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A Small World Story of International Proportions

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Author, Left Behind

In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I am posting another installment of  my YouTube series Talking About Suicide Loss With… The backstory to how I met this interviewee shows how the things we struggle with most are the things that can truly connect us. 

Last month, my good friend and mindful meditation teacher, Brian Shiers, who has been of great support in all my endeavors since I meant him 20 years ago, sent me a posting for Awakin Call, a free ‘weekly global series of deep conversations with inspiring change makers’ on Zoom.  The speaker he thought I’d be interested in was Dr. Nandini Murali, a South Indian journalist and author, who had just released a book, Left Behind, published by Westland Publishers, about facing down the stigma, shame and secrecy around losing her husband to suicide in 2017, rebuilding her life, and the importance of opening the conversation around this taboo topic.

Obviously her story and her push to get people talking piqued my interest, given my continued work on The Silent Goldens documentary, but her name also rang a bell.  Last September after I gave an interview to an Egyptian website, Masarawy,  for Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, the reporter asked if I knew anyone internationally that could also participate.  I didn’t, but contacted author Carla Fine, who I befriended a number of years ago at a conference, who supplied the contact information for – you guessed it – Nandini Murali.  

Carla’s book, No Time To Say Goodbye, was written in 1999 when she was unable to find any books to help with surviving the loss to suicide of her husband.  Nandini faced the same problem finding resourced in India, but found Carla’s book and reached out to her, forging a quick and close friendship.

Her talk was very powerful and her ability to process the tragedy and move through it very purposefully and thoughtfully was incredibly moving for me, especially since it’s only been four years since her loss. She also spoke about wanting to collaborate with other loss survivors in spreading our mutual message, so I immediately wrote to introduce myself and let Carla know of the coincidence.

A few days later the three of us were on a Zoom call, and a few days after that Nandini and I re-Zoomed to do her interview, which I am proud to post for Mental Health Awareness Month.  Carla’s interview was one of my first episodes.  

As I read Nandini’s book I find myself nodding along to her pain, but so impressed with her resilience.  A must read for anyone dealing with suicide grief and a great read for those mired in any type of grief.

Nandini has also established SPEAK – Suicide Prevention Postvention Education Awareness Knowledge – an initiative of MS Chellamuthu Trust and Research Foundation, Madurai, which fosters safe and supportive spaces to change conversations around suicide and promote mental health.  

Road Trip 1: A Tiny Adventure

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Driving a 2021 model new car after spending two decades in my old one has been a trip in itself.  Luckily I’d been at the wheel of rentals over the years and a passenger in autos more modern than mine so the transition wasn’t exactly like in the movies where someone wakes up after being frozen in time and the world has changed, but there is a lot to get used to.

Over the years my dearly departed Rav4 had developed some quirks that I got completely used to.  All the audio connections except for radio quit working probably over 5 years ago.  The lighter plug burned out even before the music did, so charging in the car was not an option and had to ration my GPS use if going far.  Sometime last year the spring in the back passenger door close/locking mechanism suddenly fell out.  I bought a ratchet strap to keep it closed until I could get it fixed then, upon learning it would cost at least $200 if they could find a used part, I chose to stay with the ratchet strap. 

When I started driving the new car, it honestly took me a few days to remember I could once again open the back doors to stash stuff in the back seat.  Being able to listen to my choice of music off my phone is a fabulous thing, as is the coordination that app does with my map app so I know where I’m going while I’m singing. And since I plug it right into the USB port of my dashboard (!!!), I don’t worry about running out of battery and can go right to playing my games once I’m at my destination.  

I’m learning about the features slowly so as not to overwhelm myself, but have the basics down, so I took it on the road to stretch its wheels and get me to my pre-planned Tiny House getaway.

Sometime over the last few years, I’ve formed a dream of living in a tiny house.  One thought is that a good friend will buy a house with a huge plot of land that they will let me build it on, or to have a plot of land and develop a small community of tiny houses.  During the pandemic, when my pet and housesitting business evaporated and I was looking to leave the situation I was stuck in when lockdown was called, I looked for furnished apartments, guest houses, and tiny houses for rent.  Lo and behold, I discovered tinyhouseblock.com – a community of tiny houses in a resort area of the mountains east of San Diego.   They have long and short term rentals or you can build on their land by renting a space, similar to an RV park, so I figured I’d do a test run and make sure I actually do like the idea before I dream up my whole future in one.

