(Female) Physician Suicides; A Silent Pandemic?

“Aunty blew her brains out a few weeks ago!” Words I shall never forget.

For weeks, she had been in my thoughts. But I never called her. I didn’t because of all the myriad reasons we often give ourselves for not checking up on each other.

In my case, they sounded like this; “I am 7 months pregnant, and it has been a difficult pregnancy.” “I am in an abusive marriage.” “My pediatric practice is struggling.” “I have a 2-year-old son,” and so forth. When I eventually dialed her number, her niece told me she had killed herself. She was only 33 years old. A surgical resident. My friend and colleague. The news of her death sent me into preterm labor with my now 20-year-old son.

Earlier this year, we read about Dr. Laura Breen, a female emergency room physician’s suicide, and numerous other female physicians across the globe, causing the Indian Medical Association to dub it “a public health crisis”.

I myself have also struggled with active suicidality. I am a Black, immigrant, United States Air Force veteran, divorced single mother of three Black sons, and a female physician practicing in the United States. Apparently, those are essential ingredients for suicide.

That’s not including my history of sexual assault or domestic violence. Nor my near constant exposure to homophobia, sexism, and racism, etc.

Photo by Eunhyuk Ahn on Pexels.com

Have physician suicides now become a silent pandemic? Afterall…

Physicians should be brilliant, resilient, and darned near perfect. We cannot afford to make mistakes (no pressure).

We must show up 100% each day with our game faces on, with a smile, ready to serve and save lives!

We must never tire; we must love our jobs and not give-in to overwhelm or toxicity at the workplace.

We must thrive regardless of near inhumane working conditions. But what if we can’t? What if we are actually human? What if the rest of the world sees us as one of them? What if we see ourselves as human and as such fatigable, maybe even fallible?

What if we save our patients but not ourselves? What if “first do no harm” protects everyone else but us? What if our beloved profession becomes a noose around our necks?

What if we are unable to cope with life during a pandemic; family, relationships, money, illness, colleagues, workplace abuse to name a few? What if we find themselves hopeless, helpless, and trapped in our “perfectionism”? What if we pay the ultimate price for all this with our lives?

Does anyone notice? Are we missed? Is anyone counting?

Globally, physician suicides are at an all-time high. And female physicians have a higher mortality rate by suicide than male physicians in the United States…and like most suicides, it is grossly under-reported.

I know, I am a female physician in the United States, and I have been suicidal.

More women are entering medicine than they were before 1980, but women in medicine still face a wage gap, a risk of sexual harassment, motherhood, relationship issues, and other disparities that can contribute to mental health challenges and suicide.

This burden is worsened by fears of being seen as less capable, an educational system that stresses care for others over care for self, and licensing and credentialing requirements that often punish physicians who accurately report their diagnoses and treatments.

Results of a systematic literature review and meta-analysis show women physicians are 46% more likely than their female counterparts in the general population to die by their own hands. Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened physician moral injury, burnout and suicide.

It has exposed the inefficiencies in healthcare systems across the world, particularly in the United States, and exacerbated the toxic stress physicians have been experiencing for a while now. To my knowledge, there has been one reported physician suicide each weekend for the last 4 weeks in the United States.

And no one is really talking about it.

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However, what is our role in preventing our own suicides? According to Dr. Ann McCormack’s article in the Medical Journal of Australia, “Among the medical workforce, work–life balance is poorly practiced and modelled.” “In fact, there is a subtle undertone rampant within the medical fraternity, in which late-night emails, missing a child’s school concert, publishing multiple articles a year, and not taking annual leave become unvoiced indicators of a truly committed doctor.”

No truer words, if we be honest with ourselves…

Thankfully, there is hope;

1/ According to the American Medical Association (AMA), Physicians can seek help, and not be “punished” in most states of the U.S.

2/ Healthcare institutions can put processes in place for physician wellness and ensure physician adherence.

3/ Doctors themselves should invest in activities that will build resiliency and support their physical and mental health, and model such behaviors to their colleagues.

3/ Physicians should be encouraged to be each other’s keepers through kindness, and practice empathy and compassion towards one another.

4/ The general population should be educated to end the silence, shame, and stigma associated with the word “suicide”.

5/ We should normalize discussions around emotional trauma and mental health challenges and avoid any repercussions towards doctors who speak up and speak out.

6/ Medical students should be selected based on both academic performance and aptitude tests, and regular enquiry into, and support of their mental health should be a high priority.

BB

It’s October, What Are You Doing About it?

Dear Blog,

I woke up this morning with you on my mind.

I knew I had to make my monthly entry.

It’s been a whirlwind of a year thus far, and none of the negative energy around us seems to be dying down.

Hmmm.

Suffice it to say, we need to move on, regardless.

So, here goes…

September was National Suicide Awareness and Prevention month. Did you do anything to help save someone’s life? Did you try to give hope to another soul? To try to make them smile, feel seen, feel validated? Feel needed? Feel alive?

With all the things we celebrate in the month of October: National ADHD month, National Breast Cancer Awareness month, and one week: October 10 through 17 for National Mental Health Awareness week, and so on, we continue to have our hands full, and the need for compassion, vulnerability, fearlessness and authenticity is never-ending.

This month, I would like to celebrate my successful outing with my first ever Dr. Lulu’s Stop Suicide Now! Summit that took place on September 26th, 2020! We had close to 40 humans sign up, and about 2/3 to attend! The Speakers were “ahmayzeen”, I know all the attendees’ lives were touched, and hopefully someone was saved. Check out this fact sheet we created for the event.

We learned a lot, new connections were made…and…it is officially going to become an annual event! YAY! All glory be to God. To order your copy of the nearly 41/2 hours of recording of the event, simply send an email of your request to askdoctorlulu@gmail.com or send your payment of $37 by clicking this link to my PayPal account.

I am also delighted to share that the month of September had me as a speaker on my very first TEDx talk! YAAAASSSS!!!! It was in Alief, a suburb of Houston. Shout out to my peeps there! Check them out and everything else they are up to by clicking this link right HERE. The official video link is not out yet, but, stay tuned, you are first on my list to know. It is titled : Why Do Our Children Kill Themselves? (NOT What You Think), cool, huh? Check me out below in action!

As far as self improvement during this last quarter of 2020 goes, I have decided to sign up for a formal certification as a life coach! I truly enjoy listening to people’s stories and helping them get unstuck; set achievable goals, guide them and then watch them soar! So, I guess wish me luck, huh?

This past month also saw a HUGE growth in my podcast listenership following my appearance as a speaker for the global podfest event! They went for and broke the guiness book of records for attendance >100K registrants! I also hope the impact of my podcast will be felt, ‘cos that’s my main M.O. I have caught up with all my previous recordings from 2019, and am now finally uploading new 2020 episodes! I am doing a mix of my COVID-19 Doctor Chronicles, and fresh interviews for the podcast itself. As you know, it’s called Suicide Pages with Dr. Lulu, and we talk about LIFE!

This past week for instance, I had an amazing guest on. Her name is Dr. Christine B. L Adams. A Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist, in practice for over 40 years! She educated us on something I had never heard about: Emotional Conditioning. An amazing concept that explains how the way we were emotionally raised, affects the way we all act/react to situations. And best of all, she only uses TALK THERAPY, NO MEDS! A girl after my own heart! Listen to her episode HERE, and let me know what you think.

