Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Suicide Survivors - What Now?

A friend of  mine of 25+ years committed suicide last week. It shocked me and shook me. I'm still trying to process what happened, and even - on some level - believe that it really happened. Other than "I don't understand" and "why," two things we'll likely never know, I've been at a loss for words. At the same time, emotions have been a roller coaster and seem to come out of the blue. I asked a colleague, professor of psychology at St Charles Community College, and someone who volunteers on a suicide hotline if she had any resources or information she could share. Knowing others could use these same resources and information, I asked Lisa to be a guest blogger. You'll see that I'm not the first person who has asked Lisa for information this month even. Hopefully this information will help someone else as well.

My name is Lisa Stoner and besides being a professor of psychology here at SCC, I also work on a suicide hotline and have worked with quite a few suicidal people in the clinical setting. It is worth saying, and I say it as often as I can, that most suicidal people don’t want to die. They just want their suffering to end. I could list the risk factors for suicide, but that is not my purpose with this blog post. If you are interested in learning those risk factors and how to help a suicidal person, watch the video at the end of this post or check out the following website -

My purpose is, instead, to give some suggestions on how to help those left behind. In the last month, I have had three colleagues ask how they can help a friend who has lost someone to suicide. Sadly, there is no simple answer. It’s hard enough to have a loved one die, but it’s even more distressing when they die by suicide mainly because it is so stigmatized in our society.

According to the American Association of Suicidology, there are over 32,000 suicides in the United States annually. It is thought that each suicide intimately affects about six other people, which is probably a conservative estimate. So, all of these people are left to make sense of what happened. The big question then becomes, what can we do to help those left behind? Below are some tips I've found valuable in my years of clinical work and crisis intervention.
  1. It’s OK to say, “I don’t know what to say.” The most important thing you can do is listen. Listen without criticism or judgment. 
  2. Don’t say the suicidal person was selfish. That is an extreme simplification of the despair and anguish the person who died by suicide was experiencing.  
  3. Don’t avoid the topic, but if the survivor doesn’t want to talk, then just be there with him/her.
  4. Be patient. There is no time limit on grief. Let the survivor tell his/her story as many times as needed.
  5. Encourage professional help if you feel it’s needed.
The following pdf is a handbook for how to help suicide survivors, The video below is a TED talk that includes risk factors for suicide, how to help a suicidal person, and a bit of information regarding how to help those left to deal with the loss of a loved one.  It’s worth everyone’s time to watch.

Unfortunately, I can guarantee that you will know someone affected by suicide, either because that person is suicidal him/herself or because he/she has had a loved one die by suicide. I ask you to please show them the love and compassion they deserve. “A person's most useful asset is not the head full of knowledge, but a heart full of love, an ear ready to listen, and a hand willing to help.” – author unknown

Lisa Stoner, MS
Professor, Psychology
St. Charles Community College

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

One Day Without Shoes, April 29, 2014

"Poverty must not be a bar to learning and learning must offer an escape from poverty." - Lyndon B Johnson

The St Charles Community College campus will be participating in the annual One Day Without Shoes event this month. This is a nation-wide event, sponsored by TOMS shoes, and is intended to raise awareness for children's health and education. We were challenged recently to find a quote to inspire a blog post, and the quote from Lyndon Johnson above seems to sum up this event for me.

Blake Mycoskie, is the owner of TOMS and the originator of this event. For every pair of TOMS purchased, the company provides one pair of shoes to a child in need. They currently provide shoes for children in over 60 countries. The shoes are always given to children through humanitarian organizations who incorporate shoes into their community development programs. His concept of One-for-One came out of a trip in 2006 to Argentina. Mycoskie found that children in a village he visited had no shoes to protect their feet. The lack of shoes was also a barrier to education as they could not attend school without shoes. He started his giving plan and the TOMS company in 2006, followed in 2011 with TOMS Eyewear to help restore sight to poverty stricken, and this year started TOMS Roasting Company that will help provide clean water to developing countries. "Over the past seven years, we've seen one consistent need in almost everywhere we give: lack of clean drinking water," says Mycoskie.