I do like it.  I like it a lot. My entire adulthood, no matter how much space I’ve had to myself in small apartments or large homes, I always pick one spot on a couch or bed (whatever is facing the tv) and use that as my spot for as long as I’m there, so I’m good with a small space.  Even though the one I’m in is smaller than a hotel room, there is something about it being a freestanding building, with a bit of space between your neighbors.  Long-term residents decorate around their space and its a homey feel.  Pets are allowed and there are lots of very well behaved dogs.  Inside there is storage under the bed, and lots of drawers in the kitchen area so I easily put everything away.  Each house is different in layout and the rentals have themed decor.

The people that work here, Nick and Natalie, have been incredibly nice and have given me a lot of information about the Tiny House Block itself, as well as, tiny houses in general.  And they gave me a gift certificate to the restaurant that is on the property where I had the most delicious French onion soup I’ve ever had – and I’ve had a lot.

Over all the place feels like summer camp, both for the fact that it’s out in a nature area and how nice and interesting people can be.  I’ve had at least one fairly long conversation a day with various people and all say how like-minded people (like to travel, like nature, minimalist, interested in others) gravitate to this community.

Best of all, alone in the woods, I am getting stuff done on my project, and my story will be featured in the May Tiny House Block newsletter!

When In Need, I Had A Friend Indeed

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The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions and life lessons.  When terrible things happen, it often takes time to see the silver lining that often comes out of it.  This time the turnaround was very quick. The good doesn’t make us wish the terrible thing didn’t happen, but it opens up our lives in new ways.  This is my story.

On April 2, I was preparing to write a blog about all the change in the air with Spring renewal, the light-at-the-end-of-the-COVID-tunnel (I’m vaccinated!), and significant life shifts for some of my closest friends, including one moving away from the house that has been my second home and refuge for the last eight years. It’s all good change, but it made me look at that chunk of my life and all that had transpired, so saying goodbye to the space was bittersweet.

Since professional movers were involved, my only job was to pick up their dog and bring her to my house while the movers did their thing.  Later in the day while the dog was napping, I went out to do a couple of errands and radical change hit me – literally.  A man chose to run a red light as I was turning left, and my beloved Rav4 was mortally wounded in the ensuing crash.  No person was hurt, but my 20-year-old, 207,078 mile Mystic Teal Mica baby that I have loved since I first drove it off the lot brand new on July 3, 2000, that took me and my dog Riggs on so many adventures, and that became part of my identity was essentially gone.

It was my perfect car for many reasons and in my perfect world, I would have kept it forever despite it’s age, miles, and knowing (but not admitting) that driving long distances in it wasn’t realistic anymore. Still, my first instinct was to get an appraisal to see about fixing it, which was about 7x what the Blue Book value said it was worth before the crash.  My mind was numb as I tried digesting that number while still processing the magnitude of it all. As easy-going as I like to believe I am, I was not ready for this, I did not want this, and my emotional attachment to my faithful companion had put me in a state of grief.

I didn’t tell my friend what happened until she was ready to come get the dog since she was in her own version of hell, but when she arrived less than 30 minutes after we spoke, she did something that opened up my eyes and my future. This essay is a tribute to my friend and our long-lasting, ever-evolving friendship. In order to not completely embarrass her, I’m using the code name Brigid.  Brigid is a Celtic ‘Triple’ Goddess of healing and fertility, passion and poetry, and of life and death.  All these attributes reflect her impact on my life.

We met in 1990  at the taping of Sinead O’Connor and The Church for MTV’s Unplugged during its first season of production.  We started talking and never stopped. We both worked at MTV and moved into our dream jobs down the hall from each other a week apart.  We both lived in the East Village.  It was instant connection and we’ve helped each other through the ups and downs of life, work, love and heartbreak.  That kind of friend.  

Brigid even helped me hobble around NYC when I broke my ankle skydiving and co-opted a colleague to decorate my cast.  And, coincidentally (?), it was touring her groovy new house in LA last month when I most recently sprained my ankle.  And she and her husband took me to the emergency room.  That kind of friend. 