One other interesting guest I had this past month was Dr. Bernie Fernandez, another veteran Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist who validated my longtime thought process when he said, “If you don’t have clinical depression, antidepressants cannot protect you from suicide.” BOOM!!! I have known that for so long, but hearing him say those words were like the “Sound of Music” to me! His episode can be heard HERE.

As always, if you find my podcast episodes interesting, simply do me three favors 🙂

  1. Subscribe
  2. Share
  3. Leave a review. Here is how to on Apple podcasts/Itunes.

My latest book “How to Teach Your Children About Racism“, has continued to do well. We are now at 59 5-Star reviews! Woot woot!! But even better, it received an ALL STAR 5-STAR rating from Readers Favorites, an independent book reviewer. All because I took a chance and wrote a blog, and y’all liked and shared and shared! Thanks to you my readers!

I wouldn’t end this blog post without thanking each and everyone of you for your continued support of me and my mission to end youth suicide by the year 2025! I have also continued to have a lot of support from fellow podcasters and bloggers alike. Various platforms and conferences, and book clubs and such, and this month shall not be different.

Next weekend, on 10/10/2020, I shall be the Keynote Speaker on another upcoming suicide prevention event. It is primarily going to be towards Nigerians, happening in Nigeria, organized by Nigerians, but, since it is virtual, it is technically global. I’d love to see you join me there. See flyer and register HERE… It’s Free!

Aiight, that’s all I have for now. Remember, I just had C-Spinal surgery barely 2 weeks ago! Thanks for all the love and kindness, gifts and get well wishes towards me…Y’all please stay well, wear your masks and do stay safe and don’t forget to vote your conscience come next month.

Until we “see” again, chew on this original quote of mine:

“A suicide attempt is never a cry for attention, it is always a cry for help”

BB

RIP Chad Boseman aka Ebubedike

Igbo Kwenu! Yaaa!! Nigeria Kwenu Yaaa!!! Uwanile Kwezuenu Yaaa!!!!

Every once in a while, you encounter a stranger, but strangely, you feel like you already know them.

That person to me, was the Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman.

Each time I looked at him, I saw an Igbo man. I generally don’t watch too much television, or movies for that matter, but he got me to watch the Black Panther movie not once, twice, but three times!

I will confess that he did not quite nail the African accent in his memorable role as King T’Challa, but between his gap teeth, easy smile and dark chocolate tint, he made my heart flutter each time he appeared on the screen.

Yes, as far as bodily features and physique go, Killmonger had one, ok, two on him, but, Chad was electrifying on screen, and since the BP movie was my very first time seeing him ever, I was hooked!

He had an easiness about him. His stride. His thick dark coils. His eyes. His eyes.

This past weekend was such an emotional roller coaster for me, like many people of color and our allies, we have watched as things have continued to deteriorate on the streets on Amerikkka, but nothing could have prepared me for his death.

I was already greatly saddened by Mr. Blake’s shooting, and the inhumane way he was treated at the hospital. The pockets of unrest, the increase in boldness of the Karens and others like them, the nut job we have for a president, the death toll of Covid-19 and everything in between were already bothering me big time.

To top it up, my two eldest sons both returned to college (one to grad school and one to undergrad) in the past couple of weeks. I also happened to have had the added adventure and trauma of being a Black female, and mother of 3 Black boys with the added layer of trauma as their primary provider.

So, you get that my stress level was already at a semi-high place. And with the loss of 2 super heros (Black Mamba and Black Panther) within the space of 6 months is a huge blow to the African Americans, period!

In honor of the Black Panther, I have written a list of what I am calling “Lessons I Learned From Ebubedike aka T’Challa, aka Chadwick Boseman.” Enjoy!

1/ Live For Today: While I never really knew him, somehow I think that he lived each day in the last four years to the fullest. I, like most of us have found out that he apparently starred in multiple movies for the 4 years that followed his diagnosis.

2/ Live For Now: Like #1, I know, he did everything in his power to enjoy his every minute of every hour of the time he had left on earth, and luckily, he took us along with him on the journey.

3/ Make Your Mark: We must live our lives to leave a mark on this earth. Like I say all the time, when you meet people, you must leave the best piece of you behind with them. Make your mark on this earth. Start where you are.

4/ Be Unstoppable: Once you find your purpose, and you get on your path, become unstoppable! He was so good at what he did. He fought to the end. He was unstoppable in his brilliance!

5/ Take Every Opportunity to Do Good: Whether he knew it or not, he exemplified taking opportunities to do good, and he was good at it. He made us fall in love with a him, easily, he was not only a hero, he was also a Black super-hero.

6/ Smile: I have seen pictures of him not smiling, but the pictures that have been etched in my heart are those with him flashing his gap teeth in a smile. Such a handsome young man with such an infectious smile.

7/ Make People Happy: Did King T’Challa make us happy? Yes! Did he make his family happy? Yes! Did he make the world a happier place? Absofreakinlutely! Making people happy is much easier than you think!

8/ Make Yourself Happy: Yes! Do make yourself happy. Wear your mask first. Fill your cup first. Something tells me Ebubedike always made himself happy by making a tough decision to show up 100% of the time in all his roles, despite his pain and suffering.

9/ Challenge Yourself! This was probably one of the most important things he did. He challenged himself everyday to do something meaningful, knowing his time was limited. What about you? When was the last time you challenged yourself to do something meaningful?

10/ Do It! Just Do It! Yep, I know for a fact that he “just did it” He simply did what he knew needed to be done! How many times have you had a project or a deadline, or something that needed to be done, but didn’t do it? Why? Because you think/thought you had time? Well, he KNEW he DIDN’T have time. So, he just did it.

11/ Be the one: Be the go-to “guy”. Be the person who we all want to go to for it. For life, for service, for laughter, for what we need. Would you, could you be the one?

12/ Be the best: At this time, it is not even a matter of whether he won awards or not. While I have not seen any more of his flicks, and I know for sure that I can’t bring myself to watch it, I know he was the absolute best at what he did. And I am proud of him for that.

13/ Play hard and live like today is your last day! Ooooh, if I could get a penny for every time I heard that, I would be a millionaire now! I am going to learn to play hard these days. I know it will be hard, but it is doable. Think about it, how could would it be if you were able to live each day like it was truly YOUR LAST!

14/ Stay true to yourself! I honestly believe that this was him in the truest sense of the word. He was honest and true. And it showed in the way he conducted himself during his last 4 years of life.

15/ FIGHT! FIGHT!! FIGHT!!! I don’t think any one needs convincing that he was a fighter! He fought to the last breathe, and as far as I am concerned, he won! So, let’s go forth and fight like the Black Panther did!

16/ Die hard: What I really want to say here is, die hardest! There is no doubt that it must have been really hard staring death in the eye. But he did it, without fear. He went about his business, doing what he had to do with a vengeance knowing death was eminent.

17/ Breathe: I know, that is the watch-word now, thanks to George Floyd. But seriously, find times in the day when you can breathe easily. Find moments that take your breath away, look for them, they are there.

18/ Know: Get to know yourself and to know what time it is. In my heart, I know he knew exactly what he was up against. He knew every single detail of every single thing that mattered in his life. You, my friend should be in the know.

19/ Believe: in yourself. That is the best strategy. He was sick, but he believed in himself. He knew exactly what and who he was, and believed he could pull off that many movies AFTER he was diagnosed with terminal illness. If you only believe in yourself…

20/ Be brave: Look fear in the eye. Be fearless, be bold, be brave. Yes, be brave enough to do that which you would have never believed you could achieve. Regardless of what it is, if you are brave, you can conquer

21/ Ask for help: Yes indeed, it is brave to ask for help. A friend of mine once said “it is easier to say yes, than to say I need help”. That means we need to learn how to ask for help. Period. Don’t assume we can read your mind…:)

Now, please enjoy this poem I wrote for him on my Facebook page on Saturday.

