A News Café’s Online Book Club Recognizes Suicide Prevention Month

We so enjoyed our last book club experience that we decided to try it again.

Because aNewsCafe.com readers are a smart bunch who can handle heavy topics, we’ve chosen another difficult, weighty topic that couldn’t be discussed without slams and tsks and twitters few places except here.

Those of you who know my life story know that suicide is a subject close to my heart. I’ll explain more about that in a moment.

A News Café has once again partnered with the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency and the community-based Suicide Prevention Workgroup to host the online book club. This time, the Book Club will convene in honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, September 4-10.

I know. Suicide’s such a total downer. Why couldn’t we selected happier, more uplifting subjects?

Here’s why: More than 7 in 10 people in Shasta County know someone who has died by suicide. These are our friends, family and neighbors, and too often, stigma discourages these survivors of suicide loss from talking about their loved one or seeking the help they need.

My mother took her own life in 1969 when she was 42 years old. I was 12. Many years have passed since then, but still I carry with me the scars of her suicide. I’m haunted by wondering if there were any way she might have survived and be alive today. Later, when I was 15 and living in a foster home and feeling hopeless, I took an overdose in an attempt to make the pain of loss and hopelessness go away. I feel embarrassed even to write those words.

Often when people speak of skeletons in family closets, suicide is among people’s most dark and “shameful” secrets. It’s as if somehow, the act of taking one’s life is so distasteful and horrible that we shouldn’t mention it. And if it’s a family member, we’re guilty by association.

When I shared with you in October the fact that I’d fought suicidal thoughts after learning of the triple betrayal by my former husband’s infidelity with my former friend – both my business partners – the thought crossed my mind that to confess this shortcoming would be an admission of weakness and mental imbalance, not to mention a pretty lousy role model for readers.

Thank God, with the help of therapy, anti-depressants and the support of Jazzercise, friends and family, that feeling passed. Today I’m here to tell about it and embrace my future, and with it the good times and bad times.  I’m just one person whose family has suffered suicide’s generational ripple effect. I’ll bet most of you have a suicide story about your own family or circle of friends. This is a safe place to talk about it if you want.

This online book club is one of several community activities designed to bring awareness to the issue of suicide and promote understanding that suicide prevention is everybody’s business.

Will’s Choice” was chosen for the book club by the Suicide Prevention Workgroup. It’s a compelling chronicle of depression, a suicide attempt and recovery. As Will states in the epilogue, “All stories change, even if the same person is telling them. All that really matters is who is listening.” The author and contributing writers look at depression, suicide, mental health care and recovery with unflinching honesty, compassion and some humor.

Participation in the online book club is easy. First, you can find “Will’s Choice” at the Redding Library (check our special display upstairs), the Shasta College Bookstore or Barnes and Noble. The book is also available through online bookstores and for Nook and Kindle. Then, at the end of the month, I’ll start the discussion and invite you to share your thoughts and ideas. We also invite you to share other books on the topic that have touched or moved you (this one isn’t available on audio book, so if you find a fantastic book on CD about suicide, please share!).

I’ve got my copy of “Will’s Choice” and am reading it this week while I’m taking a little vacation. I really hope you’ll get a copy of the book and read along so we can compare notes.

As with the last book club, even if you don’t read this particular book, the topic is what’s most important. I’d love to hear your thoughts about suicide, the stigma, the solution, and anything else.

See you soon.

Independent online journalist Doni Greenberg founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Greenberg was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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10 Responses

  1. Avatar Carolyn says:

    The Shasta College Library has posted a suicide prevention wiki that links to services and resources, both in print and online: http://shastacollegelibrary.wikispaces.com/Suicid

    The Shasta College Library is also holding a drawing to win a copy of "Will's Choice." Entrants must be currently enrolled at Shasta College: http://www.shastacollege.edu/library/willschoice/

  2. When I lived in the Bay Area, I volunteered for suicide prevention in Walnut Creek. The first question they asked was "How long ago did you contemplate suicide?" Of course, no one raised their hand, after all, we were there to help, not admit to suicidal thoughts! Eventually, someone raised their hand, and that encouraged almost every one in the room to admit to having thoughts of suicide. It is not really anything to be ashamed of admitting to having those thoughts, you didn't do it, nor did I or anyone else in the room. That is the thing to be proud of, you were actually stronger than those thoughts, as were the rest of us.

    Sometimes life just seems too hard, but somehow, we survive and go on to living [mostly] contended lives. I say mostly because I know of no one who is happy and content all of the time. Mostly we just survive until we finally get to the place where we are content.

    another Carolyn.

