We Still Need to Talk about Chester Bennington

By which I mean: we need to talk about how we talk about suicide.

N.B., my thanks to Anna Shinoda in particular for these words, which pushed me to finally put my own tangential assertions out there, alongside hers: “Words matter. When we say “died by suicide” instead of “committed suicide” we focus on the illness rather than blaming the survivors or the deceased. The answer to “why did someone die by suicide?” is always “mental illness.” That is the reason. And if we can start there, we can move forward, not only to prevent more suicides but to help more people find mental health.”

With that, I agree wholeheartedly.

In echoing and adding to: I’ve long held the belief, and now do so publicly:

Mental illness is a chronic disease with a high mortality rate.

To call it anything less only adds to the problem.

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Memorial Mural by Jonas Never (Los Angeles)

 

It’s been just over two months since his death, and we need to talk about Chester Bennington.

And when I say We need to talk about Chester Bennington, what I mean is that we need to talk about how we talk about and conceptualise suicide. And we’ve been far, far more than two months overdue for this chat.

I start with Chester Bennington, though, because his loss was two things in particular. One, it was a loss close to me, even at the distance that celebrity brings with it — Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory was among the first albums I ever bought, Linkin Park was my first concert (and I don’t know how many times I’ve seen them live because I’ve lost count), Linkin Park has carried me through the ups and downs and in-betweens of the past 17 years of my life, and I’ve been and forever will be grateful for that, so losing Chester felt like losing a friend who understood me better than most, a poet who, alongside his fellow artists, spoke to and often calmed my soul. It was the loss of something deep and primordial in what he created, and the silencing of his part of a symphony that will never be the same.

Two, though: the loss of Chester Bennington represents the ways in which we’re keen, as a society, to face the issue of suicide only when it hits home, or it hits huge — it’s a personal loss, or a loss so public, on such a grand scale that again, only celebrity can really bring. I’m mostly interested, just now, in that second instance. Why?

Because that second instance provides distance, and anonymity, to say and respond in ways one wouldn’t dare up-close. The criticism, the judgement, the ill-informed opinions and sometimes just the flat out cruelty seems to seep into the limelight; so, too, does well-meaning offers of a friendly ear or a cup of tea, or the insistence that someone would be okay if they only talked to someone and told them of their suffering, and the offer of that is the natural response in kind: but I say well-meaning quite intentionally. Because it’s a beautiful sentiment.

But too often it’s backed by a misunderstanding that, while often not outright offensive, can be similarly harmful.

So we need to talk about Chester Bennington as another reminder of the reality of suicidal ideation, its insidiousness, its connected afflictions (in brief), and what it looks like — which is rarely what people expect it to. But more than this:

We need to talk about Chester Bennington as another reminder of the reality of suicidal ideation, and that we’re not doing anything effective to stop it.

Part of that, I’d hazard a guess, is because we don’t understand it. Beyond the stigma (which in itself hinders the ability and inclination to learn), we as a society have these preconceived notions of what we’re dealing with, and those notions are what we use to figure out how to respond. It’s how we’re taught to learn and problem solve, and there’s no shame in going there first.

The problem lies in the fact that we keep going there, stopping there, and pretending the problem is solved, when in fact the problem’s getting worse.

And after watching so many reactions to this celebrity death after so many, too many deaths everywhere, from all walks of life, I’m going to go ahead and say it: those notions, at large?

Are wrong.

((  Read More on Medium ))

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This is not a poem

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Flattered and humbled to be considered a “Dangerous Woman”.

There is a song—

and a song is just a poem that doesn’t quite do its job set to a tune so that it catches, so that it snags and tears and leaves a jagged footprint and niggles in your periphery; a

song is just a poem that doesn’t quite make the cut because a poem that does its job is a poem that sings all by itself, that dances a cadence without teaching the steps and holds heart in hand so that the rhythm leaps to within and is swallowed whole in breathless awe and a poem should be the play of a pulse put to words, should split clean and leave the wound thin

enough

to bleed slow so that the line’s not jagged but the

seeping never quite gets to stop

and so it stays;

but there’s a song on a record that spins monochrome distortion and claims that it tells the story of playing the un-self and what things made for other people look like when they’re tossed aside a left to rot—

but there is

A Song.