Such a beautiful smile

Such a good soul

Such strong laughter

Such a brave heart

Such a great actor

Such a resilient person

Such a SUPER HERO!

Such a Black man

Such a Black son

Such an exemplary American

Such pain you went through fighting one of the worst diagnoses of all

Such bravado in the face of the inevitable, as you gave us some of the best out of Hollywood

Such a wonderful ambassador of mother Africa

Such hot tears running down my cheeks as I write this

Such a blessing to have “known” you

Such a good and restful sleep you’ll now have, as you close your eyes this one last time

Such a sweet reunion with your friend, Black Mamba

Such a painful goodbye dear Black Panther

Dr. L

BB

15 Commandments on How to Teach Your Children About Racism

Dear Blog,

Hmmm, it has been one of those weeks… One of those months. One of those series of days in my life when I think I am in a twilight zone, and that all the things going on around me are not real. How have you been? I know, it’s been a minute. I am sorry. I have honestly had a lot on my mind. But I am back now, so let’s get this party started.

As parents, we are in the driver’s seat. As if the quarantine and lockdown were not stressful enough, due to the recent happenings mainly here in the United States, we have now come face to face with the reality of our poor, no, sorry state of race relations. Even if you don’t live in the US, you are still required to do what is right by your kids in regard to teaching them about racial biases, prejudice, and systemic racism when necessary.

Do you know that racism and prejudice are mostly rooted in fear? Fear that comes from a lack of understanding? Yes. Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads people to draw the wrong conclusions, and soon those conclusions become their truth. And then they are ruled by a concept based on falsehoods like all Black men are a threat, before you know it, it becomes a system and a “way” of doing things and that’s when the cookie crumbles.

Yeah, I know, having that conversation about race is one that some people have neither ever had, nor want to have (but obviously need to), while others find themselves having the conversation nearly every day in their lives. Well, it has to start, and the time is now. Things must begin to change. The world is actually witnessing just how dangerous being “color blind, or color neutral” can be. An issue Blacks have dealt with for years.

You see, what happened to George Floyd, can literally only happen in Amerikkka, oops, my bad, America. For over 400 years Blacks in America have continued to work more than twice as hard to be recognized half as much. The dehumanization must stop! And those who are silent now, MUST examine their why. Some much-needed soul-searching must be on everyone’s to-do list…now!

Sadly, our children are caught in the cross-fire. The other day I asked the following question on my Facebook page: What would happen if we put 10 children in a room for 10 minutes? The answers were interesting. The kids will start playing with each other right away. But if you performed the same experiment with grown-ups, they will either say nothing, or team up according to some categories, preconceptions, and even misconceptions about each other.

So, inspired by a Facebook post that a friend of mine tagged me on, I decided to write to you today, with my thoughts on how parents should approach the elephant in the room: The talk about race, with their young’uns. Enjoy! And do leave me a comment to let me know what you think.

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1/ Thou shalt first become comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations with thyself, before ever trying to have them with any other person. Yes, at this point in our earthly lives, we must as a matter of urgency get into that space of vulnerability and face our fears and insecurities. Dig deep to figure out why we are uncomfortable and get past that point with intention and focus.

2/ Thou shalt educate thyself properly, and gather all the facts that thou might need, and yet not have, before embarking on any such discussions with thy children. Children are smart, they will see through your charade. They are already learning about it or hearing about it, so you might as well be their guide. I know that talking about race can be sensitive, and yes, even a bit messy, but the other option is not an option, so just buckle up and do it.

3/ Thou shalt ensure that thy abode is racist-free. Remember, information can be conveyed by thoughts, words or deeds, and thy kids will absorb them all from thee. Yes, you might be racist, your words might be racist, or your actions might be racist and you might not even be aware of it, but your kids will, and then it might be too late for them to unlearn the bad lessons.

4/ Thou shalt first find out from thy kids what they already know about racism (if age applicable) before proceeding with the teaching. A simple question and answer session will suffice. There is no point in building a house upon a faulty foundation. First, dig up the old one, find out what the kids know, reteach them the correct information, and then proceed with teaching them new things.

5/ Thou shalt expose thy kids to other cultures, by visiting their museums, their churches, or attending civic events organized by them. There is no better way to get immersed in African American, Jewish, Native American, or Hispanic history than by visiting their museums, civic centers, places of worship, or one of the many events these cultural communities often hold in a city near you. The time is now! Summer is on its way, so, put on your masks and get going!

6/ Thou shalt endeavor to cook, order-in, or learn about foods of other ethnicities. This is a must! Humans are social beings, we love to eat during celebrations. So, when next you go to visit your Nigerian friend perhaps (wink wink), ask about fufu ati efo riro, jollof rice with “shikin”, fried plantains (dodo), isiewu  (goat head delicacy), ofensala (fish pepper soup), or nkwobi (cow foot delicacy) to name a few. These are seriously tasty mouth-watering meals that you can only learn about by having an open mind. Take it from me, they are all #delish!

7/ Thou shalt listen to music and learn dance moves from other cultures…yes, thou must! 🙂 I told you to have an open mind. While I wouldn’t necessarily ask you to learn the acrobatic nkpokiti, or break-dancing, it is certainly time to expand from your line dancing days to something else that is fun and exposes a whole new world to you. Your kids will love the moves, the melody, and the novelty, and they can brag about their new skills to their friends. This could also be a form of a bonding exercise for y’all.

8/ Thou shalt encourage thy kids to make friends with, and visit homes of kids of other races, and have them visit your home in return. Get to know their parents, and learn a thing or two about their history and upbringing. Extend a hand of friendship. Offer to take their kids to a game, pick them up from school or even buy them dinner. Get out of your comfort zone a bit. Live just a little bit, you might even like it 😉

woman laughing

9/ Thou must become acutely aware of the microaggression some things you do or say can cause to people of other races. Like calling me the nurse or “miss”, when my name tag clearly says MD or asking me where I went to medical school, or wondering how my English is so good, or not trying at all to pronounce my name after I have told you how to say it…more than once! And do try to let your guard down when I am in the room. I don’t bite. Oh, and…STOP touching my hair, this is not Ripley’s Believe it Or Not!

10/ Thou shalt police thyself, thy relatives, and thy kids with purpose, intention, and mindfulness. Yes, you must ensure that you are not perpetuating intolerance, hate, or prejudice in any way. You know your family members who are racist. Everyone does. You must be bold, take action, and police them. Speak up. We are tired of being tired of being tired. You must have “the talk” with your family and friends. And if they choose to be silent, I suggest you re-evaluate your relationship with them.

11/ Thou shalt endeavor to learn a foreign language, preferably a language in Africa. Thou shalt also teach said language to thy kids. Yes, spread your wings, fly far away to the land of communication and understanding. To the land of open-mindedness and love. Because learning a new language will help you understand, and when you understand there will be no fear, and when there is no fear, there is no racism.

