On Vacation. Watch for Gordon’s new blog next week

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Morbidity Rate of Depression

depression_pictures_-_Google_SearchIf you feel depressed, your life may shorten. According to results of a study released recently which followed the lives of 3400 Canadian adults from 1952 to 1992, people with depression experienced a shorter life span than those without it. A depressed man, age 25, for example, could expect to live another 39 years; but without depression he could live 51 years.

Perhaps surprisingly, suicides did not account for this. Few of the subjects committed suicide. Depressed people died in the same way others did–heart disease and cancer, for example.  One of the doctors in the research team pointed out that people receiving treatment for depression and received treatment for diabetes and heart disease.

Is Depression “Weakness”?

Depressed people tend to think of themselves as “weak”, but in reality, depression is a disease like any other, with effective treatments available, such as medications and talking.

Women, in particular, may feel a “sense of shame” over mental health symptoms, according to John Hamilton, Mountainside Treatment Center in Canaan, Conn.  They may feel they need to be the rock of the family. “They might even have people around them saying, ‘Snap out of it, you have kids,'” said Hamilton. “But depression is no different from any other chronic disease,” he said. “We need to have a compassionate, nonjudgmental approach to it.”

Job’s Healing

We see in Job the effectiveness of talking. For a week, he couldn’t, but after his three wisdom colleagues rallied to his side, patiently sat with him, and themselves mourned his sad state, Job marshaled the courage to put his depressed feelings into words (Chapter 3). He first curses his life of suffering, preferring instead the peace of the grave. then he launches into five “Why?” questions. Job’s behavior reflects a healthy response to unusually devastating losses. The rest of the book allows him more opportunity to unload on his friends, and on God, preparing him to receive an appropriate response from the Almighty (Chapters 38-41). In spite of the depth of his original despair, he rallies to confront God. Through his belief in a personal God who he could address, and his colleagues support, Job avoided suicide.

If you experience depression, how well do you care for your physical health? Do you have other serious illnesses? What are you doing to manage your complex life?

[Sources: Picture: www.soothingminds.com.au                                                                    Article: https://consumer.healthday.com/mental-health-information-25/depression-news-176/more-evidence-that-depression-shortens-lives-727736.html Stephen Gilman, Sc.D., acting chief, health behavior branch, U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, Md.; Aaron Pinkhasov, M.D., chairman, behavioral health, NYU Winthrop Hospital, Mineola, N.Y., and associate professor, clinical psychiatry, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, Stony Brook, N.Y.; John Hamilton, L.M.F.T., L.A.D.C., chief clinical outreach officer, Mountainside Treatment Center, Canaan, Conn.; Oct. 23, 2017, CMAJ, online]


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Death by Avalanche, Suicide: Hayden Kennedy

Renowned_Climber_Hayden_Kennedy_Commits_Suicide_After_Girlfriend__Fellow_Pro_Inge_Perkins__Dies_In_Avalanche_pdfAlthough suicide is twice a common as homicide, the unusual suicide of world-class rock climber Hayden Kennedy caught my eye.  On Saturday October 7, 2017, Kennedy, 27, and girlfriend Inge Perkins, 23, skied together on Imp Peak in the southern Madison Range in Montana. In a steep, confined indentation, 10,000 feet above sea level, they unknowingly set off an avalanche 150 feet wide.

Prior to his accident, Kennedy wrote an essay in which he commented on the deaths of two mountain climbing partners and friends, Kyle Dempster, who died climbing in Pakistan in 2016, and Justin Griffin, who died climbing in Nepal in 2015.

Reflections on Death

“I think about Kyle and Justin all the time,” Kennedy wrote. “Their absence from this world is felt by so many who are left in a wake of confusion, anger, and frustration. In many ways, I am still processing what has happened to my dear friends. Waves of sadness overwhelm me at times, making it hard to stand up or focus. At other times, I am able to think only of the enchanting adventures, contemplative conversations, and the simple yet enriching moments we shared as friends.”

Although their deaths weighed heavily on him, the death of Inge weighed more. She died as a result of being buried in that avalanche; he escaped death by having been buried only partially. The next day, however, Hayden Kennedy, having lost the love of his life, took his own life. As his essay makes clear, climbers live with the vivid awareness of the reality of death. Kennedy’s struggle, however, took on weightier thoughts: his loss of Inge led to feeling his life had lost all meaning.

Job and Death

Job’s reflections in Chapter 3 also focus on death. To say he wants to die would be  a gross understatement. He also has lost all, or most, of the things and people that make life meaningful: businesses, employees, and children–all of them, all at once. But Job had a small social group (his three wisdom colleagues) with whom he could share his desperation. They debated Job over his complaints against God, but they stayed, listened, and, for the most part, heard him out. It seems Hayden never shared his anguish. Inge’s love had become more precious than life itself.

Job also firmly believed in God. God had unjustly destroyed his life and purpose, but
God was someone against whom Job could battle. If a person lives only for sport and love, he or she may not find that adequate for life, when those are withdrawn. I don’t know about Hayden’s faith, so I dare not hazard a guess. When all of life fails us, at times, it is only God who can make the difference between life and death.

For what do you live? For whom? What and who gives your life meaning, purpose and direction? Is what you focus your life on strong enough to hold you if you were to lose everything else? Where is your social support? Who is your God?

