On the evening of September 10th, I joined others from Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda and Charlotte County to walk for suicide prevention at Gilchrist Park, Punta Gorda.
After the walk, there was a Yellow Rose ceremony for those loved ones lost to their illness.
Being a big guy, with bad knees, I was not able to walk the full route. However, this year, I walked some of it. I was able to get a few good pictures and videos. The above photo is of Jay Glynn, CEO at CBHC. I was able to video the Yellow Rose ceremony.
What will personally stick with me the most? What someone said about what I wrote: “who” I was walking for?…I wrote: “ME.” I did not write it as a joke because I’m a Mental Health Humor cartoonist. NO, but as a serious statement of a living/breathing participant…Something my Bipolar Disorder almost took away from me in 2008. (I did not expect anyone to notice or say anything about me writing: walking for “ME.”)
One woman, who was walking for suicide prevention, approached me at the end of the walk to commend me for personally walking for…”ME.”
She and I talked for a bit. Her amazing story was so empowering. I asked if she would say a few words on video for my readers…What she said next are the most powerful words you should never forget if you live with a mental health disorder.
Here is what she said:
You are not alone, say it now: say it again, “You’re not alone!”
Words that, at the right time, can save a life! Something we should write down and repeat daily to remind us we are never alone. These simple words of hope can hold so much power…Yes, if the words are coming from the right source, from the right person and at the right time!Chato Stewart Consumer Peer Ambassador
The following suicide prevention article is being republished with permission by staff writer Brenda Barbosa attributed to Charlotte Sun. All the Staff here at Charlotte Behavioral Health Care thank the Sun and Brenda for highlighting this important topic. We hope by doing so a dialog can be formed that makes talking about the subject of suicide less stigmatic. Thus, opening the way to reviving a positive forum of help that can lead to positive changes and save lives.
Please join us at Gilchrist Park, Punta Gorda at 7:00 p.m. September 10, 2014 for National Suicide Awareness Day (See: Suicide Awareness Candlelight Walk).
Join the Facebook Suicide Prevention Suicide Awareness Candlelight Walk event page.
Guns and Mental Illness
By BRENDA BARBOSA STAFF WRITER ~ Email: email@example.com
There’s no doubt in 43-year old Chato B. Stewart’s mind that he’d be dead if he’d had access to a gun that dreadful night in 2004 when he planned to kill himself.
A powerful cocktail of medications prescribed to treat his depression threw the Port Charlotte man into a hallucinogenic spiral that ultimately landed him in a Sarasota crisis stabilization unit.
Using a hot knife, he branded the date of the event permanently on his forearm — his version of a suicide note.
“That quick mix of meds threw me into a psychotic break,” said Stewart, ….“That was the first time I heard voices that were telling me to hurt myself and my family.”
“About the Image: Blogger, cartoonist and mental health advocate Chato B. Stewart shares his struggles with depression and bi-polar disorder through his art. In June 2004, the 43-year-old Port Charlotte man attempted suicide. Here, you can see the date of his planned death which he brand with a hot knife on his left forearm. “I didn’t really want to die,” he said. “But I didn’t know how else to relieve the pain I was feeling inside.”
Luckily, Stewart did not have access to a gun.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case for most suicide victims in Charlotte County.
“A majority of our deaths are by firearm,” said Vicki D’Agostino, chair of the Charlotte County Community Health Improvement Partnership’s mental health subcommittee.
The partnership, better known as CHIP, was convened earlier this year by the Charlotte County Health Department to look at the rate of suicide in the county — which exceeds state and national rates
— and figure out what’s driving the death toll.
According to the Charlotte County Medical Examiner’s Office, an overwhelming majority of deaths in the county can be attributed to the use of firearms.
Local mental health professionals want to bring attention to the issue, hoping it will force policymakers and the public at large to understand the perilous intersection between mental illness and access to guns.
“It’s unbelievable, when you talk with people, how they are not connecting that firearm access is so dangerous for a person who, say, is significantly depressed,” D’Agostino said.
More importantly, people can be helped, but only if they are alive, D’Agostino said. It’s a myth that someone who is suicidal is determined to die, she said.
“We need to change our thought process that if someone wants to kill themselves, they’re going to do it anyway,” she said.
Unfortunately, state lawmakers are making it more difficult for mental health providers to screen for dangerous situations , experts said.
One piece of legislation they point to is the infamous Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, better known as the “Docs vs. Glocks” law. Florida’s Republican controlled Legislature adopted the law after an Ocala couple complained that a doctor had asked them about guns. The couple said they refused to answer the question, and the physician refused to see them again. In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott signed the measure into law, essentially prohibiting doctors from asking patients about gun ownership or recording that information in medical records. The law later was deemed a constitutional violation of physicians’ freedom of speech.
Last month, however, a federal appeals court said the law legitimately regulates professional conduct and does not violate doctors’ First Amendment rights. By a 2-1 decision, the appeals court upheld the law as a protection of patient privacy rights, and said the limits imposed by it were “incidental.” Doctors who break the law could be fined and/or lose their licenses.
Mental health advocates and medical groups plan to challenge the ruling. For now, a judge’s injunction remains in place until any request for a rehearing before the appeals court is resolved.