12/ Thou shalt visit the predominantly Black part of the city or town thou lives in…with thy kids in tow. Get to see what life is like over there. You might begin to gain a bit of empathy, compassion, understanding, and maybe even respect. Your daughters want to date our sons, and that’s a fact. You might as well get to know where she will be hanging out, and get ready to have soul food at the wedding 🙂

13/ Thou shalt teach thy child to recognize bullying behavior and speak up when other kids are being bullied, especially on account of their race. Bullying is a catalyst for suicide, and it is a serious problem in our schools (stay tuned for my next book out in a few weeks, it tackles bullying head-on). Teach them to find the kids who are ostracised and sit with them on the school bus, at the cafeteria, or play with them at recess. That will go a long way towards ending the current epidemic of youth suicide.

14/ Thou shalt not make a mockery or joke about any person who is different from you on account of their race, and neither should your kids. Yes, don’t discuss their skin tone, their kinky hair, their body type or any other physical attribute that pertains to their race, except in a good light. Or if they let you. I don’t really care much for people touching my hair to know what it “feels like”, that’s actually an intrusion.

15/ Thou shalt ensure that all the above are adhered to, and from time to time, check in with your kids to assess for progress. Yes, you must also continue to work on yourself and on your family members like Karen, Becky, Amy, Stephanie, Derek, Gregory, and Travis. There is much work to be done. Policing the police is not enough, we must also police ourselves, our thought processes, and mindsets lest we remain imprisoned by them.

“The only way, to really talk about race and racism, is by activating a growth mindset.” ~Amber Colemen-Mortely

I say “The only way to talk about it, is to freakin’ talk about it”

Cheers!

BB

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Is Your Child A Bully?

Dear Blog,

This is not a new story, but it remains heartbreaking.
While researching for my new book, “Is Your Child A Bully?”, I came across it again.
I remember being tagged by a follower when it first happened in March of last year.

I would like you to read it, and share it with your kids and ensure that you have a discussion afterward.

Talk about injustice, prejudice, racism, religious intolerance.
Think about her and her family.
LOOK into her eyes.
See her smile? It is out of place…
Feel her mom’s heart
Weep for her father
Be her siblings
Know their pain.

9-year-old Syrian refugee Amal Alshteiwi committed suicide last month after being bullied in Canada [Twitter]

I am also sharing it because I want folks to know that NEARLY ALL CHILDREN WHO DIE BY SUICIDE AS A RESULT OF BULLYING DO NOT HAVE A PRIOR H/O ANY MENTAL ILLNESS.

The ensuing depression or anxiety that results from their ordeals is at best, reactive. While counseling might work for the victims, better parenting and stronger rules and such might work on the bullies.

Mental ANGUISH is 1000x worse than Mental ILLNESS.

It is a very profound emotional state of exhaustion, it causes the sufferers to become so overwhelmed, hopeless, AND helpless, that they will do anything to make their pain stop.
Including ending their lives.
They are often thrown into a state of deep despair.
They suffer A LOT.
There are NO MEDICINES for anguish or despair.
Suicide victims are NOT selfish
Au contraire, they feel like they are a burden, they are lonely, they are burnt out, they don’t really want to die, but living is often no longer an option.

I ask as you spend time with your children, STRESS kindness, and compassion to themselves and to others.
They are the antidotes for the type of meanness that our kids are exhibiting through bullying these days.
In my first bestseller ” How to Raise Well Rounded Children”, I discuss 16 guiding principles that you need to instill in your kids to help them grow up with the right doses of “goodness.”
Get your copy on AMAZON.

In the meantime, look at her eyes, her angelic face, her hijab perfectly tied around her beautiful brows,
and offer a little prayer for all children being bullied all over the world.
THEN share this post and tell your friends and family Dr. Lulu sent ya.

Syria refugee, 9, commits suicide after being bullied in Canada

 

Don’t know the symptoms of suicidal behavior in your child/teen?
Click this link for a free PDF to download (thank Dr. Lulu later:))

https://forms.gle/5Me5FKWtu2uWTHpy8?fbclid=IwAR0IOPWiSgMfgnljetAa_axU9C7AJqtF_exLGqCEvzpM1YxknnbOMQOPtSk

BB

 

 

10 Ways to Practice Self-care During the Quarantine.

I don’t know about you, but 2020 has sure become one heck of a year! If anyone had told me on January 1st that by April I would be on quarantine with not only my family but the entire universe, I would never have believed it!

When I look back at how “well” the year began, and all the promises that the new year brought with it, I honestly don’t know if I should continue to shake my head in disbelief, if I will wake up and it is all over, or if I should simply smile and wait a bit more, knowing that “this too shall pass”. I wish I knew for sure that this too shall indeed pass. No one knows.

As a parent and a spouse, I am grateful that my children are a bit older in age, and it is a bit easier to explain this whole thing. Luckily, they have each other to keep company, while I try my very best to stay sane.

So, what have you all been doing to stay sane this period of uncertainty? I know, the word self-care is now the buzz word and for good reason. Never has there been a better time to practice what I am calling “the three pillars of self-care”: self-compassion, self-kindness, and self-love, than now.

For me, I am pretty carefree, I don’t dance to anyone’s tune, I simply go with my flow, but for those who would like to share with me, below are 10 ways I have come up with that might interest you as far as practicing self-care goes. You are probably already doing most of these things, but it is always a good idea to share with each other and learn and grow together.

1/ Prayer and Meditation: Whether you see prayer as a way of talking to God, the universe, your personal chi, or simply communing with nature, I strongly recommend some form of the practice daily. I have found that it often goes best, hand in hand with meditation. Both are best practiced in the morning, but, frankly, it could be at any other time of the day, as you wish. Since this whole quarantine thing started I have been joining Jay Shetty and about 30K other people around the world, daily for a 20 minute guided meditation at 1130hrs CST daily. It has been so rejuvenating and invigorating and has fast become the best 20 minutes of my day.

2/ Yoga: One of my personal favorites. I used to be a major “yoga groupy” several years ago when I was younger. But I am finding my way back now since the quarantine. These days, my fibromyalgia is flaring up, the pain in my lower back is sometimes unbearable, and my neck arthritis is worse. I actually started to practice daily sun salutations, and it’s yet early to call, but, so far so good. Down Dog My eldest son recommended it to me. He saw a YouTube video of Kita Liss, who had similar issues with her neck and back and reportedly did sun salutations for 2months and presto! Her aches and pains were gone! I might sound a bit gullible, but, the way I see it, there is no medication use involved, and it’s actually great for you and your joints, so why not?

3/ Walking: The ultimate exercise if you ask me. This is especially if you are a little bit older like I am, but generally, most people will tell you that your knees will thank you if you walk. Whether brisk walking or slow strolling, walking beats running for your knees any time. For me, I use my morning walks to commune with nature, exercise the dog, and take phone calls in my telemedicine practice. Sometimes, I simply walk alone, lost in my thoughts. I have also recently started using it as a tool to meet my neighbors (thanks to the recent lockdown in San Antonio, Texas), we pass each other, 6ft apart, say hello, make small talk about Covid-19, the weather, homeschooling or whatever else.

4/ Reading: Ha! This is one of my “favoritest” things to do! I. Love. Reading. My go-to genre is fiction, and my place to be is romance. Since starting my own business though, it has been a bit tough getting my romance reading on. Thankfully, this quarantine has given us all permission to #slowdown and “smell all the roses” and other accompanying smells that make us smile. What about you? Do you like reading? What is your favorite genre? Are you in need of some good non-fiction this quarantine season? If so, I beg to suggest one of my two books. The parenting book: How to Raise Well-Rounded Children, is my favorite pick for now since many of us parents are all “stuck” at home with our kids.