Our paths diverged when I left MTV after a few years and she stayed, which began a career that has seen her rise to great heights in the industry, using her natural creativity and talents, along with being an incredibly hard and devoted worker.   I’ve long admired her career and know now that along with all those attributes, it is her diplomatic way with people and true ability to see two sides to every issue that separates her from the pack, and is a skill set I lack (or that devolved over my time in production).  I am constantly in awe of her abilities in this area, especially knowing the craziness she has to deal with.

As we each threw our lives into our work and developed other relationships, we didn’t hang out as much, but I always ran to her with my deepest, darkest problems and was always there to deal with whatever she wanted to share with me. When I moved to LA, Brigid remained in NY, and we didn’t talk regularly, but no matter how much time  passed, the conversations just picked up as if we’d seen each other an hour ago.  

When she and her family finally came west 9 years ago, so did the friendship.  Her executive position at a network kept her busy, but my freelance lifestyle allowed me the time to pick up her daughter from school for a few years and stick around til dad got home from his teaching job.  I saw more of them than her, but she was very generous in treating me like part of the family for fun outings or occasions, and I was happy to be of service.  I haven’t been needed in a couple of years since the daughter hit high school and then the pandemic halted the rest of normal life, but we do see each other on Zoom every once in a while, and more recently at some outdoor get-togethers with a small friend bubble.  

Brigid was well aware of my deep attachment to my car and listened patiently while I explained that my early thinking was wrapping around the cost to fix it or looking for another used 2000 Rav4 with less mileage.  Then, to my complete surprise, she flat out said she wanted to buy me a car – or fix mine – whatever I decided.  I was actually totally speechless – a confused, disbelieving, not understanding silence.  And I started crying.  It was such a generous, unbelievably kind offer, and difficult to comprehend that someone actually just made it to me, solving a problem I was still trying to pretend didn’t really happen.

Aside from my denial about the Rav needing to go, asking for help and accepting help, especially when it comes to finances, is an extremely complex and loaded problem for me rooted deep in self-esteem issues.  I knew in the worst case scenario I could turn to Brigid for a loan, but never would have dreamed of her – or anyone – simply giving me such a life-changing gift.

She explained that this was a tangible way she could show gratitude for the help I’d given her and her family since thy moved to LA, something I felt she’s always been clear about.  Apparently my giving my time when needed gave her the peace-of-mind that allowed her to be fully invested in her job, which, in turn, has given her the resources to be able to help me in this way.  This explanation helped me understand, and believe, the purity of her offer,  and she is literally the only friend I would even think about accepting this significant a gift from because of how we’ve backed each other up in ways big and small. 

Brigid’s other words that stuck out to me were that she wanted to see me in something “safe” and it was “for what comes next.”  After she left, I began to realize that I was trapped from my wanderlust ways by my car.  It had no significant problems, but any thoughts of going too far outside LA involved wondering what I’d do about transportation.  She was offering me back both my daily freedom to get around and the ability to hit the bigger picture road ahead.  It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

We made a plan to go to CarMax just to see what was out there.  Since I didn’t ever want to get rid of the Rav, I hadn’t paid attention to cars in years and my interests run to something cute and easy to drive vs. caring about all the bells and whistles, so the idea of test driving a bunch of cars on various lots wasn’t very exciting.  

When I called my dad to let him know what happened to the Rav, about Brigid’s offer, and get advice on buying a used car, I was stunned again when he said that he’d been concerned about me in my car for a few years and was so touched by Brigid’s generosity, that he and my step-mother instantly said that they would be happy to add on to whatever she was planning on helping with to put me in a new vehicle that I could keep for another 20 years!  And I felt like I won the lottery!  Not just in getting a new Nissan Kicks (which I do love a lot!), but in having such generous, caring people in my life.  I really didn’t know people were so worried about me in the Rav.

I’ve heard it can be a kindness to let others do for you.  It’s not the way I usually roll and I can’t say I’m completely comfortable with such a massive, incredible gift from either my friend or my parents, but Brigid opened my eyes a little better to the impact I make in others’ lives through my friendship, and that being open to receiving from those who want to give back to me is part of that.  

I am still stunned at the swift turn of events and how this story played out.  I am forever grateful to Brigid, my father, and step-mother for your help and this awesome, wonderful, cute, fun car!  Long may we ride together!!!