Here is a video thanking participants in over 1000 events last year -
Join SCC this month to help continue to raise awareness of the severe effects of poverty around the world. Commit to one day, or even one class, without shoes as we host our own One Day Without Shoes event on campus. Activities will be taking place on campus on Tuesday, April 29, from 11am-2pm. Among other things, there will be a poster presentation by our SCC nursing students, a screening of TOMS videos, and a One Walk Without Shoes around campus at 2:30pm.

Come out and help raise awareness with us!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

All About the Benjamins - Part 2 "When to Buy"

Don't break the piggy bank; know when the best time is to buy gas, groceries, and other necessary purchases. A couple of the things discussed last October during the "All About the Benjamins" event were how to reduce costs and when prices are best during the week for necessary purchases. (See Part 1 - "Wants vs Needs")

Fifth Third Bank gave some great information for what time of week to buy necessities and get discounts. I've also been a little extra observant about some things like gas prices, and I've found some good sources on the Web for lots of weekly tips. Here are a few:

  • The best day of the week to buy gas is Wednesday. With the ever bouncing and rising cost of gas, I can tell you that this is something I've noticed over the last few years as well. The best day around SCC seems to be Wednesday or Thursday, but if you wait until Thursday evening, you may be paying more already. If you find you're on empty on Friday afternoon, you've missed the savings altogether the majority of the time.
  • The best day of the week to buy groceries is also on Wednesday. Most grocery stores release their sale bills/circulars on Wednesday with the most discounts available mid week. Watch for double coupon days; those may be mid-week as well. Checking locally, the current Schnucks ad and Shop 'n Save ad ran from last Wednesday, February 26 through today, Tuesday, March 4. Dierbergs and Kroger both start today and run through next Monday, March 10. Aldi starts tomorrow, Wednesday, March 5.
  • The best day to buy clothing is Thursday. By Thursday evening, the sales and discounted merchandise in stores is ready for bargain shoppers.
  • The best day for online shopping is generally the weekend. There is higher online traffic on weekends, so retailers tend to lower their prices and entice shoppers to buy from their sites then.
  • If you are planning travel, the best day to buy airline tickets is Tuesday (sometimes Friday. Many airlines bid for flights on Mondays and then release deals starting on Tuesday. Again, online traffic is slower mid-week, so that is the best time to look for lower fares. Some weekend specials are offered on Fridays, so watch for those as well. And, remember to clear your cookies in your browser; airline Web sites track your searches and can see that you're looking for fares on multiple sites and are you will not see your best options. Timing with regard to how close your trip is, is also important. You'll generally see the best prices no more than five months out and no closer than 14 days from departure. Saturday night stays are also considerations to lower travel costs.
When you are car shopping, there are some things you might consider also. Ask questions about the add-on enhancements, and see if they fall into any of these categories:
  • Fabric Protection - Skip it! It could cost you up to $200 for this protection package, and you can do the same thing by spending $8-10 on 3M Scotchgard Auto Interior Fabric Protector
  • VIN Etching and Express Code Marking System - Skip it!
  • Appearance Package - Skit it! Many times this is nothing more than pin-striping on the vehicle that will cost up to $300 from the dealer. You can have it done by a professional for about a third of that cost if you want the added style. 
  • Paint Protection Plan and Window Tinting - Skip it! Ask questions. That Paint Protection Plan is sometimes just a glorified wax job (as described by one of the shops that does it). The window tinting can probably be done by a local professional for half of what the dealer will charge you.
  • Extended Warranties - Maybe, but ask these questions from
    • To what extent is your vehicle already under warranty and how long to you plan to own it?
    • What the reliability record of the model you're purchasing?
    • Who is behind the warranty that you're considering?
    • What's the nature of its deductible?
    • Is the warranty transferable?
    • Can repairs be performed at any repair shop?
    • What exactly is covered?
    • Is a cash layout required (deductible) for repairs?

These are a few tips to consider in order to keep a little more money in your pocket.