5/ Write: Yessss! Next to reading, writing is one activity that I enjoy. I find so much joy when I write that I recommend writing to every single patient of mine. Furthermore, studies have shown that writing can be therapeutic. You can start simple, like writing in your (gratitude) journal, or simply writing about your day. You can also start writing a book, start a blog or write poetry. Just start writing… You will be so glad you did. If you do decide to go on to write something, please let me know. One of the things I also do on the side is to help people write their bestseller. Yes. I am a writing coach and I will be glad to chat with you and explore the possibility of working together. Click here to schedule an appointment if you’d like to explore this.

6/ Practice Gratitude: This is a natural successor of writing. The gratitude journal is a recurrent theme when we speak about writing. So, to write about gratitude then means to practice it. To practice it means to be intentional about it. To be intentional about it means to be present in each moment, acknowledge each moment, and be thankful for them. We must try to find something new each day to be grateful for. These times might not appear to be teaching us anything positive, but if we look for the lessons, we will surely find them. This year started on such a positive note, that I refuse to believe there is no silver lining to all of this. We are told we grow from pain, so let’s lead with grateful hearts in order to allow for said growth.

7/ Learn a New Hobby: I love this because time is one thing we all have on our hands now. We might as well learn something new with our adult brains, which I am told we only really use less than 10% of. A new hobby can be anything from playing cards like bridge or poker, to photography, sketching, piano or any other musical instruments, bowling, etc. Studies have shown that learning a new hobby not only keeps your brain young by creating new synaptic connections, it also helps to de-stress, and helps to keep you busy. I know, many of us claim we are busy, but… 🙂 Let’s just agree that enough of us are “busy doing nothing aka mismanaging our time”. A new hobby would certainly take care of that.

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8/ Pamper Yourself: Yes, this quarantine period has done the unthinkable…our hairdressers, nail places and massage parlors are all on furlough! Time to learn how to do it ourselves. One click to YouTube should help. I have always been a #doityourselfer in this department, and I am riding easily at this point. Yes, it is possible to learn how to self-pamper. It can range from a manicure to a nice cup of your favorite coffee (sorry, no Starbucks), to a good book, to a home facial, to simply washing or coloring your hair. Pretty much anything you can do at the beauty shop, you can do at home by yourself, for yourself. It might need a slight learning curve, but you got this. During one of Jay Shetty’s meditations last week, he actually guided us through a self-massage! I had never done that before that day, and it felt so good!

9/ Call Your Girlfriends: Call, text, or Zoom with your girlfriends for a nice virtual reunion! Virtual parties are now commonplace since the quarantine. I actually had a Zoom party with a couple of my girlfriends from high school just last week, and am planning one for my family members this very weekend. I got the idea from a friend who had a virtual family lunch party at home, and I am sold on it. I have even started a habit of calling as many of my longtime friends as possible daily, which is helping me a lot with reconnecting. I am reaching out to cousins, Facebook friends, and so on. Many of my friends and I are paying it forward and actually enjoying it… You should try it.

10/ Be creative! Yes, be creative, be you. Get in your car and drive, watch reruns of your favorite TV series, pig out on a bowl of ice-cream, dance to oldies songs from the 80s, or simply sleep until noon! As long as you are at peace with yourself, and you are intentional with your self-care, it’s all good. Just remember, we must make the best of every situation we find ourselves; learn to find silver linings in grey clouds, and grow from all pain…#this too shall pass.

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BB

19 Things Your Family Can Do During The Covid-19 Furlough…

You might be like me and have teenage or young adult children, and be wondering what you can do now that school is out (likely for a month, maybe indefinitely), to stay active or keep them occupied while the local authorities, etc make an attempt to curtail the spread of the Corona Virus. If so, then this blog might be for you. 

I enlisted my 15-year-old son to assist me in compiling this list, my hope is that you find the activities easy enough, fun enough and applicable enough to help you bond, communicate and create memories that are sure to outlast Covid-19. 

My ultimate wish, of course, is that by engaging in these activities, your teens will feel visible, loved, appreciated and engaged by you. They will feel like their lives matter. Like they are giving back, and in turn, find fewer reasons to engage in self-harm, or hurt themselves. Studies like this one or this that cite meaningful adult-teen relationships as the backbone for resiliency and thriving in adolescents are behind my thought process in this, so I am hoping to empower you, parents, to go for it. Engage fully and unconditionally with your teens during this forced break, and I shall join you at the finish line to celebrate the victory with you. The good news is most of these activities can be done at home with little or no money spending involved. Another good news is that they will mostly make y’all feel good afterward. 

Below is a link to watch the Facebook live video I recorded concerning this, and further below is a concise list and discussion of the activities including a bonus number 20.

https://www.facebook.com/askdoctorlulu/videos/648139482586339/?t=0

Activities

1/ Go shopping together for groceries: This is a tried and tested process. As long as you are going to pick up only essentials and not purchasing more than you need. I recommend you go in and get out as fast as you can from the store. I do not recommend you purchase all the toilet paper, or all the hand sanitizer or gloves available at the store (like some people have resorted to). However, if you are stocking up to help the needy, then go ahead and do so. Don’t forget to stock up on fruits and vegetables, water, milk, and Vitamin C.

2/ Karaoke at home: I recommend you take turns with this. Each person gets to pick the genre of music and the song to sing to. Then you can switch the next day. This should be fun and will help loosen up tension and encourage easier communication. Those who would like to take it to the next level could dance instead, or better still, dance and sing together. Fun, fun, fun!

3/ Take a stroll around your neighborhood or your local greenway: For me, the outdoors are always beckoning me to come to play. I love the outdoors and never miss a chance to get out there. For some of you or your teens, you might require a little prodding. Grab your bug spray and get going. Keep the cellphones at home. This should be a deliberate attempt at bonding. Enjoying each others’ company.download

4/ Watch TV/Movies: Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon prime movies, or simply your local TV stations should suffice. I love Jeopardy, but there are very many local shows, sitcoms, comedies, etc that you could watch together and discuss lessons learned from. Remember to get up and move around every 2 hours, ensure we are not sitting for a prolonged time each session to ward off any blood clots, or unnecessary eating/snacking.

5/ Board or Card games: This list is endless; from Scattergories to Scrabble, to Dominos, to Ludo, to 5-second Rule to Apples to Apples, Chess, Uno, Monopoly, Imaginiff, Heads, Night of the Werewolf, etc These are great for creating laughs, bonding, and overall wellbeing. ***Puzzles could also be added to this list. Soduko is another brain engaging game that families could play together. Many of these can all be downloaded from the internet.

6/ Cook or Bake together: This needs minimal explanation. Even if you don’t like cooking, I think it is a great bonding tool, because you can learn together. There are many cooks and chefs like my good friend Monika who has her own YouTube cooking channel who swear that cooking helps relieve stress… and I completely agree. So, grab your chef hats and aprons and let’s go!

7/ Story Time: This is the ultimate bonding activity. You, as the adult, could go first. This right here can serve as a tool for exploring your child’s experiences at school and at home. It could help uncover bullying, or other negative experiences we know takes place at school. For instance, you could talk about “uncomfortable things” that happened to you, or “weird things” that happened, “sad things”, happy things”, “scary things”, challenging things, etc.  I learned this tool from a FB friend during one of my daily QODs that I post on FB. Haven’t heard of it? Join the fun here.