A Birthday Gift for Mom

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This Monday, March 15, was my mother’s birthday.  Unlike January 15, the anniversary of her death, it’s a milestone date I’ve never been sure what to do with. Rituals are typically built up around death dates.  In Judaism, there is a prayer and special candle to light.  Over the years I’ve spent the day looking at old letters from her, going through photos, writing updates about my life in letters that will never be sent to her, or listening to the recording of her memorial service.  It’s a day where melancholy feels natural.

Birthdays, however, have that celebratory edge.  I know people often commemorate the lives well-lived of loved ones who have passed, using those dates to share happy memories.  But because my mother died by suicide, her traumatic, unexpected and premature passing tends to overwhelm anything else about her life,  and knowing how the story ends, the idea of celebrating always comes with a cloud over it.  

Since I began work on The Silent Goldens,  my ultimate tribute to her life and legacy in opening up conversations fro help others touched by suicide, I have learned that the suicide will always be part of her story, but before that her life was well-lived and deserves to be celebrated.  By expanding my idea of what “celebrating” is, I realized that anything I do related to my mission of awareness of loss survivor issues celebrates her.  It doesn’t have to be balloons and a cake.

For this year’s birthday, I have posted the first Talking About Suicide Loss With episode of 2021 on YouTube featuring Dorothy Goulah-Pabst, who lost her mother to suicide in 1972. 

I first met Dorothy when I was her interview subject for her Masters thesis, Suicide Loss Survivors: Navigating Social Stigma, and I was thrilled when she agreed to participate in my project.  Dorothy’s experience really shows how awful the stigma around suicide can be for the survivors and how speaking after decades of silence can be completely life changing.

Along with earning her MA in Sociology from Cal State Northridge in December 2020, Dorothy has become a facilitator with the Los Angeles Area SOLACE suicide loss survivors drop-in support group.  Info at solace4sas@gmail.com.

Check out her segment here.

Representing Resilience

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Tommy Raskin | 1995-2020

Besides COVID-19, there is one problem that crosses all cultures, religions, ethnicities, class status, political ideologies and every other factor that divides us without mercy – suicide.  And because it is still a much stigmatized issue in all these same groups, the people left behind often keep their grief to themselves, staying silent about its cause.  Yet it is an equalizer among those who have experienced it, giving them entree into “the club nobody wants to belong to” and instant connection with the only other people who “get it.”

Since my mission is to be a voice creating awareness of and advocating for those left behind, for the above reason, I have purposely refrained from posting or discussing politics on social media. Given the high-level of tension between “sides” these days, my goal is to reach all who have been affected and not alienate anyone because our political views are different.

This week Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) will be leading the impeachment managers in the Senate trial.  He, therefore, will be front and center in the news and a prime target of attacks from those who are against this process.  But while he does his work and takes the hits, it should be noted that he will also be a man who is grieving the very recent suicide of his son, Tommy, and that’s why I am writing about him.  

As a survivor of my mother’s 1985 suicide, I’m hyperaware when it is mentioned on tv or in the movies or news.  I read about this New Year’s Eve tragedy as soon as the news came out and found the statement the family put out remarkable and beautiful.  

Raskin Statement on the Remarkable Life of Tommy Raskin

Along with sharing how much Tommy lived, laughed, loved and was loved, they shared Tommy’s own words from the note he left stating “My illness won today.”  I found that thought incredibly poignant. Though I am grateful to never have been actively suicidal, I have been down that dark hole of helplessly watching the depression take over, regardless of any rational pep-talks to myself.   And it rarely helps in the moment to know I’ve made it through before.

By being open about Tommy as a whole person, the Raskin family has done a great service, for which I thank them.  Their statement shows that people aren’t all or nothing.  Suicidal people aren’t necessarily sitting in a corner looking depressed and being sad.  Tommy obviously was very productive and had interests, friends and a bright future.  But his brain had a disease.  Just like other lethal diseases, the symptoms don’t always show.  Many times, the diseases can be treated but sometimes it festers, grows and eventually kills.

I was surprised to see Representative Raskin speaking in Congress when the counting of the electoral votes began on January 6, but impressed at his commitment to show up less than a week after his son’s death.  Then came the insurrection.  As it became clear the type of danger lawmakers were in, I couldn’t help think how traumatic the entire situation was for all involved, but especially for him on the heels of such recent emotional devastation.  I thought about his family too, and the fear and uncertainty they faced watching this in their fresh grief, unable to imagine myself coping.