 

And that particular failed poem drones on about how the armour you wear and the shield you bear and all that you live by and die; that effervescent sheen is cast against the fray to show everyone else that you’re strong. To prove

 

You

Are

Here.

 

Which is important, I’m told. Is scandalous.

 

Not dangerous.

 

And yet:

((  Continue Reading at The Dangerous Woman Project  ))

The Opposite of Indifference

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I’m not going to pretend that I “woke up” this morning to the unbraced-for shock of the U.S. Presidential Election’s outcome. I got sick when the numbers started coming in last night. I went to sleep—or tried to—when things were fairly well “called”. I got up approximately 3 hours later for work, and the outcome had not changed.

Except, I think that maybe I changed.

Because when I went to bed, I was terrified. I was numb. I was heartsick. I was viscerally ill. This election wasn’t just about me and the things I need to get by that would be threatened at best, and demolished at worst under the campaign promises of a Republican presidency; this was about morals, and dignity, and people, most of all—close to me, dear to me, far from me, unknown to me—who were being outcast and degraded and whose lives were being placed in jeopardy, in one way or another.

And while I’m still in the midst of feeling all those things—and quite strongly, at that—I woke with a sense of my convictions and the things that drive me still in tact; and I realized instantaneously, and with no small amount of relief, that those things had not been diminished by the outcome of an election.

In fact, they’d been amplified.

((  Read More on Medium  ))

Back-To School Supply List: 10 Reminders for Starting a New Academic Year with a Mental Health Condition

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Credit: Thinkstock Images

New folders. New laptop. New dorm room. New landlord.

Whether you’re starting a new school year in middle school, high school, college or graduate school: as routine and predictable as the change can be on paper, it’s almost never that easy in reality.

It can be even more complicated and challenging, though, when you’re facing it with a mental health condition.

And while it’s just as difficult to try to make that aspect of things routine or predictable on paper: nevertheless, here is a handy back-to-school supply list of 10 reminders to keep at hand as a starting point — for students, as a reminder throughout the change process; for parents, as a view into the challenges your child might face to help you better support them; and for teachers and professors, to better understand the needs of your students so you can aid them in growing as learners and as people, and so you can be sensitive to their specific needs in helping them find the best resources to access and chart their most fruitful paths forward.

Way back when, my first counseling professor always spoke about experiences, encounters, practicum work and theories in books in terms of “tools for your toolbox,” things to learn and then pull out as the situation required. In that spirit, I hope these can be something like Post-Its in your backpack: little brightly-colored tidbits that can help to ground you if you struggle, help foster understanding if you love or work with someone who struggles, and ultimately remind you: you’re not alone.

((  Read More at The Mighty  ))

A Day That Will Live In Brexit-famy

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As an American studying in Scotland, the scene plays out like some of the worst nightmares I’ve had about November: fear-mongering, xenophobia, a “return” to a time when things were “right” and “great”—but when “right” meant even less equal, and “great” was characterized by imperialistic ideas of worth and value, by laws legitimizing hate. Separation and terror and divisiveness has won the day, oh dear god—

Wait, no. Different nightmare.

No, the nightmare here is the Brexit vote to leave the EU that eerily trumpets (pun unintended, but apt) the same troubling values that plague my American nightmare, and in so doing, underscores an even darker reality: this is not a scourge that knows national boundaries. This is a global phenomenon, this politicization of hate, hearkening back to the 1980s, 1960s, 1930s, and countless times before—this human project of lessening ourselves by rejecting what can be learned in collaboration, what can be grown in communion: what can be gleaned from the simple act of compassion.

I was in Glasgow the day of the vote, and I found a Post-it left on a public map. It read:

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Immigration enriches Scotland + the UK. VOTE REMAIN.

If you know my angle on these sorts of things at all: my process-oriented perspective is in full swing in responding to this state of affairs, and this message was a poignantly concise statement of the truth I hold to. The idea of creative contrast is at the heart of meaning making in such a worldview, and there can be no contrast if we eschew diversity. We cannot be enriched, there is such diminished potential for that broadening of self in isolation that it’s almost made insignificant. It cannot yield novelty.