8/ Help a neighbor out: Do you live near someone who could use a chaperone, some help with grocery shopping, lawn mowing, taking out their trash, or mail delivery? You and your teen could help out around the neighborhood, teens could even make a few bucks from that. Bottom line, when they are involved in selfless activities, they are less likely to engage in self-pity, self-harm or any negative self-thoughts/talk which might lead them down the path of destruction.

9/ Volunteer: Whether it be a shelter, a group home, a habitat for humanity home, the food bank, meals on wheels or elsewhere, the act of volunteering is the ultimate act of selflessness, and a great way to bond while doing something good for someone else, thus investing in yourself that much more. In this blog from a while back, I listed volunteering as a surefire way to keep your teens active in the summer. If it works during the summer, it would most certainly work now.

“A heart that volunteers is a heart of gold” ~ Dr. Lulu

10/ Exercise: What volunteering does for the soul, exercise does for heart and body. Exercising is the ultimate team activity, and by this I mean, going to your neighborhood volleyball pitch, or taking a kickboxing class together, going to the gym together, practicing yoga, swimming, jump rope, a game of basketball, you name it, the list can only grow longer. Bring back team spirit, fun, laughter and healthy competition to your home, you will be so glad you did.

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11/ Read together: Whether it be reviewing their schoolwork, leisure reading, or learning about something together, reading is one of the best ways to bond together. Remember when you used to read to them as kids? Well, let’s bring it back. Audiobooks are another awesome way to introduce group reading (if y’all can agree on what one book you should all read together, lol). Another idea is to spin a globe around, pick a random country and everyone reads about it for a later discussion.

12/ Pray together: For those who are into prayer, it is certainly a good way to focus on others (especially those who have been affected by, or afflicted with the virus). If you’d rather not pray, y’all can set aside a special time to meditate and practice mindfulness, to center yourselves and practice self-care. In one of my recent Facebook Lives, I introduced daily pulse checks (random points in the day when you and your teens can stop and perform a gratitude self-check) to help ward off those negative self-thoughts, and encourage a more gratitude-filled spirit.

13/ Eat together: It is no secret that a family that eats together, stays and thrives together. This is one habit that is fast fizzling out (even in my own home) as we all focus on individual thises and thats. Eating/breaking bread together is a family tradition that has its inception in the stone ages. We are slowly drifting away from it thanks to technology and personal devices. But we can all make a concerted effort to reserve 1-2 precious hours for deeply bonding and getting re-acquainted with each other. 

14/ Spring cleaning: If you live in Texas as I do, you will know that Spring has sprung for some of us. Temperatures have started increasing outdoors. And it is time to open up the shed, clean out the attic, and declutter your drawers and shelves. No, I don’t think your teens will altogether appreciate this, but keep your eyes on the prize. We are creating memories here. Nothing else. So let’s give it our best shot 🙂

15/ Plant a garden: Talking about cleaning out sheds, while you are in there, bring out your farming tools, and let’s get busy planting a garden. I have a small piece of soil next to my shed with adequate sunlight where I grow everything from Cilantro to corn, to tomatoes and even peanuts. My sons helped me dig it up and place the right soil when I first started. These days, I plant the seeds and nurture the plants, while they help with weeds and such. But you can divide out the work any which way you like as long as you do it together.father-daughter

16/ Video Games: Aaaaaah, I can’t even believe I am saying this…lol. As much as I dislike video games, I am recommending this because it has become a vital part of the average teenager’s life. My boys love video games, and I know how important this is to most teens today, so, if you are like me, and your kids love to game, then it is time to leave your comfort zone, roll up your sleeves, and get bonding. Leave your insecurities about video games behind, and go forth (I believe these words are meant for me:))

17/ Call and check in on family members and long lost friends: This is one sure way to keep the kids connected and re-acquainted with your (extended and nonextended) family members, close and not so close friends. Ensure they are calling or using facetime, not texting. Let them get back into the habit of actually speaking on the phone. It might need a little getting used to, but it will certainly create and increase family closeness.

18/ Adopt a pet: Many families already own pets, if you do, then this is a chance to get closer to the pet by taking turns to bath the pet, walk the pet, clean out their cages, and such. But if your family doesn’t own one, then this could be an opportunity to visit a pet store and adopt one. Ensure the topic is well discussed and y’all are in agreement of what type of pet to get, and whose responsibility it is to care for it. Take heed from someone who now has the awesome responsibility of walking our pet, Lulu every weekday…

19/ Journal about this experience: The entire Covid-19 thing is a brand new experience for all of us. I absolutely love to journal, so, I recommend you and your teen journal about your experience through all this. How has it helped your relationship? How has it impacted everyone? Has it been worth it? Any life lessons learned? You can take turns reading your entries weekly, or you cannot if you don’t want to share. Either way, carving out a set time daily to journal would be a great addition to your daily bonding activities. 

BONUS

20/ Travel! In ending, I will ask that this should not be anything that should be expensive. It is sometimes the most exciting activity, but, as you know, this could also be a stressful time for some if care is not taken to plan it out well and deliver it right. Traveling can be a source of learning, of growing and of bonding as a family as a whole. My advice is to try all of the above options first before embarking on traveling in order to ensure that you are already very connected firmly before you do it. Enjoy!

PS: One of my favorite things to do these days is to inspire and teach parents of teens. I love engaging with them on a granular level about their parenting. After so many years as a pediatrician and parent coach, I have not only shared in your pain but also come out successful on the other side. So, I went to work, and created a handful of online courses to help you with some of the pains I have struggled with and now able to enjoy parenting by surmounting them. Check them out here, and don’t forget to share all this information with your friends. 😉

See you on the inside.

“A family that stays together, thrives together” ~ Dr. Lulu

BB

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Why Parents Must Lean In, Tune In and TALK…

It’s simple, but not easy. telling parents to Lean In, Tune In, and Talk to their children, especially their teens. Most teens are dealing with enough outside pressures already in today’s world, many are riddled with anxiety for various reasons, and a nurturing, protective home is what is most needed for them.

In my next week’s podcast episode (dedicated to this same topic), I begin by discussing the case of the 9yr old Australian boy with Achondroplasia who was recently bullied to the point of suicidality (and to the horror of every parent on the internet). The child was in so much anguish that he can be heard asking his mom to give him a knife that he might stab himself with it. As bad as the case is, there are rumors circulating that it is #fakenews, and that he is really an adult. This type of behavior is so inappropriate, because not only is the child already traumatized, news like that further retraumatizes him, making me wonder if indeed people are aware of just how bad this bullying problem is. Image may contain: Uchenna Umeh, smiling, possible text that says 'SUICIDE PAGES PUDCAST WITH DR. LULU'

I am speaking directly to parents and family members, school teachers, and guardians, neighbors and the entire village it takes to raise a child to become more aware, more intentional, more mindful of their communication with their teens, especially those who have been traumatized.

Teenagers (and today’s kids) already have a whole lot they are dealing with, from cyberbullying to dating violence to excessive homework to unrealistic expectations, to the falsehood of the internet, to yelling parents and misunderstandings at home. The school playgrounds and gyms are not safe, and neither are the school buses. There appear to be overwhelming opportunities for trauma to our kids, and nothing is being done about it. Imagine the news last week of a 6yr old Florida Black girl who was arrested and placed in handcuffs at school? Just how traumatic is that? And how much more trauma can one generation take? If, or when such a kid kills him/herself, we will all be too eager to send our “thoughts and prayers” and asking me why?