When he was discussing the Articles of Impeachment in the aftermath, I learned that Tommy’s funeral had been on January 5 and that his younger daughter and older daughter’s husband were with him in his office that day, also in danger and hiding from the rioters.  Again, I was unable to imagine myself coping in any of their shoes – on that day or in the immediate aftermath.

Yet he was there, ready to lead the way to do what he thought needed to be done, getting back to work and helping lead the impeachment process,  declaring “I’m not going to lose my son at the end of 2020 and my country and my republic in 2021.”  To witness such resilience and resolve after a suicide is extraordinary and whether you agree in his politics or not, he is an outstanding example of how power and purpose can arise out of the darkest moments in our lives.

Note:  I meant to post this before the trial started but had some technical issues.  Now I am posting just after Rep. Raskin spoke to the Senate – and all of America – about his and his daughter’s experience.  I am in tears.  And have so much respect for the human being able  to press in service to his country.  When all else is stripped away, we are all just people with pain trying our best to survive.  RIP Tommy and my deepest condolences to the entire Raskin family.

So Ya Think ’21 Is Gonna Be a Good Year?

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Happy 2021!  We made it.  Now what?  

I spent much of December trying to wrap up my year in writing, but never found a way to really sum it up – at least not with words or sentiments that everyone else hasn’t said to themselves a million times.

Of the many things learned, what fascinated me was who turned out to be “essential” in our society. It wasn’t me.  I don’t say that to denigrate myself or what I do contribute to the world, but I just wasn’t one of those people that needed to be out and about to keep my city, county, state or country going.  

I am proud of some notable things I did, mostly the speech and interviews I did on behalf of The Silent Goldens documentary project (links below).  I found purpose in service to those who needed my help in various ways, especially taking care of pets and speaking with other survivors of suicide loss.  I feel lucky to have not contracted or lost anyone to COVID, but I am overwhelmed by the numbers and feel deeply for those who have.  I aim saddened by the division and delusion in our nation and scared for our future, yet relieved that the coming chaos likely won’t be led from the top.  I am disappointed that I didn’t use the time given us in 2020 more productively or creatively, yet I am grateful I had time just to “be” without the consistent pressure from the outside world.

Though nothing tangible changed from 11:59 December 31 to 12:01 January 1, except the clock and the calendar, I do feel a sense of “getting back to work” in me, which I’ve been building up to over the holiday season.  My goal is to have a finished – or a solid rough version – of my film done by the end of July when I will be presenting a workshop at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Long Term Survivors of Suicide Loss Summit and my 2021 resolutions are all in service to that deadline.

The biggest resolution is to ask for the help I need from the people I need it from to do this.  Not more hinting or hoping.  Just doing it.

My wish for all of you is good health, much happiness and better times this year!
May your lessons of 2020 provide you with a solid way forward in 2021!

  Conference Presentation   

  USC Verdugo Hills Hospital Suicide Prevention Conference September26, 2020 

Note: I start 5 minutes in, after opening remarks.

  Interviews

  Wife of the Party Podcast with LeeAnn Kreischer  October 22, 2020

  CurrentTime TV   Segment starts at 35:30, Voice of America Intl (Russian), September 9, 2020

  Masarawy  Egypt, September 29,2020.

  ShoutoutLA   August 24, 2020

  Published

  Op-ed for CNN.comSeptember 28, 2019

Love Hurts

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I am one of those people that feels more connected to animals than to humans.  I can easily give love to and accept love from them.  My own two dogs were the focus of my affection for the time I had them.  Now that I’m dog sitting for a living, I’ve truly fallen in love with them all and their unique selves, which has brought me much joy and sadness. 

Smokey

My first love was Smokey, a Cairn Terrier that my family adopted just before I turned six. He was the family dog, but I became very attached.  Smokey lived until he was 18, four years past my mother’s death.  When my father remarried and I moved out of the house I took him with me.  When I moved to NYC I took him with me.  His last year of life was spent in Memphis with my sister when my two jobs kept me from giving him the care he needed.  I flew home when it was clear we needed to say goodbye and it broke my heart.

I thought I would never get a dog again because of the pain of the eventual loss but when a friend told me she found the dog for me, something made me go meet him and there was my Riggs – the love of my adult life.  We had 10 years together, made many dog friends, and had lots of adventures.  He was with me as my mental health declined and it was his diagnosis of cancer that broke me.  Riggs stayed with me as I recovered until cancer finally took him a year later in 2016 and my heart broke again.

