hold on tight
As strands of pain fade into light
And tender hues transform your sight.
You're not alone.
Please know it's true.
We're right here
Holding tight
With you.

                                               Photo by Jodi Rives, Out of the Darkness 9.27.14

59 comments:

  1. This poem is so profound. It must have been so difficult to write it yet also so very healing. Thank you for sharing your story here and this beautiful poem.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My eyes are a tad sweaty here.
    Thank you, for all you do, and for the person you are.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's a powerful poem, Robyn.
    Awesome you raised so much money. It will make a difference. In everything we do, if it impacts even just one life, then it is worth it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Alex. In Judaism, we have a saying "Save a life, and you have saved the world."

      Thank you.

      Delete
  4. Thank you for this post. I love that poem so much. This is the first I've heard about the "Out of the Darkness Walk." I'm going to have to find one of these in my area to participate. Quite inspiring.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are at least 330 throughout the country, Pickleope Von Pickleope, and likely one not far from you. You can go to afsp.org to find out. Thanks so much.

      Delete
  5. Thank you. Thank you for being beautiful inside and out. And for honoring your brother in such a wonderful way. My friend had BPD and killed himself almost ten years ago. It was tough to watch his family try to heal so I appreciate you speaking out on mental health. You're a rock star. Hugs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So sorry, Elsie. Virtual hugs until we meet in person.

      Delete
    2. And we will meet one of these days my friend. One of these days...

      Delete
  6. One heartfelt poem indeed. That is awesome you raised that much money too.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Tears in my eyes while reading this, Robyn. What a great cause this is. You and I have so much in common...sadly...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. The grief goes to a level others can't understand.
      Love to you.

      Delete
  8. A beautiful poem, Robyn. And a worthy cause, one which should be discussed more openly in our society.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. The simple (but difficult) act of discussing it, can and does save lives. Thanks Deb.

      Delete
  9. Big hug. Lovely poem and sounds like you reached folks with it. Plus your hard work for the cause shines through. I'm glad the day went so well

    ReplyDelete
  10. I love the poem. I hope its meaning reaches many people, especially those considering suicide.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Very sorry to hear about your brother.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Congratulations on raising such an impressive sum for a worthy cause, Robyn. I'm sure your brother's spirit is smiling at you. :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. It is so hard for those not there to understand how dark the darkness is, how close to impossible it is to find light in it. God bless you for your efforts in your bro's memory.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes it is, CW. Yet so many of us know that fall into the abyss. I appreciate your empathy, and I appreciate your heart.

      Delete
  14. That was beautifully written and I'm sure there wasn't a dry eye as you read it. Suicide is so hard for us left behind and I think what you and your community are doing is wonderful. Keep up the great work Robyn!

    ReplyDelete
  15. That's a great poem. I'm so sorry about your brother. I've been in that dark place more than once. And as recently as a couple of months ago. It's a daily struggle to get through it without giving up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a moment to moment challenge sometimes for me too, JoJo. Connecting and talking about it is the answer, I find. It's been incredibly healing. Hugs.

      Delete
  16. Robyn, that poem is so touching. Thanks for sharing it and congratulations on your huge success. I know it's a long time ago, but sorry for your loss.

    ReplyDelete
  17. What a heart-wrenching poem. Thank you for sharing it. This hits so close to home for reasons I cannot say, but know that the work you are doing is a great tribute to your brother and to others who may not have a voice in this jungle we live in. Tomorrow (or today, depending on time zones) a friend of mine will remember her 13 year old son. He commited suicide one year ago tomorrow. After years of being bullied at school, he felt he could not take it anymore and took his young life. Out of this tragedy, my friend and her ex-husband started kindness-matters.org This organization hopes to change the way we treat each other and promote kindness instead of bullying. Thank you so much for what you do :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so sorry to learn about such a young life taken far too soon. Thank you for your words, Yvonne.

      Ugh, bullying. One of our speakers talked about it...We're trying to take the word "committed" out of the suicide language. It's ugly and blaming. So we say things like "died by suicide." Really, it's "death by despair, loneliness" - in the case of bullies - "verbal assault." There's no easy answer. Those bullies are likely being abused, and they're also at risk of suicide. I'll check out kindness-matters.org. Hugs to you!

      Delete
  18. Dear Robyn,

    Your poem resonates with a truth that is all part of that vital goal of eradicating the stigma that still sadly surrounds mental health concerns.