In my pediatric practice where I only attend to at-risk youth, it is a daily occurrence for me to see a teen or two that have a major breakdown in communication with their parents. I once had a 16yr old teen who ran away. Her mom brought her to me for evaluation. Mom was understandably frustrated and stated that she works two jobs and long hours to provide for the family, and her daughter should be more grateful. The little girl responded with “I miss my mom”. “She works for long hours and is never home, and from the moment she walks in the door, she is yelling at us-kids until she goes to bed”.

Yelling specifically, has extremely negative effects on our kids as well as us. It is possibly worse than using the belt, because it is often demeaning and associated with cussing and abusive words. As a mother and as a pediatrician (who has had my fair share of working long hours as well as yelling at my kids), and who now knows better about the negative outcomes of yelling, I am on a mission to educate other parents about these ill-effects. They range from: anxiety to depression, to negative outlooks in life, bad behavior choices, low self-worth, and low self-esteem, learning disabilities, running away, and even suicidal ideations. Worst of all, not only do these kids become yelling kids (and possibly bullies), they also become yelling parents and end up perpetuating the behavior…

Miscommunication between parents and their teens is so commonplace that it is the main reason I must continue my work in an effort to help diminish the culture of self-harm and possibly, impact the suicide prevalence which can occur as a result of perceived invisibility and loneliness by teens at home. I help bridge the gap, and help them reconnect, but, I can only do so much. I need everyone to join in. To lean in. To tune in, and TALK to our kids. Start today, put those phones and devices away…FRFR. Image may contain: 16 people, including Tasha Izzard, Uchenna Umeh and Tasha Ann, people smiling

“The act of leaning in is powerful. It is both a physical pose of accessibility and one of perceived attention by your child. It shows intention, and to some extent, vulnerability and “surrender” if you may. To Lean In, to me, means one is leading with the heart first, your body posture is attentive and inviting (picture the opposite posture – leaning back). This is NOT to be confused with the feminist movement (by author and FB COO Sheryl Sandberg).

This is purely a physical act that also leads to an emotional connection.

 Leaning in, tuning in to the right radio frequency of your child or teen, and talking with them, is something that I have discovered works well with my patients and my own teen. When you physically lean in-to your child, you enter a closer space, you show undivided attention, your ears are closer, your hands are automatically “freer”, your heart is open, and the connection is established. Your child sees and notes that your body language is welcoming to them, you are accessible and present in the moment.

It is a powerful pose.

It swings the proverbial doors of communication open, and your teen feels welcome to come in. It tells them without a doubt that they matter, their ideas matter, and their lives in turn also matter. I must mention that it comes with practice, but it is worth all of the time and effort spent on it because it gives life to a positive and nurturing relationship. After all, wouldn’t every parent’s dream be for their kids to tell them first before they ever decide to hurt themselves? If so, then we must plant the seeds early, and nurture them when the going is good, so our kids can willingly come to us at the first signs of trouble”. Dr. Lulu

Positive relationships have been cited as one of the strongest determinants for children to thrive. Children who have been traumatized need this vital relationship that much Image result for positive relationship quotesmore. The prevalence of suicides in teens in recent times is an example of how much work is needed by us, the adults in establishing and maintaining these relationships, and effective communication is the key. Studies have shown that the presence of ONE SINGLE POSITIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH AN ADULT can help eliminate behavior problems, foster healthy growth and potentially reduce childhood trauma or ACEs which have a high correlation with suicide/suicidal behavior. I also happen to have an online communication course…cooking 🙂

Encourage your kids/teens to reach out to you by leaving that door WIDE open for communication. Share in their little and not-so-little wins. Laugh out loud when they crack jokes. Give them a hug, a pat on the back, ruffle their hair and praise from to time. Indulge in their whacked-out sense of humor and remember they may only welcome you in for a brief minute, so enjoy it. Tell stories from your teen years, and listen to their own escapades, but avoid a judgemental tone at all costs. A quick trip to your teen years will remind you of your own yearning for validation from your parents, and that should help.

In ending, I will say, continue the good work if you are already connecting or connected emotionally with your kids and teens. Keep allowing healthy dialogues in. Institute daily pulse checks to get them to focus more on the positives and small wins on a daily bases. Check out my online class: parenting without yelling if you can, or grab an autographed copy of either of my books: my parenting book or my teen suicide book (which is the featured book of the month for the San Antonio Book Club this March) if you are looking for something fun and engaging to do this Spring or later this Summer. Join me and my friends on Facebook for my daily QODs where I engage other teen parents to share and learn from each other, or join my Facebook teen parenting group for more fun on raising teens!

Remember, your kids (teens or not) love you, trust you, and want nothing more than to please you, feel loved and validated by you. As a parent, you hold the key to making this a reality. So, go forth and be the best-darned parent you can be, and I shall see you somewhere on the internet 🙂 Don’t forget to say hello!

Ciao!

BB

“One of the best feelings in the world is to know that your presence and your absence, both mean something to someone…”   Anonymous

 

 

 

To Bryce…

 

“…he was acting strange, talking a mile a minute, and kept asking his mom large questions about life. He wanted to know if she and his brothers would be OK in his absence.”      ~South Florida Sun-Sentinel

In my brand new Amazon bestselling book, A Teen’s Life, I discuss teen suicide to the best of my ability. One of the teens in that book is Damiko, a football player who finds himself on the wrong side of the law, after making some tough decisions to help him deal with life’s curveballs, mainly to help his family. He naturally begins to doubt himself and ends up on the suicide spectrum. This is a not too uncommon thought-process and mindset for most of us when we are feeling overwhelmed, anguished and trapped amongst other things, as life continues to deal (as it likes) with us.

I begin with Damiko’s story because it is what I am calling “real” fiction. Just this week, we saw my fiction imitate real life in none other than Bryce Gowdy, a football star on his way to the top, with a full ride to Georgia Tech. A life cut short by train tracks. A life cut short by suicide.

While reading his story in the news outside the post office a few days ago, I kept yelling “he left signs!” “He left signs!”…repeatedly, as I cried my eyes out.

Yes, that poor kid, my son, our son, left signs all over the place, but unfortunately, those around him did not know them, or did not recognize them, and thus did not act.

Several weeks ago, another Florida teen walked into another pair of train tracks to his death. (“His death contributes to the roughly two teens in Florida who take their lives each week, and is the second in about a month to do so by train”.)

While most news often connect mental illness to majority of suicides, it is unclear if our latest victim of suicide contagion (defined as the process by which the exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors within one’s family, one’s peer group, or through media reports of suicide can result in an increase in suicidal behaviors and suicide in persons at risk, usually adolescents), had any issues with mental illness in his past (no diagnosis is stated), what we do see though, is that he suffered from severe mental anguish (aka emotional distress) and despair in his last days. (Despair is defined as a profound and existential hopelessness, helplessness, powerlessness and pessimism about life and the future. Despair is a deep discouragement and loss of faith about one’s ability to find meaning, fulfillment, and happiness.)

This article is not meant to argue about mental illness, and its contribution to suicide, it is, however, meant to showcase the fact that most suicide victims DO suffer severe mental anguish with severe reactive depression (aka situational depression) following significant life’s trauma, which in Bryce’s case was extreme poverty and homelessness. These factors confounded the natural anxiety he was already experiencing about leaving his suffering family and going off to college (college jitters), and the helplessness he felt about his inability to “save his family”.

If you are reading this, then you would agree that it was all a bit much for anyone, let alone a young adolescent.

So why does anyone kill themselves?