Riggs

Since his death, what began as dog-sitting for his friends who he stayed with when I traveled for work, to an ever-growing business pet and house sitting, giving me time to work on my documentary.  Initially I loved being around all these sweet animals without the deep emotional investment, but quickly I started falling in love.  With each and every one of them.  I also developed first an appreciation and then came to love cats.  I will never understand their gift-giving ways, but they’re pretty cool.

Unfortunately, since this time last year, more of those animals than I want to count have gone off to the Rainbow Bridge.  Some were clients, some were pets of friends and relatives and some I wasn’t as close to, but I got to know from the various neighborhoods I frequent with my job.  And the sadness has been crushing.  

Zoey

The streak started when I was with my friend Cheryl when she put Zoey down.  I had been helping her for a year as Zoe’s back legs began failing.  We did the deed at her house with the vet who helped me with Riggs.  It is so much better that way, but the 30 minutes from when she called to say she was on her way to her arrival felt endless.  I sobbed for hours.

And the hits just kept on coming as I heard about the dogs Woody, Prince, Lily, Henri and Donner, and the cats Josefina, Lilly, Jackson and Gui.  Coyotes were involved in the last two so there’s some trauma there as well.  In the last few weeks one set of cousins recently lost their longtime cat Willow, and another set lost their lovely greyhound rescue Sunny.  All of these I heard about after the fact and I cried and mourned for them all.

Priscilla

One that hit me super hard was in July, when the dog-sitter’s nightmare came true. Priscilla, a 140-pound mastiff stopped eating two days into my stay with her, then became lethargic and disinterested in even being petted.  I was in full communication with the mom and after a day of monitoring the situation, we decided I should take her to the vet.  That is it’s own story, but 45 minutes after I got her there, I got a call saying she needs to be in the hospital as her lungs were filled with fluid.  Tests revealed an aggressive cancer and they didn’t believe she’d make it through the night.  The family rushed home (they were a 6 hour drive away) and the vet had stabilized her enough so they could bring her home and back to her spot on the couch.  The next day, the same vet who helped me with Riggs helped Priscilla off to the Rainbow Bridge.  This woman is an angel walking on earth – I hadn’t told them about her, they just found her.

The family has two other dogs, so I had stayed with them until late in the evening and then went home and to bed.  I stayed there three days.  It was traumatic and too sad.  For the dog, for the family and for me.  She was such a sweet girl.  But allowing myself to just be and feel the sadness helped me get up on day 4.  

Lacey

A few weeks ago an old friend and colleague in Florida, Louise, called me to tell me she was putting her  dog, Lacey, down.  She wanted to let me know because I dragged her to a shelter when I was on a project down there to check out a lost dog I had found and turned in.  That dog was picked up by the owner but she saw another dog that was in rough shape and fell in love.  They were together for 14 years and she wanted to thank me for bringing them together and she thinks of me all the time because of the dog.  It was one of the sweetest calls I’ve ever gotten and it has renewed our communication.

Louise called on a Monday, though, and she had a vet coming to her house on Friday.  So my pain was nothing compared to hers, but I was “in it”, feeling for that whole time and the weekend after.

Sadness is just sad.  And I’m sadly getting used to it.  But I believe in the Rainbow Bridge and I feel my animal’s spirits around me much more than I do with people.  And picturing them out of pain, running and playing while they wait for us makes me happy.

There is no grand message here, just that we hurt so much because we love so much.  And all the joy is worth the pain.  I guess.

 

 

 

Successful September Synopsis

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Ruth speaking at conference on 09.26

In no specific order, the Jewish High Holy Days, Suicide Prevention Month and my birthday have wrapped up.  That means September is over.  I’m a little physically tired, but mentally energized and excited to build on the momentum behind the project created during a whirlwind few weeks.

Last Saturday was my conference-speaking debut at USC Verdugo Hills.  I gave a 50-minute presentation, which included 10 minutes worth of new conversation clips from the film.  Over 250 people were registered and the audience was made up largely of mental health professionals and students.  Thanks to some very good, honest, and helpful friends who let me practice on them, I was actually pretty calm by the time things started, although since I could only see the host and the two other speakers, it was far less intimidating than the originally scheduled in-person conference would have been!

