Reach out for help

Edie Faylor’s Nov. 28 letter makes two valuable points: 1. that every gun is equally deadly, and 2. that we are living in a dysfunctional society. Where I part company with Edie is her suggestion that we blame social problems on those same social ills, but not on “the inanimate object being used by very sick and disturbed people.”

I don’t own a gun, but I have family members and friends who hunt and have guns. What bothers me at the moment is that firearms are seen as a right and a norm, while also being a terribly frequent tool for our neighbors, friends and children to kill themselves.

The latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bear this out. In 2015-16, 27,394 people died in homicides, and 44,955 by suicide. It’s the highest number of suicides in more than a decade.

Half of those ending their life by suicide had no known mental health problem. Relationship and job loss, health and financial worries were prime factors in adult suicides. For youth and children, depression, trauma and lack of safety all had an impact, but we often are left to guess the reasons after the fact. As a mental health advocate and suicide survivor, I know that isolation and shame keep people silent about their suicidal thoughts. Add to that, children and youth are surrounded by multiple demands and media but don’t yet have the brain development to consider whether to act in the moment.

Another CDC statistic is that in 2017 70,000 deaths occurred by drug overdoses, including prescribed opiate drugs. Life expectancy in the U.S. declined that same year. Researchers attribute the decline to “deaths of despair,” suicide, alcoholism and prescription drug overdose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is based in Atlanta, Georgia, far from small Pacific County. But our communities face the same basic questions. How can our neighbors and our children be strong and hopeful enough to want to stay alive? How do we talk with each other about the challenging issues — not just guns, but others (name your hot-button topic) — with respect and without judgment?

The phrase “mental illness” still brings up images of crazy people, violence and movie villains. We can’t change that overnight. But our two-year-old volunteer group, Peace of Mind Pacific County, has coffee hours, community awareness dinners and other resources for anyone interested in brain and behavioral health. Our goal is to offer education, nonjudgmental listening, friendship and help for navigating in tough times. Not everyone chooses to come to meetings, but our Facebook page has garnered almost 400 ‘likes,’ including people from other countries. Also, 385 people receive our quarterly newsletter by email. We don’t all agree about issues, but we know that being listened to is life-giving, for anyone.

Long Beach Peninsula is a place of great hurt, but also great heart. People help each other in many ways, often invisibly. But too many of our neighbors lack household basics, food and safety, and too many people have only television or social media to take the place of friends. Those are facts, but they are not automatically givens. Edie Faylor and I agree that we live in a dysfunctional society. We are not stuck with the isolation, fear and anger that push us away from each other.

Barbara Bate
Ocean Park
Vice President, Peace of Mind Pacific County

Autumn Days

I found this piece written by my father. Found it very appropriate for the fall season we are in. I do not know how long ago it was written as he passed away in August 2000.

Paul Halstead
Ocean Park

By Herbert Halstead

Autumn? That’s the season between the drowsy hours of summer and the brisk weeks of winter. Autumn days are deliberately designed for your constant enjoyment.

Absorbing adventures may be yours, depending on the mood of the weather. Sometimes, the dreary rain beats against your window-pane and the violent east wind stacks piles of crisp leaves against the weather-beaten fence posts. This day is made for you to lounge in a cozy chair and to read that in intriguing novel.

Occasionally, the day will be shrouded in a haze of damp fog, which swirls up from the lowlands. You will want to spend the hours writing some letters, inserting those new stamps from the Belgian Congo in your album or looking at last summer’s travel folders.

Now and then, there will be a sunshiny day, with a few wisps of fleecy clouds about the bright blue sky. This is the time to bundle up in a warm overcoat and saunter through a wooded trail. The fall air has a pungent, smoky smell and just a tang of frost. Most trees are garbed in lavish shades of yellow, orange, brown and crimson. The evergreens stand somber and erect in the cool breeze.

Take the time to gather a few brittle pinecones, before returning to your room. At close of day, linger at your window to admire the glorious ever-changing colors of an autumn sunset.

Autumn days are intentionally arranged to satisfy your mood.

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