Bill Vassilopoulos

Real, Raw and Respectful talk About Suicide

Teen Suicide Rate Up 25%

Teen Suicide rate up 25%

Can you believe it? Rates of suicide rose by about 25% in the U.S. from 1999 to 2016, according to a new report from the CDC. I’m imagining that in Canada our suicide rates amongst teens would be comparable.

I’m part of the last generation to know what it was like to live without smart phones and main stream media influence and power. In today’s digital complex world, it’s not hard to see how teens are asking, themselves ‘why is my world so boring and empty?’ They’re constantly exposed to other teens misrepresenting themselves to feel like they have lots of friends and lots of fun adventures when they post on social media. Most teens are introduced to their own smart phones by the time they’re 13 and by the age of 17 they have become full-blown addicts to these devices. Digital brain scans compared a teen’s brain activity when they participated on their smart phone or gaming devices to a narcotic addict’s brain activity and the images were similar. Doctors are now claiming that the cerebral cortex of our brains doesn’t fully mature until we are 25 years old, and that’s why alcohol and drugs are dangerous for children and teen brain development, but you can now add smart phones and electronic devices as our modern-day addictions and mental health disorders.

Now, there are many contributors to teens dying by suicide. It ranges from parent’s divorcing, isolation, drugs and alcohol, identity confusion, depression, anxiety and the list goes on. But teens that have lost a parent to suicide are three times at higher risk of dying by suicide as well.

Often parents get blamed for lack of strong parenting or control. Others blame the lack of knowledge of mental health and funding by government to mental health care, lack of training to spot early mental health issues to teens that are exuding suicide behaviors.

My suggestion is start weaning your teens off their smart phones and help them find a new diversion. My other suggestion is to get trained in one of my workshops at VitalCoreLife and become certified in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST). Find out how you can be part of the solution to end suicide in our world. We need to stop blaming. It doesn’t help.

Warmly your friend,

Bill

No one is Immune to Suicide--Not even the Rich and Famous

When I think of famous people that were lost to suicide, I wonder if there was something someone could have done to help these troubled souls. Often people do give off signs that they are in trouble. Experts believe that we are communicating 80% of the time through our non-verbal’s. If that’s true, then why are people not detecting that others are in trouble? My answer is we NEED training to help us spot people at risk of suicide, even if they look like they have it all together.

As a suicide intervention instructor for the last five years I have been training people to get certified in Applied Suicide Intervention Training (ASIST). In my experience NO one is immune to suicide. It could happen to the best of us. It happened to me in 1988 (read my book ‘Following the Fire’). If you’d like to get trained in helping people from attempting suicide, please visit my website VitalCoreLife for our next 2-day workshop in Manitoba.

 

Warmly your friend,

 

Bill Vassilopoulos

Celebrating 30 Years of Life

On May 25th 1988 I tried to take my own life. I'm sure glad it didn't work. For many years I was the elephant in the room that no one wanted to acknowledge what I tried to do to myself. I was 18 years old after all, facing and feeling great losses that I could not handle. The first was the breakup with a girlfriend and the second was a violent confrontation with my father. These two events seemed larger than life to me. But God intervened by giving me a picture of my mother crying. I couldn't put her through this, so I stopped and took the focus off my own pain and began the work of saving my own life.

Today, I count my blessings. I'm a survivor. I'm married to a fantastic woman. I have three beautiful children and last year I became a grandfather! And...my relationship with my father is completely restored and I love him deeply.

Career-wise, I work for a wonderful organization that supports vulnerable adults with intellectual disabilities. Additionally, I'm a Registered Suicide Intervention Trainer and I put on two day workshops to train people in that area. 

Lastly, but not least, I wrote a book on my life/journey. Actually, I feel that God wrote it, I was the instrument He chose to use.  The book is called, 'Following the Fire'. When people ask, 'What did you do to change your life?' I simply tell them I called on the powerful name of Jesus and He answered. And He still answers. Let's face it--I did't save myself--Jesus saved me. And I'm eternally grateful. I have learned to celebrate life each and every day. Today I'm celebrating 30 Years of Life.

 

Warmly,

 

Bill Vassilopulos

FAQ's about Suicide

Do copycat suicides really happen?