Moreover, there can be no creativity if we trade compassion and camaraderie for hate. The very concepts we define ourselves by as humans—our capacity to make and create and innovate—are cut at the knees.

((  Read More at State of Formation  ))

(-ish)(-less)(-ness)(-loathing): The Self/Soul and The Insidiousness of Mass Violence

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I remember, over a decade ago, the first time I encountered the Wiccan Rede.

Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, An it harm none do what ye will

I thought that made sense; felt, somehow, that for all the differences between religions, spiritualities, and worldviews of various natures, that this was the key, the thrust behind the cross-contextual, multinational affirmation of the Golden Rule. Whatever you do, whatever you thrive upon: what does it matter, so long as no one is harmed by it? And if we treat one another with a sense of non-violent aversion to harm, then goodness gracious: we’re bound to cultivate some care in the process.

Right?

In the wake Orlando, I read the advice of that Rede with new inflections. I see the gold of that Rule cast, lit by the angle of a different light.

Harming none means none. No one. No harm.

Even to one’s self.

Doing unto others what you would have them do unto you requires that one knows what they’d want, what they might need. So often, in so many contexts and from so many sources, religious and otherwise: we are taught to accept others, receive others—but we struggle even, with this. And do we struggle, in part, because we do not remember that, axiomatically, in order to fulfil the Golden Rule—to do unto others as we would have then do unto us—we must first know for ourselves how we’re meant to be treated; how we feel we deserve to be treated at the very primary point of contact, the initial model of how the self is valued and engaged?

For how else do we learn how to act, how else do we know how we want to be treated, aside from the ways in which we treat ourselves?

We circulate the message of love and goodness and care as the necessary response in times like these. This is necessary, this is honourable, this is human. And yet, to turn those maxims in response to ourselves smacks of narcissism. Indulgence. Something to be earned, or else ashamed of, for availing in the luxury needlessly.

 

((  Read More at State of Formation  ))

SGSAH Blogger-In-Residence: The Doctoral Experience—Making The Most of Your Summer

In currently serving as the Blogger-In-Residence for the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities, I’ve had the unique opportunity to weight-in and reflect upon various aspects of the doctoral experience. Via weekly posts, here are my varied insights into this process known as Earning the PhD.

It’s Scotland, so one might not know we’re approaching the summer months unless they look at a calendar, but indeed: we are! Terms are ending, and that means a suspension of sorts in our normal routines. It’s doubtful that any doctoral researcher truly takes a summer off, but in having a slight reprieve, here are a few points to consider in setting your schedule from June through to September.

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You know all of those pie-in-the-sky ideas you had for research related (however tangentially) endeavours that fell to the wayside during term because they would have required you to miss X appointment, or Y seminar? Now is the time to see if they’re actually doable. Want to study abroad, but not sacrifice term-time at your home institution? See what’s available for summer. Want to go on a research pilgrimage across one continent or another? Three months is more than enough time to fit that in.

Credit: BBC's Doctor Who; Source: http://giphy.com/gifs/doctor-who-david-tennant-2GI3yBQc0zu2A

 

(( Read More at The SGSAH BLOG ))

SGSAH Blogger-In-Residence: The Doctoral Experience—Networking

In currently serving as the Blogger-In-Residence for the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities, I’ve had the unique opportunity to weight-in and reflect upon various aspects of the doctoral experience. Via weekly posts, here are my varied insights into this process known as Earning the PhD.

 

For some people, it’s the greatest thing ever. For others, it’s tantamount to a curse word.

Networking.

Credit: Paramount/Dreamworks' "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" (Source: http://honorsprogram.gwublogs.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/10/networking-meme.jpeg)

Whether someone reminds you to “be sure to network!” at your next conference, asks if you have business cards ready to hand out to “broaden your network”, or maybe there’s an event in your diary reminding you of a “Networking Opportunity” that exists for the sole purpose of networking: you’ve more likely than not been inundated with the push to make strategic academic and career connections in and around your field of study.

