Tag Archives: Marie Osmond

Suicide Awareness: 40 seconds of action

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Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, and in the United States this is National Suicide Awareness Month.

Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. Mental disorders and substance abuse are often major risk factors, especially in combination with one another.

While some suicide attempts are impulsive, a response to major stressors in life, other attempts are well-planned, frequently as a result of depression, with sometimes dramatic staging involved.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated the annual suicide rate as 10.6 per 100,000 people worldwide as of 2016 numbers. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with approximately 123 Americans committing suicide daily.

Look at your watch, your device, your nearest clock. In the next 12 minutes, someone in the USA will commit suicide. That is the average. It takes the lives of nearly 45,000 Americans each year.

This year, the WHO has launched a “40 seconds of action” campaign in order to both raise awareness of the scale of suicide across the globe and to highlight the role each of us can play in order to help prevent it.

That 40 seconds figure was arrived at due to the fact that someone around the world loses their life to suicide an average of every 40 seconds.

While suicidal thoughts affect individuals of every age, race and sex, it is the second-highest cause of death in the world for young people aged 15-24. The CDC estimates that 20-25% of Americans age 18+ are affected by depression in any given year.

Depression and suicide also do not care about your or your family’s celebrity status. A decade after her 18-year-old son, Michael Blosil, committed suicide by jumping from the balcony of his eighth-floor Los Angeles apartment, Marie Osmond still struggles with the loss.

You know, I don’t think you’re ever through it,Osmond said during a recent interview on CBS Sunday Morning.

I think God gives you respites. And then all of the sudden it will hit you like the day it did. The ripple effect is so huge, what you leave behind.

We often think of police officers as some of the strongest among us. On an almost daily basis, officers experience the worst that can happen to people. Victims of crime and accidents, even direct threats or attacks on themselves. You need to be strong to handle that day-in, day-out mental, emotional and physical grind.

But as I learned both in nearly thirty years of my own law enforcement experience and specifically in teaching a course on law enforcement suicide for a couple of years as a Sergeant with the Philadelphia Police Department’s Training Bureau, police officers are far from immune.

Between 2003-2013, there were 17 Philadelphia officers who committed suicide. The numbers fluctuate each year, but continue to show that, on average, one or two Philly cops kill themselves each year. PTSD is a primary factor in the vast majority, perhaps in all, of these losses.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has estimated that twice as many law enforcement officers take their own lives each year as die in duty-related assaults or traffic accidents. For each successful suicide by a police officer, there are up to 25 attempts, according to an IACP report on the topic.

Here are some of the suggestions the WHO makes for all of us to consider as part of their “40 seconds” program:

Are you struggling yourself with thoughts of suicide? Take just 40 seconds to “kickstart a conversation” with someone you love and/or trust. Tell them about how you are feeling and what you are considering.

If you know someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, take 40 seconds to start a conversation with them. Don’t text. Don’t send an IM or slide into their DM’s. Don’t drop them an email.

Call them. Listen to their voice. Let them hear your voice, the genuine love, compassion, and concern you have for them. In the first 40 seconds of the phone call, directly let them know you were thinking of them, and ask them how they are doing. Then…listen.

The WHO also recommends that those working in media take the time to highlight the “every 40 seconds” statistic, and point those who may be struggling to resources that can help. I will include many good ones at the end of this piece.

If you work in the arts, or have a platform for communicating (such as me with this website), take the time to communicate the “40 seconds” statistics and message.

You can at least take 40 seconds to put together an email directed at your local, state and national political leaders, imploring them to prioritize mental health and suicide awareness and prevention resources.

If you know someone, or are someone, who has made a prior suicide attempt, you should be aware that it is a major risk factor for a future suicide. Be sure to stay in touch with loved ones, and to reach out. Seek help. Be help.

All of us can at least do our small part to improve awareness of the significance of suicide as a legitimate health problem, both here in America and around the world. For instance, share a “meme” or other graphic found on the internet in your social media feed today.

We can all improve our own knowledge on the topic, help reduce the stigma associated with suicide attempts, and perhaps most importantly to let people who are struggling know that they are not alone.

The WHO considers that suicides are preventable. It just takes people who care. Care enough about yourself to reach out. Care enough about struggling loved ones to get and stay involved in their lives.

With as little as 40 seconds of action from all of us, we can begin to lower those averages. We can begin to make a real difference. We can begin to help save lives, perhaps our own, perhaps those of a loved one. Just 40 seconds.


Mormons are Christians too

I am a big fan of the HBO series “Big Love”, but the fact of the matter is that it rarely shows what life is like for the average ‘Mormon’ family in America or around the world.

Led on by media depictions of fringe fundamentalists, ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ has gotten a bad name in some circles.