Image result for bryce gowdy

Why did a young gifted and talented athlete do this? The truth is that ultimately, we may never know his real reasons. However, a psychological postmortem would definitely bring in all the above factors and maybe even unearth more.

What role does resiliency (or the lack thereof) play in suicides? Are suicide victims truly weak? Are they truly “quitters”? Like a friend mentioned on a Facebook comment recently. Is it truly easy to end one’s life?

As one who has struggled in my past with suicidal ideations (SI), I know just how hard, overwhelming and lonely that street is. I know that the world looks at you with tinted lenses when you mention that “S” word. I know all the stigma, shame and silence that accompany it. I know no one wants to talk about it. Ironically though, talking about it is just what this doctor orders. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has the #silencekills and #talksaveslives hashtags for this particular reason. We MUST talk about these issues. We must call its name, SUICIDE, so as to take its sting and strength away, or at least diminish them.

*In teens specifically, adolescence brings unique challenges that often confound life’s experiences, so they have a tendency to succumb easier to SI.

IS PATH WARM is a mnemonic used to list the signs of suicidal behavior, but, I am quick to state that in youth like in our young teen, Bryce, signs might not be as organized or as obvious. Simply acting differently from the norm; becoming more agitated, giving away their stuff, asking and verbalizing about death, losing sleep, becoming more reckless, buying a gun, writing a suicide note, becoming suddenly happier, calmer, or simply saying goodbye, etc, could be signs of suicidal behavior. We as parents and as adults around them must be vigilant. The list below is of factors that lead to suicidality in youth, an excerpt from A Teen’s Life.

● A history of bullying ● Relationship issues like breakups ● Previous suicide attempt* ● LGBTQ+ sexual orientation ● Access to lethal weapons in the home ● Behavior problems like ADHD/ADD ● Poverty ● Socioeconomic/sociocultural oppression ● Institutional racism ● Lack of access to treatment and support for mental illness ● Substance Abuse ● Microaggressions like police brutality and racial profiling ● Social Media ● Lack of Support at home and at school ● Suicide in peers and in the community (suicide contagion) *A prior suicide attempt is the strongest risk factor for a suicide death*

Reading the article, it was quite obvious that he was faced with what appeared to be “unsurmountable” life’s challenges to him. If he had only waited a few more days. If he hadn’t had that train track beckoning. If he only knew the future…if, if, if. But, he had no way of seeing the future, he had no way of knowing the outpouring of love from the world to his family following his ultimate sacrifice. He had no way of knowing how much I cried when I read his story. He had no way of knowing that much like his mother, I also have three sons, and I am a Black woman in America, and I care. For him, at that moment, he felt he had used up all his options, and death was the only choice he had…and then there was a means: a train, and a history of a recent teen death by another train.

A brave child who carried the weight of his family’s troubles on his young shoulders. A brave soul who wanted the best for his family. A boy, a teen who actually reached out, but not quite far enough to save him. A young man seeking answers, but finding death in its stead. We preach reach out all the time, the question then becomes, “what if folks reach out and no one responds?”

Apparent unsurmountable life’s challenges, feelings of entrapment, overwhelmedness, helplessness, and hopelessness…these are the ingredients for suicide.

RIP Bryce, you fought the good fight.

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“Parents, please, know the signs of suicidal behavior. Our kids DO leave signs”

~ Dr. Lulu®

 

 

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12 Myths About Suicide

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Dear Blog,

I know I have been neglectful of you, and even somewhat insensitive of your needs, but I have a great reason, I promise you will be so proud of me! I am nearly done with my second book, and my days and nights have been consumed with trying to put the final touches with editing and such, you know how it is…:)

Today, I would like to share a piece of the book with you!

So, first off, the book is called A Teen’s Life. It looks at the lives of 10 different teenagers from across the globe. They are sharing their stories and struggles with me in a Dear Dr. Lulu format. I respond to their letters as best I can, and then I discuss their situations. It is statistics-heavy, it is sad and deep, but it is real. The stories are all real, but fictitious at the same time. It is essentially about youth suicide in a sense, but it is also about life, teen life. I am hoping that it serves as an eye-opener to the struggles of these youth, and hoping its readers (teens, parents, caregivers, the government, everyone) will come away with a better sense of understanding of the plight of teens and some simple but not necessarily easy solutions to tackle them.

Here is an excerpt from it. This is the portion that deals with myths about suicide. I am really proud of this…enjoy!

Before we embark on what we can all do to prevent suicide in our teens and youth, I think it is only proper to discuss some of the myths about suicide that are floating around. Debunking them will help increase awareness of their falsehood and help fill in some critical knowledge gaps.

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  • Suicide is not a real problem; As we all know, suicide is a real problem in our world today, it is now the second leading cause of death in our youth.
  • Asking or talking to your teen about suicide causes suicidal behavior; Talking about suicide not only increases awareness and puts an end to the shame and stigma, but it also helps teens explore other options and keeps open communication lines.
  • The person/family needs more prayers and more Jesus; while having a sense of belonging to a community or spiritual group is always encouraged and actually protective of suicide it does not in of itself prevent suicide. However many suicidal persons have been known to say that when they reached out for help, they were told they were being dramatic and selfish and needed to pray more.
  • Religious persons do not die by suicide; just this past summer we heard about the young American pastor who was active in the mental health arena, who actually lost his life to suicide, there have been many others including a Nigerian pastor as well.
  • Denial: It does not happen to our ethnicity or family (Blacks, Asians); this thought process as we know is erroneous, and Black kids were recently documented as attempting and dying by suicide at a higher rate than other races.
  • Only a professional can identify a child at risk for suicide; one of the reasons for this book and my work in the suicide arena is to increase awareness by educating everyone about the signs so we are all more empowered.
  • Once someone is suicidal, they will always be suicidal; for the most part, suicidal thoughts and behavior are situational and temporary. Most suicidal persons need to know that their feelings can and do pass once they are equipped with the right tools to deal with their thoughts, and have the necessary support they need.
  • Only people with mental illness are suicidal; When I was going through my suicidal stage, I had never been diagnosed with mental illness, I did, however, experience a lot of life challenges which shook my core and caused me to consider myself a failure and not worthy of life. During the financial crisis of 2008, there was a sharp rise in suicides as a result of the enormous financial losses these people had experienced.
  • Most suicides happen suddenly and without warning; we know that 4 out of 5 teens who attempt suicide leave a sign. The decision to suicide is hardly ever a one-off thing, it is usually a culmination of events over time leading to “overwhelmedness”, an inability to cope, and a perceived or real lack of support.
  • Someone who is suicidal wants to die; in all honesty, most suicidal people do not want to die. They simply want their pain, suffering and despair to end. They often feel like they have exhausted all their options and they also have the means to end their lives at that moment.
  • Someone who is threatening suicide is not going to carry it out; I like to say “do not underestimate the power of determination”. We can never be too sure that someone will not carry out their threat. We must, therefore, take every suicide threat seriously. Part of the reason suicide is on the rise is because these people don’t feel they have any support, they feel all alone.
  • People who die by suicide are selfish and taking the easy way out; because these people have been suffering for a while, majority of them actually feel like suicide not only puts an end to their suffering, it also frees them from being a burden. Many suicide attempt survivors say they feel their lives are a burden to those around them.

All in all, suicide is a complex issue, but suicide prevention must be front and center in everyone’s minds in today’s world. To find out more, you will have to wait a couple more weeks for the actual book!

TTYS

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