I barely remember doing it now, haven’t been beating myself up over anything I did or did not say, and  got lovely feedback all around – whatever actually happened – so I share the link.  I am the first speaker after the doctor’s welcome – it starts 5 minutes in.     Meeting Recording

After the talks, Zoom room meetings were open for Q&A sessions.  My sister surprised me by being there, but it was a great opportunity to both explain how our experiences with the silence differed than was shown in the clips.  A few conference-goers shared their own stories of silence and one woman said she was inspired now, decades down the line, to speak to her siblings about her family’s tragedy.  Exactly why I’m doing this.

Talk back after performance of “Bernie.” 09.09

Every Wednesday night in September I joined the cast and crew of A Light In Dark Places to speak in their Q&A sessions live after each week’s original short play related to suicide and hope.  I show up as a volunteer rep for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, but it’s my personal chance to feel super Hollywood.  Each play is being left up for a month so you can check them out.

A wonderful surprise opportunity arrived in my inbox in the middle of the month with an interview request from a Voice of America reporter for a Skype interview.  I answered the call and you can see the result here if you jump forward to 35:30.  CurrentTime TV

Last week I turned in a written interview to an Egyptian site about surviving suicide loss and the film as well.  I’ll share that when it is posted.  Suicide is a worldwide problem and I can’t believe my wildest dream of making a worldwide impact with my message has already begun!

Finally, I added two segments to my Talking About Suicide Loss With… YouTube Series.  Both writer David Felton and his daughter, producer/director Caitlin, were colleagues when I worked at MTV.  They sadly lost Caitlin’s daughter, Charlotte, at age 15 in 2016.  They were open from the start and I was fascinated to hear how that affected their grieving process.  Here are the links for my blog about and the segments with David and Caitlin.

Now let’s see what October brings!!!!!

Talking About Suicide Loss with David and Caitlin Felton

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Today is Suicide Prevention Day and my YouTube short interview series, Talking About Suicide Loss With…, is back from our covid hiatus.   This series, along with The Silent Goldens documentary in production, is my effort to make the issues suicide loss survivors face part of the conversation that is, thankfully, growing nationwide about mental health.  Conversations bring healing.  Awareness brings help. Help brings hope.  

For this occasion I am posting two segments, David Felton and his daughter, Caitlin, who I had the privilege of working with at MTV in the early 1990s.  David was a writer and Caitlin was a producer in the promo department when we all helped bring the monumental Rolling Stone 25: The MTV Special – a retrospective of the magazine’s first 25 years – to the small screen.  And, yes, since then they have celebrated their 50th.

Tragedy struck in January 2016 when Caitlin’s daughter Charlotte took her own life.  I learned about it from mutual friends just as I was immersing myself in the suicide world and focusing on my own grief.  I was so impressed when I learned Caitlin, David, and their whole family where being open about Charlotte’s death.  

Less than three months after I saw David perform in a stage show telling stories with two other former MTV “old-timers” about working there in the very early, very innovative days.  He spoke about his loss and I was so moved by his words and impressed by his grace and ability to keep his composure that when I started the series, they both were at the top of my list to interview.  Since they didn’t have any silence to break, they could  speak to how that helped them each deal with their loss and healing from the moment it happened.  This past February – just before corona hit – I was able to connect with them in NY and am very grateful to them for sharing their stories. 

David won a Pulitzer Prize as part of the LA Times staff covering the Watts Riots before joining the staff of Rolling Stone magazine where he and fellow journalist David Dalton won a National Magazine Award in 1971 for their five part series on Charles Manson and his “family.”  He also edited Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. In 1981, David got sober, gave up journalism and did some comedy writing before landing at MTV where he helped develop Beavis and Butthead and rose to Senior Vice President.  He is the author and editor of Mindfuckers: A Source Book on the Rise of Acid Fascism in America.

David’s interview:  https://youtu.be/WzMas1ACYlA

Caitlin began her career producing and directing promos and show opens at MTV Networks, winning numerous BDA, ACE & Telly Awards for her visual design and storytelling.  She became a sought-after commercial director and created ad campaigns for clients including Crayola, Subway and Medicare and filmed her own short documentary, Brick by Brick, about the creation of a brick cooperative the empowered Rwanda women to supply building materials for an education center.  Caitlin co-founded Detox Films with her husband, Barney, where she works as the Director/Creative Director.  

Caitlin’s interview:  https://youtu.be/P0qVioimeAc