The early Spring temperatures – low 50s through mid-60s are still with us, along with sometimes sunshine, sometimes rain and otherwise grey and dull.
So many of us are anxious for some warmer weather that I’m motivated by moving out of the Covid mode of thinking that is still hanging around. A warm, sunny Spring day with all the beautiful flowers in bloom like a wonderful relief. Yesterday on my walk home after a late morning appointment, I was impressed by the flowers in front of the apartment buildings and private homes on the 85th Street block between First and York Avenues.
The activity — social and philanthropic — is beginning to expand noticeably. Late last week I was unable to make it to an early evening meeting about the Maria Droste Counseling Service of which my friend Elizabeth Peabody is President of the Board. Because it is such an important subject, and because I couldn’t attend, I asked Elizabeth if she’d send me a message about it.
In Elizabeth’s words:
It was a wonderful evening around a difficult subject which I/we are anxious to de-stigmatize — and that is Suicide and suicidal ideation. We showed about 15 minutes from Alexandra Shiva’s documentary “Each and Every Day” where all the kids in it had suicidal ideation. Two of them were on the panel (that night) with Alexandra and Cynthia McFadden.
Afterwards, we had a very moving, intimate discussion. And you could hear a pin drop. The documentary is not gloomy or dark in the slightest. It’s 56 minutes long and can be found on Paramount+ or MTV Documentaries.
I introduced our new Executive Director, Sarah Stroles. On behalf of Sarah, our Board and the New York Province of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd I thanked the guests for coming. Their support is invaluable.
As many of our guests are aware, our mission with the Maria Droste Counseling Service is to offer affordable psychotherapy and counseling to those who otherwise would not be able to have the help they need. Building resilience is a big part of our work for those we accompany on the path to wellness.
This year with the generous support of the Catholic Charities and the Mother Cabrini Foundation we’ve been able to start partnerships with schools who otherwise would not be able to afford external therapy support. One of these schools, St. George Academy, is a Catholic Ukrainian high school in the East Village. Most of its students have family still in the Ukraine and many parents of students are here on an F1 student visa. We have offered individual, group, and family support to these people — students, parents, and staff.
In the last year we have conducted 3155 sessions, we have 95 new clients, 45% of the intakes were BIPOC (black indigenous people of color), our lowest fee has been $35 and the average income is about $44,000.
This year I am grateful to several people. Alexandra Shiva who directed and produced her documentary, Each and Every Day. And to Sheila Nevins who is the Executive Producer for MTV Documentary Films. And Saniya Soni and Hannah Lucas, both in the film. Last but not least, our gratitude to Cynthia McFadden who has been a devoted friend and supporter for many years.
I am sure many of you have known people who have had either suicidal ideation or who have suicided. The CDC describes suicidal ideation as the preoccupation with death or self -harm. Not everyone with suicidal ideation acts on it. On the other hand, suicide is a death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die.
The CDC notes that in 2020 suicide was one of the top 9 leading causes of death for people ages 10 to 64. It was the 2nd leading cause of death for people 10 to 14 and 25 – 34. In the words of our Congressman Jamie Raskin; and I quote, “Suicide is not a bad word it’s a bad idea.” Our goal to bring awareness to this issue, to de-stigmatize it so that people feel freer to speak about it regardless if they are the person thinking about it, or the friends and family left behind.
It is not going away, it seems only to be increasing. Read the April 11th article in the New Yorker by Andrew Solomon regarding the increase of suicide in children. It is alarming and tragic.
DPC: Elizabeth’s message reminded me of the time in my life between those ages (10 – 14) when I thought of suicide more than once. It was the result of those moments of domestic and family realities. I grew up in a house where there was a great deal of harsh and emotional confrontation between my mother and my father who was prone to rage and was sometimes violent in expression (smashing things, slamming doors, and physically threatening). I should add, in retrospect, that despite his “Irish temper” as it was referred to, he was never personally unkind or violent with me.
Their problems were ongoing, however, never resolved and frequent enough to be disturbing to this child. There seemed a hopelessness involved for me. And it was magnified when I hit adolescence where everything changes for the child now growing up. Those “changes” required challenging adjustments, inner and private, and at times seemed so insurmountable that my life itself could and would at times seem truly hopeless.
My mother and father’s great drama in this child’s mind raged like my father’s temper. However, by age six or seven, I wanted to get out, and get away from it all. But where would I go? I was fortunate in that I had very sweet and kind aunts who often looked after me. And by 8 or 10, I found by own ways of departing while continuing to live with my parents. I spent a great deal of my waking hours at the houses of friends who had parents who were welcoming.
That saved me. It was probably because I was never personally abused. Although by adolescence — which of course is a huge problem issue for many if not most of us, both physically and psychologically — I was already beginning to depart. When I went away to college I was finally relieved, although as it is in life, the problems of the child and adolescence went with me. But the notion of suicide was relieved by the excitement of being finally on my own, as insecure as it was because of the money which was always tight.
All these decades later I am still very conscious of the plight of children growing up under the harsh circumstances that occur in the houses of parents who are deeply stressed or troubled. They often take out their anxieties, often unconsciously, on their spouses and even the children. Living as I do in a neighborhood where there are a lot of little children, even infants, I often watch. I personally love watching the small children because they are experiencing the new all the time, and free from knowledge, they’re natural joyful.
There are also those already being presented with their parents’ harsh issues and relationships. Children are a natural burden for the troubled. I also see that kindness comforts, if not healing the problem for the child, but the effect of kindness nevertheless travels with them into maturity. Suicide to a child, or a young person, is an Out; a relief. To the older (young) adults it is an escape from the self.
I admire those, like Elizabeth Peabody and Cynthia McFadden, and those attending the special cause last week.
To learn more, visit www.mdcsnyc.org/