Yes. There is evidence that copycat suicides do happen under some circumstances or events. If a person is already vulnerable (anxious, depressed, has made a previous attempt, is isolated or showing warning signs), a suicide can trigger another especially in an isolated community. "Suicide contagion" or "Copycat suicides" are more evident if someone loses someone really close to them. Our youth are at high risk or vulnerable to suicide. Other things can increase the risk of copycat suicides such as high profile people like movie stars, famous people like athletes or sensational portrayals of suicide in the media or glorification of a suicide victim. 

So, what do you do to prevent or stop a copycat suicide in your family, community, and workplace? Start by signing up to my next Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop and learn how to help people at risk of suicide on May 14th-15, 2018. Register on my social enterprise website http://www.vitalcorelife.com/registration

Warmly your friend,

 

Bill

Frequently Asked Questions about suicide

If a person who was depressed and suicidal all of a sudden gets or seems better, does this mean they are no longer at risk of suicide?

They could be, if a person seems better and are no longer considering suicide. But, this apparent upswing or sudden change of mood could also be an indicator of an increased risk of suicide. People find relief in a decision to end intense pain. The emotional and psychological conflict of weather they should live or die has come to an end and has been resolved. The only way to know what's really going on is to directly ask them and then listen to what they have to say. 

My advice is to take our next Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop coming this May 14th and 15th, 2018 and learn how to engage in these critical discussions so that you know what to do afterwards to get them the help they need. Register at http://www.vitalcorelife.com/registration and learn how to save a life.

 

Warmly your friend,

 

Bill  

Do most people who attempt or threaten to suicide actually die by suicide?

No. It is estimated that one person out of 25 who attempt suicide actually die by suicide. They also say that it usually takes a person who threatens to die by suicide on average 22 to 25 times before it  happens.

My advice. Don't let this happen. Become a life-assisting lifeguard in your community, workplace and in your home. Be engaged and learn the signs that people are in trouble or in imminent danger. Get yourself registered to take one of our Suicide Intervention Workshops called (ASIST) at http://www.vitalcorelife.com/registration and save a life today.

 

Warmly your friend,

 

Bill

FAQ'S ABOUT SUICIDE, "PARENTS, DO YOU KNOW WHAT KMS MEANS TODAY?"

WHAT DOES (KMS) MEAN TODAY IN OUR children/TEENAGE TEXT CULTURE? I'll give you a hint-- it's not kilometers. Surprisingly, it stands for 'KILL MY SELF.'

Last week I found myself watching "The Doctors" show and they were interviewing the cast from "Undercover High" - a new series on A&E. I was greatly alarmed about the text language and culture of our youth today. The cast of this new series "Undercover High" were young adults going back to high school undercover to find out what's going on with our teens today. 

Using acronyms and abbreviations like KMS (Kill My Self) are common language in our rapidly growing tech culture that's changing the meaning and usages of many words.

So, what do we do? Developing good relationships with our young family members is vital. It will help us to know the keys to their hearts. Passwords to their tech devices would also help. Young people always need to be reminded that their parents love them and they are safe to talk to-- without judgement or fear.

Warmly,

 

Your friend Bill

If a person is suicidal, does this mean they will always be this way?

When I attempted suicide back in 1988 I was going to end my life because of the intense psychological and emotional pain that I was in at that time. Read more about this attempt in my book "Following the Fire"

Most people want a way out of the unbearable emotional pain that they are currently in and they are unsure about ending their lives. When people get help to get over their emotional pain they go on to lead healthy and productive lives. For others, when they get help the threat of attempting suicide is lowered. This period of time can last for hours, days, months or several years.

My advice, always seek professional help after a suicide intervention.

Warmly,

Bill Vassilopoulos

Seniors at Highest Risk of Suicide. Really?

Though seniors represent 18% percent of our population, 35% of seniors will die by suicide. When we think about suicide often we think of young people or indigenous groups in reserves. Sadly, it’s our seniors that are at the highest rate of dying by suicide.

Grandpa, grandma wanting to kill themselves? You may wonder. But it’s true. CTV news reported a while ago, “Some doctors now worry that those numbers will rise, as the number of older adults grows in Canada and baby boomers struggle to accept the ravages of aging. Every week, 10 seniors over the age of 60 die by suicide in Canada. But their deaths rarely grab the media spotlight.” (CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Friday, October 7, 2011 12:21AM EDT, Suicide among seniors a real but overlooked problem)

Contributors to suicide ideation or suicidal thoughts in seniors sometimes come from isolation and loneliness. Now add loss of their spouse or loved one, lack of family involvement and/or community, retirement, poverty due to low pensions, strong feelings of no self worth and we can begin to understand why they may not wish to be with us any longer. Perhaps, it’s because they feel like they have nothing to contribute to society or they are now a burden to those around them.