It’s an emotional and politically charged issue that has pitted right-to-bear arms advocates against mental health providers, who say asking about guns is necessary to ensure a patient’s safety.
Local state Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Port Charlotte, who voted in favor of the law, said he doesn’t believe asking about guns “is necessary for good patient care.”
“The act simply codifies that good medical care doesn’t require inquiry or record-keeping of firearms,” Roberson said.
But Charlotte Behavioral Health Care’s lead psychiatrist Dr. Katina Matthews-Ferrari disagrees.
“It would inhibit doctors that are treating depressed and suicidal patients from asking questions that could be lifesaving,” she said.
Sadly, with firearms, the majority of cases are fatal.
Stewart considers himself among the lucky. Not only did he survive — doctors say he’s thriving. Stewart is using his experiences and struggles with mental illness to bring awareness to an issue that has long been plagued by stigma. As a blogger, cartoonist and mental health activist, today he uses art as a therapeutic way to cope with his illness and inspire others to seek treatment. Mental illness, he said, does not have to be a death sentence.
“I didn’t want to die; I just wanted relief from the pain I was feeling inside,” he said. “People need to know that this is an illness, and you can intervene up until the very last breath. But once it’s over, that’s it. It’s over. There’s nothing you can do.”
Below are a few of Chato Stewart’s Mental Health Humor cartoons dealing with Depression.
Chato Stewart Consumer Peer Ambassador
September 10, 2014 is national suicide awareness day. We are walking in memory of those who have lost their lives to depression and suicide. We would like to honor those who have suffered and those who continue to fight against symptoms of suicidal ideation and depression.
All of us as a community are negatively impacted by the loss of a neighbor due to suicide. Healthy and strong neighbors contribute to healthy and strong communities. We need each other for ongoing support and strength to combat life’s challenges that can lead to depression. Education and prevention is a must in the fight against suicide.
We would also like to increase awareness and offer an avenue for help through Charlotte Behavioral Health Care. All of us can play a part whether big or small in helping spread awareness. It takes baby steps and adult strides walking and working together as we move forward toward preventing suicide and supporting each other through the process.
Please join us at Gilchrist Park, Punta Gorda at 7:00 pm if you are able. No one has a voice quite like you. You can make a positive difference in many lives by being aware of Suicide Prevention Day and spreading the word and education about suicide prevention. Thank you for your help and participation!
Every year, over 800,000 almost people die from suicide; this roughly corresponds to one death every 40 seconds. The number of lives lost each year through suicide exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined.
Suicide is the fifth leading causes of death among those aged 30-49 years in 2012 globally, and is the second leading cause of death in the 15-29 years age group in 2012 globally. Overall, it is estimated that during 2012 for each adult who died of suicide there were 27 others who made suicide attempts.~ excerpted www.iasp.info/wspd/
Port Charlotte Suicide Rate Top 5 in Florida
2013 Florida Stats on Suicide:Suicide TOTAL WHITE BLACK OTHER MALE FEMALE Suicide# 2,892 2,648 156 80 2,206 686
Was Robin Williams bipolar or was he depressed? He would be the first to admit, he never had a clinical diagnosis for it. Yet in the next breath say, “OH sure I get bummed.” He brought so much joy to us all. Yet, he suffered for years with depression.
We acknowledge Williams himself has never stated, to our knowledge, that he had been formally diagnosed with bipolar disorder or depression. Yet given his behaviors and symptoms, it seems far more likely he suffered from bipolar disorder — of which depression is a very significant component. News accounts saying he suffered from depression don’t appear to be substantiated by Williams’ own statements on the issue.
Triggers = Illness = Risk = Help or Suicide
Robin Williams succumbed to his years of undiagnosed mental illness and depression illness on Monday August 11th.
I personally don’t believe in the term “committed” or “made choice” to end his or our life via SUICIDE. I think it adds to the fear and misinformation of mental illness/health disorders. You can’t commit cancer or commit debates, they are illnesses and mental “illness”… Therefore, I believe you cannot “commit mental illness.” There are many complex factors that go into pushing the mind over the edge of reality, making you think the world is better off with out you. In the days to come, we will hear TRIGGERS like money troubles, compounding his anguish over drug or alcohol (substance abuse) relapses and/or medical conditions. These triggers cause depression and SHOULD NOT BE CHALKED UP AS SOME light issues… One match can trigger a forest fire, burning thousands or acres or trees and woodlands and homes and anything in its way…just by lighting 1 match and tossing it on grass!
I look at it as: Robin Williams’ illness finally won out, and not “committed suicide.” I do believe, we pay the consequences for our actions we take while in a “mental fog,” Whether that is psychosis based or chemically based or drug induced. We should be held accountable ultimately even with our own life or death.
Speaking from the point of view of someone who has be at the edges of my own life’s end and multiple times, even jumping off and being saved a few times…only to try again until I got HELP…I can tell you, yes life is gorgeous and beautiful when you’re balanced! For years I dealt with suicidal idealization and suicidal behavior – it was not who I am, it was my “illness,” and it was trying to kill me and almost did; till I got help.
As we say good bye, remember one thing… Shazbot!