    Mental health issues can happen to anyone. It's something that everybody has to truly think about. Environmental, genetic, or a combination of both, can lead a person to a sense of hopeless, helpless isolation.

    Indeed, my kind, thoughtful friend, we have to vigilant about our fellow humans. Be there, assure them that they need not suffer in silence. Your dedication to your beloved brother and the funds raised, are testimony to you and to all those who truly understand.

    I do my utmost to live with rather than suffer from my mental illness. Help each other, we help ourselves.

    Bless you, Robyn.

    Gary x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bless you and love to you, Gary. You bring more light into the world than you know.

      Delete
  19. Last week one of our high school girls committed suicide. The school refused to give her a moment of silence the next day, saying they didn't want to glorify it or encourage copy cats. Instead of using it as a tool to reach out to other students who could be having suicidal thoughts they chose to sweep it under the rug. Makes my blood boil. I am glad there are compassionate souls, like you, who continue to shed light on depression and suicide. Thank you for sharing your stories and your poem.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Theresa. That makes me terribly sad. I'm so sorry a high schooler died by suicide. (We're trying to take the word "committed" out of the language. It's blaming.) And the fact that they would've give her one moment's recognition. Awful. That kind of silence adds to the tragedy and growing rates of suicide. I can tell you that there is an Out of the Darkness Walk committee in your state - we have them in all states. Lots more work is needed. I tried to get the high schools involved, but they've been a lot less receptive than the local college. Yet middle schools and high schools is there the discourse needs to start (if not, sooner).

      Delete
    2. PS Excuse my typos. I'm worse with them when I'm upset. But thank you for sharing that. Virtual hugs.

      Delete
    3. I didn't know that about "committed" but thank you for letting me know! I will be sure to remove that from my vocabulary as well. I'll be sure to share the Out of the Darkness information to the school website so the students are aware and can have their moment of silence that the school so refused. Thankfully, many students have rallied on social media on the girl's behalf, so I think the walk would be very much appreciated by all who knew her.

      Delete
  20. I'm moved beyond words. Your love and care for your brother show so clearly in the beautiful poem. Others will be saved by your actions.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I love this. Between the poem and the walk, it's all taking us one step closer to making mental illness an open conversation rather than a social stigma.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Your poem says it all. Well done. Congratulations on having such a successful Walk.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Congratulations and well done. Loved the poem.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Very poignant, Robyn. And how lucky for me I have you as a Facebook friend, so I can see your recital in person!

    ReplyDelete
  25. You do a good thing here. You are remarkable.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Very moving poem. I'm so sorry for your loss. I feel for anyone touched by suicide. It's such a tragedy and a terrible waste of a life. Who knows what beautiful things that person could have done? I'm glad your Walk was able to raise so much money to help in the fight against mental illness. Many lives may be saved because of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kindness, Lori, Al and Geo.
      And thanks also for visiting, Lori. I appreciate it.

      Delete
  27. Mental illness is rampant. You are right about that. So many people suffer with hardships we cannot even imagine. I'm so sorry about your brother. It's wonderful that you honor him in this way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, so true. And so many decide to be angry and in denial instead of acknowledging the unimaginable hardships of many, versus being angry and taking action.Thank you, Robin.
      Take care.

      Delete
  28. Wow, and wonderful. Your work and efforts make a difference.

    ReplyDelete
  29. WOW this is perfect. It says everything. A very very very dear family member has attempted the last 2 years but have survived both times. its gut-wrenching. I tell them that GOD has a plan and is not done with them yet on earth. Its so crazy how people in our family actually got mad them and wouldn't talk to them for weeks. They said it was selfish. I don't get it. This poem is awesome.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Holli. Sometimes people say such stupid things, and that only makes the problem worse. Sorry to hear that your very dear family member was shunned. I'm glad he/she has you, at least, and hopefully others to offer love, support and compassion. Feeling depressed and wanting the pain to end is something that I think we can all understand, if we're honest with ourselves. Often the best we can do is be there and say we care/love them, and just accept their feelings. Also, please pass on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I should've posted it: 1(800)273-8255. Hugs your way.

      Delete
  30. What a powerful poem, Robyn. You have permanently embedded yourself into my heart. I'll explain more to you later, but consider yourself one of my new heroines. Love you! Hugs. Eva

    ReplyDelete
  31. Such a beautiful poem, Robyn. I'm glad you had such a wonderful turnout! Bless you for all of the work you do for this cause. <3

    ReplyDelete