I think about a dear friend who recently died from cancer. She shared that if it wasn’t for her children and grandchildren she wouldn’t want to be around anymore. This woman was strong in her faith which is what carried her through this trial – the treatments, the pain, the isolation to avoid infections, the deterioration of her body. Things I could not imagine or understand. Her faith and love for her family kept her going—it was her choice to press on and not turn to MAiD or Medical Assistance in Dying.

My encouragement for us today is to go and visit our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles or a dear friend who’s a senior. They deserve our support, love and most importantly our respect, because we too one day will be where they are. Time has a way of catching up with us—it always has.

 

Remember; “A life with adversity develops good character for those who choose not to give up.”

By Bill Vassilopoulos.

SUICIDE FOR CHILDREN

In 1993, Robert Latimer, killed Tracey, his disabled 12 year old daughter, because he wanted to end her pain. Today he is appealing the Supreme Court to overturn his sentence.

 

In Canada, helping a person commit suicide is a crime. It’s spelled out in Criminal Code Section 241 (b) — and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

 

The first doctor to be sentenced in Canada under the law was Maurice Généreux, who got a jail term of two years less a day and three years' probation in 1998 for prescribing sleeping pills to two men with AIDS who were depressed but not terminally ill. One of the men survived and later launched a civil suit against Généreux.

 

Canada does allow doctors to induce a coma and turn off life-sustaining equipment for suffering patients near death, a practice known as palliative sedation that right-to-die advocates argue is ethically, morally and legally no different than assisted suicide or euthanasia. (CBC, Posted Oct 11, 2014 9:54 PM ET)

 

Recently in 2015, The Supreme court of Canada said, “A law that makes it illegal for anyone to help people end their own lives should be amended to allow doctors to help in specific situations.”

 

I’d like to believe that this ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada would never include children. But in other countries such as Albania, Australia, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany, and some states in the USA that have legalized assisted suicide have already started with people who are seniors without terminal illnesses, people with mental illnesses, and people with disabilities. Now children have been added to their list of qualified/competent candidates for Assisted Suicide in Belgium. In an article called Belgium Extends Euthanasia Law to Kids they talked about how they put children down, “Usually, doctors do this by administering an overdose of sedatives.” Later in the article a parent from Canada responded, “A plea also came from Canada earlier this month, where a four-year-old girl born with a congenital heart condition recorded a video message urging Belgium’s King Philippe not to sign the law, which is the final formality. Her mother told the monarch that she was concerned that a child like her daughter—who grew up to be a happy, active child—could be euthanized after birth.” (Belgium Extends Euthanasia Law to Kids, Time.com, Posted February 13, 2014). By the way, all the countries mentioned above legalized euthanasia by convincing the public that this was only for adults who were competent and had a terminal illness.

 

The implications that we are about to embark on in Canada with legalizing assisted suicide will send a terrible message to our young people. They could interpret the law that if life becomes or is too hard— the solution will be suicide to end their pain. This new law may also empower people to believe like Mr. Latimer  who murdered his daughter Tracey, that they can play God in peoples lives and that this ruling of the Supreme Cout of Canada shouldn't only apply to physicians to asist people to suicide.

 

As a husband, father and advocate for suicide prevention, and advocate for people with disabilities, I’m afraid for our country’s future. To think that when I’m old, a doctor who may or may not have history on me could ultimately rob me of my right to live and face life head on no matter how physically or emotionally weak I feel is un-Canadian and simply put—evil. This decision by the Supreme Court of Canada could also force a doctor who still believes in the classic Hippocratic Oath, "...I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.." to go against their oath that they dearly hold onto and value.

 

The HuffPost  writes, "The College’s interim policy states: Where a physician declines to provide physician-assisted death for reasons of conscience or religion, the physician must do so in a manner that respects patient dignity. Physicians must not impede access to care, even if that care conflicts with their conscience or religious beliefs." The article goes on to write "We do not agree with assisted suicide and euthanasia. We think implementing them in the country is not a good path to go on, it will cause great harm,” Collins told The Huffington Post Canada’s Althia Raj on Sirius satellite radio’s “Everything Is Political.”” 

 

Folks, If you think you have the right to protect your spouse, parents and children when they're in a life threatening situation in a hospital, think again, because a doctor will soon not need your permission to resuscistate a person at risk of dying.  