The main issue addressed here regarding this necessary (but not always pleasant) phenomenon is how to find your comfort zone in getting the job done. Because yes, you probably do need to do it, not just for its ends in meeting the “right people” to make the next steps in your research career, but also for the skills that networking does offer you on a broader scale. So, when the concept is often referenced rather monolithically, how do you go about tackling this networking project?

Credit: The History Channel's Ancient Aliens (Source:https://memegenerator.net/instance/45063163)

 

(( Read More at The SGSAH BLOG ))

SGSAH Blogger-In-Residence: The Doctoral Experience—How To Say ‘No’; Or: Discerning in the Face of ‘Too Much’ Opportunity

In currently serving as the Blogger-In-Residence for the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities, I’ve had the unique opportunity to weight-in and reflect upon various aspects of the doctoral experience. Via weekly posts, here are my varied insights into this process known as Earning the PhD.

 

Full disclosure: this is an area of the doctoral process—nay, perhaps the life process—that I am still working on. However, that does place me in a particularly sympathetic mindset regarding the struggle of juggling far more things than is advisable for a human being to juggle (and, as a result, learning deliberately how to set some things down before they fall and break and spill all over the place).

Credit: Marvel Studios' The Avengers/Avengers Assemble (Source: http://cdn.makeagif.com/media/5-11-2015/8k7dOr.gif)

This juggling process, of course, is also known as, being a doctoral researcher. It’s an unavoidable condition of our work.

Fact is, though: we spend a great deal of our time fretting about a hypothetical lack of opportunities that may or may not come our way, or worrying over pending applications for funding or training or travel or research—and all of this, at least partially, is rooted in an anxiety over the idea of what we won’t have.

In reality, however, we often (possibly more so than not) find ourselves facing just the opposite problem: a veritable glut of opportunities. This conference (whether you’re presenting or otherwise), that training module, some panel you might serve on, or internship you might elect to take, or a travel bursary you might make use of for research or language that might then involve a direct-flight-connection to another event, resulting in your flat in Scotland sitting empty for months at a time and then—

You see what I mean?

Regardless of whether this is a portrait of your life stroke-for-stroke, or an exaggeration of what is still a conflict of interests (in a very literal sense) in your daily life, such a state of affairs is often characterised as the “best” problem to have. Yet it is still a problem that needs solving: in the face of many excellent, how do you know which to take and which to pass up? How do you say ‘no’ when everything sounds like a great idea in one respect or another?

Again: I’m still working through this one myself, but I can offer some pointers based on the insights I’ve come to across my own grappling with this particular issue.

 

(( Read More at The SGSAH BLOG ))

SGSAH Blogger-In-Residence: The Doctoral Experience—Transferrable Skills

In currently serving as the Blogger-In-Residence for the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities, I’ve had the unique opportunity to weight-in and reflect upon various aspects of the doctoral experience. Via weekly posts, here are my varied insights into this process known as Earning the PhD.

It’s something of a buzzword; the new “synergy”: Transferrable Skills. We’re meant to identify them, and cultivate them, and position them just so on a CV or present them definitively in an interview—but what are they, really? What does the term mean, what does it entail and encompass: what are these ever-so-valuable Transferrable Skills, save for just one more thing we’re meant to accumulate before earning our qualifications and moving on to the job market, on top of so many other things?

Credit: Marvel's The Avengers/Avengers Assemble (Source: https://em.wattpad.com/e13949de9c906452b68803f620fd509acca9e2f6/687474703a2f2f69313036382e70686f746f6275636b65742e636f6d2f616c62756d732f753435392f456d79617765736f6d6570616e74732f69726f6e2d6d616e5f35676966706167657370656564636574443878644a48312d355f7a707362353661343231362e676966?s=fit&h=360&w=360&q=80)

The answer is that transferable skills can be found just about anywhere, if you keep a wary eye for them, and they don’t really require more effort, most of the time; just a new perspective. With that small shift at the core, we can break down the bulk of Transferrable Skills into quick and easy steps that will help you maximise every skill-driven experience you undertake as a doctoral researcher (including, perhaps, a few you didn’t even expect would qualify!) in order to showcase the many areas of both study and practice, within and beyond your specific field, in which you shine.

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(( Read More at The SGSAH BLOG ))