The fact is that the vast majority of the followers of this particular strand of Christianity are regular folks, including many famous people. Donny and Marie Osmond, stars of their own 1970’s variety show as teens and now again thanks to recent appearances on the popular “Dancing With the Stars” program are part of perhaps the most famous American Mormon family.

Others who have either been raised in or converted to the faith include the man recently selected as the best 2nd baseman of the 2000’s, Jeff Kent, who may one day be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. They also include the recent popular “American Idol’ runner-up David Archuleta. And child actor turned adult drama TV star Rick Schroeder converted to the church of which his wife has been a lifelong member.

Perhaps the most important and influential member of the church is former Massachusetts Governor and leading Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. That importance comes from the fact of his legitimacy as a presidential candidate for a major political party.

During the 2008 election cycle, Romney ran a year-long campaign during which he won the Michigan and Nevada primaries among the 11 state primaries and caucuses that he won before dropping out in February of ’08.

There have been some who have criticized Romney’s faith as ‘fraud’ and wondered how, if he truly believes in the LDS (Latter-Day Saints) tenets as a man he can be taken seriously as a candidate. That is ridiculous on it’s face. It’s not like he is worshiping an alien mother ship. And his faith should certainly be no more an obstacle than was that of John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism in 1960 or any other Christian believer.

In running for the presidency and having his Catholicism brought up, Kennedy responded famously: “..if the time should ever come when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office.” Mitt Romney has taken up that challenge and said that he would “no more take orders from Salt Lake City than Kennedy would from Rome.”

That should be the end of that story, unless of course you find something mainstream about Catholicism and crazy about the LDS faith. So what do you know about ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’? It’s time to take a look at some of the key elements of that faith system, explore the legends and the fringe elements, and give you a more realistic picture than what you might have currently in mind.

Let’s start with the word ‘Mormon’ itself, which is generally accepted to mean “more good” and which was described that way first by either Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS movement, or another early church leader. W.W. Phelps. It is also the name of the narrator of the ‘Book of Mormon’, the Bible-esque sacred text of the church first published by Smith in 1830.

The Book of Mormon is widely regarded within the church as not just sacred scripture, but also as a history of God’s relationship with His church in the Americas going back over a 1,000 year period. Smith claims that he received the book from an angel in 1827. It was written on what were called ‘golden plates’, the originals of which Smith had to return to the angel after translation into English.

The main theme of both the book and the faith is described in it’s title page: “convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.” The book teaches at one point that after his resurrection, Jesus visited some of the early inhabitants of the Americas.

It goes on to teach that Jesus is: “God himself who shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people, being the Father and the Son — the Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son — and they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.”

Along with solid Christian themes, the book delves into political and philosophical areas, especially in regards to the idea of American exceptionalism. It calls America a “land of promise“, and perhaps in what could be a warning to our current time it teaches that “any righteous society possessing the land would be protected, whereas if they became wicked they would be destroyed and replaced with a more righteous civilization.”

Joseph Smith himself was born in Vermont in 1805. In 1823 he claims to have been visited by the angel ‘Moroni’ who was the guardian of and who first revealed the ‘golden plates’ to Smith, and who eventually allowed Smith to dig them up and translate them. The translation was completed in 1830, and the Book of Mormon was then first published and the ‘Church of Christ’ was first formed.

The church in it’s earliest days under Smith’s leadership grew through periods of drama and scandal spreading from New York through to Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois among other stops.

Many of it’s early leaders who would go on to become legendary figures, such as Brigham Young, came to the church in these years. It was in Illinois in 1844 that Smith met his end, assassinated by an anti-Mormon group inspired in part by his embracing and teaching of polygamy.

One idea that had triggered much hatred towards the Mormons was this introduction of ‘the Principle’ of plural marriage, popularly known as the practice of polygamy. Smith claimed to be inspired to the practice himself, and it is thus still practiced today by fundamentalist Mormons who believe that they should practice the faith in the way that Smith did.

The LDS church officially banned polygamy in 1890 after it was officially declared illegal, and any church member now caught practicing it is excommunicated.

While it is these fundamentalist sects that draw much attention from the government and the sensationalist headline-seeking news media, and while it also is the main story line of “Big Love”, this relatively small segment does not represent mainstream modern day LDS beliefs.

The bottom line is that the LDS church is a Christian church, it has over 13 million members worldwide, is the 2nd-fastest growing church in America, it believes in the divinity of and teachings of Christ, and is as ‘mainstream’ as any other Christian faith.

As most everyone who follows this little blog of mine knows, I am a Catholic through and through, and I would enthusiastically encourage every single member of the LDS church, any other Christian church, and any other faith system at all to closely explore and strongly consider joining what I believe to be God’s one true church.

Catholicism is where I believe the best interpretations of his Word can be found. But for all it’s critics out there, the fact of the matter on the LDS church is that Mormons are Christians too.