 

Now our new government, the Liberals, under Justin Trudeau in their Biennial Convention in 2014 voted to decriminalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. Not to single out the Liberal Party, the NDP feel the same way. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, had a year to overturn and challenge the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2015. But he didn't overturn it. It was an election year after all. Sadly, Mr. Harper, lost the election— and so did lots of Canadians who value human life at all stages.

 

In conclusion, let’s face it; euthanasia or MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) IS NOT about human rights; this looks and sounds like the Eugenics movement of the past that I thought we learned from to never repeat again. 

THANKFULLY SINCE I WROTE THIS ARTICLE IN 2015, THE CONSERVITIVE PARTY HELPED GET BILL 34 PASS, PROTECTING HEALTH PROFESSIONALS FROM PERFORMING MEDICAL ASSISTANCE IN DYING.

THE PEOPLE LEFT BEHIND

Too often parents or loved ones get blamed for people’s suicide decisions. Society is quick to make assumptions. They explain away suicide victims by saying things like, “If they had better parents, environments, education or socio-economic status this tragedy wouldn't have happened.” This is faulty thinking. In actuality, no one is immune to becoming a person-at-risk for suicide.

 

“Each year in Canada nearly 4,000 people end their lives by suicide. Research shows that for every death by suicide, 6-10 other individuals are profoundly affected. By this estimate, between 24,000 and 40,000 Canadians become survivors of suicide loss every year. Grief and bereavement from suicide loss can be a wholly unique, isolating, and often stigmatizing experience.”

Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2014

 

The reasons that contribute to a person’s choice to suicide are too numerous and too individualized to pinpoint any specific causes. This is the great tragedy that those who suffer suicide loss usually face. They are the ones left behind trying to make sense of it all while being frowned upon and treated poorly by those outside the situation. Family members, neighbours and those in the community who point the finger and play the blame game.

 

To make matters worse the people left behind are often forgotten. They live with intense grief and guilt. In time, those who grieve can also become a person at risk themselves. The cycle of suicide continues in a family and in a community. It becomes a generational curse – a cycle of suicide.

 

So, what do we do? LivingWorks Canada provides an internationally endorsed solution to this question. Train members of a community to be ready, willing and able to intervene. The ASIST workshop equips community helpers with an effective model. Trainees learn to hear and see the invitations (or indicators) that persons-at-risk are communicating. These are not always easy to spot. ASIST also teaches helpers how to listen to and understand what the person at risk for suicide is going through. Active listening can help them feel cared for and understood. Skillful reframing of dark thoughts into thoughts connected to life brings them back. Trust is partially restored and they want to be safe – to have hope again.

 

As for those suffering from suicide loss, they can find a safe place to share their pain during the ASIST workshop. They are able to speak openly and candidly about their experience and the emotions of grief they are struggling with. The greatest tragedy is when people that suicide are not talked about. Worse yet they are talked about in a negative way. This needs to stop.

 

Communities must start honouring the life that was lost prematurely. Suicide is a tragedy and the people we lose are victims. The great moments and memories of their life must not go unmentioned. Their life must be celebrated. In time, their pictures can be put back up again. When their name is mentioned it should be with smiles on our faces. Because we love them. Because we miss them.

SUICIDE FOR PEOPLE WITH dis-ABILITIES

We are living in a turbulent era. At all stages of life, choosing death is becoming a viable solution to escape various types of pain one is suffering from. This goes beyond being a solution to physical pain.

 

These days, people are blurring the line between suicide for themselves and advocating for vulnerable people having the right to suicide. In other words, having the right to end their “miserable” lives. So who decides?

 

There are several groups vying for this right – e.g. the elderly, the terminally ill, the mentally ill, etc. The debates for these groups go on. Life is not valued if it doesn’t resemble the perfect mold of what society views as “normal”. If it’s not normal, it’s not healthy. So who’s the judge of this?

 

Even more alarming is when someone else has the right to choose death as a solution for another person. This is the new debate for the specific group of vulnerable people that are the focus of this blog post. I’m deeply concerned about those individuals with intellectual, mental and physical disabilities whom I have supported or continue to support. Who will stand up for their right to life in the years to come?

 

Recently, I discovered that some doctors are now encouraging advocates and agencies that support vulnerable people to endorse the following argument. When a disabled person’s health starts to fail, their doctors/agency workers should be allowed to sign a “do not resuscitate” document for them. This assumes that people with disabilities cannot make the proper decision for themselves. It implies that, somehow, medical professionals and support workers should have the right to make the choice for them. Where does this logic come from?