  3. Wow! This is one of the bravest, well handled reports/stories I’ve seen on the nets and blogs in a very long time! It seems so much easier nowadays to not have to deal with the sometimes convoluted issues of dark content, such as suicide.

    There is such an historic and subterranean-popularity to this tough topic that perhaps the many souls therein collectively and dearly beckon light, truth and safe dialogue. Rather than simply shining a flashlight on the matter, I am so proud of a News Cafe for going even further by bringing this piece to the surface for much needed air and light and hopeful discussion.

    Hope and healing are so possible for our community with the help of true journalists and the public coming together to empower those who need to feel that 'help' is an approachable option. Some may feel they had a Charlatan-therapist before, (Warning: They are not all competent!) or felt trapped, oppressed, professionally-betrayed, angry, scared, stressed and alone. My dear best-friend in High School, John, killed himself in 1975 after experiencing the above – and I have not been able to forget it. I think he could have really used this hopeful outreach and would have become a great adult!

    "Thank you!" to ANC, Shasta County Health & Human Services Agency and the Suicide Prevention Workgroup for beginning the light, air and truth on this topic.

  4. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Wow Doni, I'm so proud of you for tackling such a powerful subject of suicide again. Enough could never be said to prevent these deaths. In my lifetime I have known good friends who've been so desperate and at wits end to comment suicide. It's so sad for those left behind to live with this horror and guilt of if only I could have done something.

    My wife and I were directors of Help Crisis Intervention and suicide Prevention for a few years and heard from many people who were reaching out for help.

    Thank God the program continues through Help, Inc. and Shasta County Mental Health and other support groups.

    Thank you for introducing again this book series and with the hope that it prevents many unneeded suicides.

  5. Avatar D.Nethery says:

    Doni , My son attempted suicide at age 16, rather then admit to us(his parents) that he was gay. This is a big problem among gay teenagers, as many of your readers already know. Although it has gotten better for gay people, it is still a big problem in the homosexual community. Lucky for him, he had a family who loved him even more, when we found out about his inner struggles. He is a good young man, and I feel fortunate to have him for a son. You are a brave woman, Doni. I am glad you and my son did not succeed in your suicide attempts. The both of you, have made this world a better place.

  6. Avatar Me says:

    Four years ago was the beginning of a dark period in my life. It was also the beginning of a new life. I didn't know it then, but the darkness and despondence I felt would one day (like today) turn into a life I am very happy and proud to live. I now have ME. I value me; I know in the deepest place of my being who and what I am. Despite all the ugly things delivered to my doorstep one seemingly simple day, I did it. Funny thing is (and I did not believe it possible) I am with the person who I felt had taken my life from me. In fact, what he really did was hand it to me on a platter. I am strong; I am vital; I am alive more than ever. Thank you for shining a light on the subject of suicide. In the light, that dark and dreary place cannot grow.

  7. Avatar Katie says:

    Thanks Doni for hosting the book club again. I have had several people chat with me about Will's Choice and I hope to see thier comments here too. Suicide is never an easy topic so thanks to everyone who has shared their insights and experiences. One of the things that struck me first about this book was the eloquence of all the authors. Suicide may be a topic that leans toward poignancy, yet Gail's writing, while emotional, offered me the chance to hear logic, hope and experience… sort of that ultimate "Mom Voice". The astonishing writings of both teens in this book were awe inspiring. Not only did these kiddos have enviable insights about themselves and their worlds, they knew how to put words together!

    From the health educator perspective, I loved the bit where Gail shares the 20/20 hindsight logic of not allowing a depressed teen to self administer medication. Or where she talks about warning signs and how they really are different from "typical teen behavior." It would be easy to continue on and on, I know many are still reading this book and I can hardly wait to hear what they have to say too!

    • I just want to tell you how gratified I was to read your comments on Will's Choice. It seems a long time ago now — ten years since Will's suicide attempt — and I've moved away from the field of suicide prevention and, after several years working as a mental health advocate, rarely speak about the issue publicly these days.

      I think the strength of the writing — what Will and Megan were able to bring to the fore — for me, is the most important thing this book now has to offer. Your remarks reminded me of their courage.

      Suffice it to say, they are both well and thriving now. Megan recently married and finished graduate school. Will is in law school and wants to work in elder care. Who knew ten years ago what was in store for them.

      Thanks, again, for your kind words.

      Gail Griffith

      • Gail, we are so honored and delighted that you took the time to comment here, and are so happy to hear how Will and the rest of your family are doing.

        If you wouldn't mind checking in on Friday, that's when we'll sum up thoughts on the topic of your book and the subject of suicide. Thank you. We hope to talk with you Friday.