I have personally seen people with all types of disabilities overcome their challenges. When we invest the time to understand their attitudes and personalities we encounter people capable of leading vital lives. Maybe their life choices don’t make sense to most of us but they make perfect sense to them. Isn’t this kind of freedom what we all want?

 

Today, most people with disabilities are leading active and full lives with their families, friends, and communities. They are valued and loved by their social sphere. Notably, they have a lot to offer to a broken world. How long can we afford to remain too distracted to notice their true value?

Individuals with disabilities have their own unique way of expressing happiness and joy in their lives. Taking the time to get to know and understand them reveals this. In fact, those people connected with vulnerable people express how devastated they would be if they lost them from their lives. I have seen parents being strong advocates for their children in their communities. I have fought very hard to make people aware of the value of disabled individuals. I wonder how many of them take me seriously?

 

I find it alarming – sad really – that society might think or believe that suicide is a better solution for vulnerable people. More specifically, taking away the right for someone making the personal choice to live with his or her disability; even when the choice is to face physical pain or the failure of one’s health. Hypothetically, would we make this choice if it was our child? Our spouse? Our parent? Our friend?

 

The next time a doctor encourages you to sign a form to not resuscitate another person think long and hard. I would ask them, “Do you know how much this beautiful person loves life? How valued they are to the many people they are connected with?”

 

Here are two videos to help you think on this topic. Frank Stephens, a young man living with Down Syndrome, gives a justification about his existence. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQJEoRhkapw

Finally, Tim Harris, another  young man living with Down syndrome is the owner of Tim’s Place. Tim says something real powerful and incredible at the end of his YouTube video, “We are a gift to the world.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6He0FWoFj0

I agree.

THE DARK PLACE

Over 29 years have passed since I tried to take my life. There were major contributors to the stress and anxiety that brought me to that dark place. I was 18 years old.

 

At the time, the relationship with my father had been severed. My girlfriend broke up with me. My own life was going nowhere, and, I was a bit of a mess – to say the least. These two events felt like huge losses in my life back then. No one I came into contact with was able to pick up on my intense desire -- to end my life – to suicide. It didn't matter that other people thought my problems were not that huge -- to me, they were insurmountable. This was the last straw in a series of failures in my life.

 

I heard about other people’s survival stories. Of how they overcame tragedies in their lives. It didn’t matter. My problems seemed bigger. I was convinced that nobody cared about me and that I was alone…yet again. It was obvious to me, no one cared to hear why I wanted to just DIE. I was ashamed of my weakness. I was afraid that things would never get better. I was convinced of it.

 

No. Like most others who have experienced this dark place, I isolated myself. I became my own best counsellor, judge and executioner. To escape this pain and humiliation I would have to take matters into my own hands – literally. So, I slashed my wrists. I won’t go any further with the devilish details of this.

 

After the ordeal at the hospital was over, I sat in my room alot -- thinking. My mind wandered from time to time back to those morbid thoughts. It would be so easy to go back there -- to that dark place. Somehow, a gentle voice -- piercing thought – sliced into the swell of my mind. "Is that what you want your mother to go through?" Right at that moment, the vision of my mother's face was before me. Her reassuring smile was no longer there. Instead she was weeping bitterly. I realized what I had just done. For a moment the spell of suicide was broken. This was the beginning of a long journey.

 

I know about those thoughts that tell you “You’re NOT worth anything!” Those screeching, vile voices that repeatedly harass you to, “Just do it—do--it--DO IT!” I succumbed to those thoughts then. I struggled with them for years later. I healed from them over time. Today – and every day – is a good day. I have put things back into perspective. I have gained back control of my life. A life I have vowed to protect daily. A life, now dedicated to helping others like myself find their way back...from the dark place.

WELCOME TO MY BLOG!

As one who has survived suicide, I truly understand the dark places that our thoughts can take us to. I’m very familiar with fear and deep depression that overpowers a person. They want to escape the intense psychological, physiological and emotional pain that overwhelms them. At that moment, choosing to live is too hard. Additionally, choosing to die is hard but seems like the better solution. At least, the pain and anguish now has an end. This is the lie a person at risk embraces. In this blog, I will provide facts about suicide and dispel the myths. Feel free to comment on my blogs and to ask questions. And remember...

A life with adversity develops good character for those who choose not to give up. The best way to fight suicide is to work together to create suicide safe communities.

Warmly,

Your friend Bill

 

coming this Christmas...

 

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