[Sources: Photo: Instagram. Chris Weidner: When darkness overcomes — the devastating loss of Hayden Kennedy, a climbing luminary  http://daily.camera/machform/view.php?id=23 10/17/17  www.eveningsends.com  Patrick Redford, Renowned Climber Hayden Kennedy Commits Suicide After Girlfriend, Fellow Pro Inge Perkins, Dies In Avalanche www.deadspin.com 10/12/17]



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Aging Process: A Shot Across My Bow

growing_older_-_Google_SearchAlthough I’m in good health and active with physical and mental exercise, the past year has brought me a new awareness of slowing. For the past year, I, with my doctors, have struggled to understand certain “spells” I experienced. Standing in front of my Sunday school class in July 2016, ready to begin teaching, I felt like passing out. The sensation lasted only a few seconds. Then, in November, I sat at my computer, switching from email to Facebook and back, to wish Friends a Happy Birthday. Three times in a row, however, I blacked out, unable to remember where I was in the process. My wife drove me to the ER where the staff checked me out for signs of big problems: heart attack, brain, lungs, etc. Nothing, so they kept me overnight for observation. Again, nothing showed up, so they discharged me. But for the next month I wore a heart monitor.


It showed nothing, either. So my primary care physician referred me for a series of medical tests: echocardiogram, MRI, MRA (arteries), sonogram of my carotid arteries, and an EEG with a neurologist to rule out a seizure disorder. I had a new overnight sleep study, which indicated I needed a new, stronger C-Pap machine.  Although any one of those tests could have shown an abnormality, to account for my spells, except for the sleep test, all results showed normal. Yet, because of these continuing spells (one morning I had 11, including one in my doctor’s office!), I couldn’t drive. My wife willingly drove me to my responsibilities, especially weekly counseling others at Good Samaritan Ministries in Beaverton, OR, along with keeping up her duties. She needed to keep me (and others) safe.

Answer, Finally

On June 1, 2017, I met with a cardiologist. The cardiologist diagnosed my spells as “pre-syncope.” Because of the danger of driving with my condition, I resigned myself to never driving again. The doctor had other patients who had to give up driving. He asked if I would wear a heart monitor again. Although a minor inconvenience, I agreed. Finally, to my relief, I had some of my “spells,” feeling I would faint, pass out. A few days later, he called. “Your heart is stopping up to five seconds,” he said.  “I’m scheduling you for a pacemaker next week.” So, finally, after multiple medical tests, we found the answer.

On June 28, I had an amazing device installed under the skin of the front of my left shoulder. Two separate leads go from there into the right atrium and the right ventricle. The system is monitored by “Merlin” which sits by my bedside, enabling my cardiologist  to download data on my heart function at any time, so I need see him only once a year for a check-up.

“How Do You Feel?”

“How do you feel?” people ask me. “No different,” I say. The pacemaker, as you may know, functions only when the heart stops, then, when the heart is going smoothly, it stops. That saves battery life. An average battery lasts 5-6 years, although the St. Jude Medical technician (maker of the device) told me the next morning after my post-op overnight hospital stay that, with my heart function that night, the battery could last 12 years. The cardiologist has also diagnosed me with atrial fibirullation (a-fib), where the heart chamber flutters rather than pumps. That means danger of a clot, which can lead to stroke.

I’m driving again, writing, speaking, and preaching. A happy ending?

The Opening Shot

“In your 70’s,” my 80+ year-old cousin wisely told me, “little things go wrong. In your 80’s, big things do.”  He knew. A lot of “little things” were ruled out, yet what I call ‘the opening shot of old age’ just fired across my bow. I’m back to functioning normally, teaching, preaching, and giving workshops on recovery from tragedy, sharing my book Tragedy Transformed: How Job’s Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours. I hope to continue at least several more years sharing what God has given me. But I’m wiser to the ways of nature now, having just received a shot across my bow.

What stage of the life-cycle are you in? How have you experienced signs of old age? What will you do with the knowledge that your life is declining?

[Source: Picture: SpiritualCleansing.org]

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What Opioid Crisis? III Kids & Teens

Teens_Mix_Prescription_Opioids_with_Other_Substances___FlickrAccording to a recent study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, the yearly rate of poisoning due to opioid overdoses among teens and children from 1997 to 2012  increased 165%. The opioid epidemic has stirred the concern of Washington politicians, including presidential candidate Trump campaigning in New Hampshire. But before leaving office, however, President Barack Obama, also stated, “When you look at the staggering statistics in terms of lives lost, productivity impacted, costs to communities, but most importantly, cost to families from this epidemic of opioids abuse, it has to be something that is right up there at the top of our radar screen.” Obama spoke to the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, GA in March 2016. “I think the public doesn’t fully appreciate yet the scope of the problem,” he said.

Statistics: Hospital Poisonings of Teens and Children

Children 1-4 years increased 205%.                                                                                           Teens 15-19 years increased   176%                                                                                                         Teens 15-19 years heroin poisonings increased 161%                                                             Teens 15-19 years methadone poisoning increased 950%

The problem is big enough for adults, but for teens and children? Accidental overdoses of painkillers accounted for most poisonings among children younger than 10, according to Julie Gaither, the study’s lead researcher, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University. She warned of young children “eating them like candy.” Although accidental overdoses accounted for most poisonings, teens also used these drugs to attempt suicide. In the habit of using other types of drugs to get high, teens use opioids in the same way (see graphic above). “This is largely seen as an adolescent problem or an adult problem,” said Sharon Levy of Boston Children’s Hospital. “But this paper really highlights that this really knows no age boundaries.”

Solutions: Prevention, Early Intervention, Medications, Complimentary Strategies

In my reading, here are important solutions experts have offered as a way of dealing with the opioid crisis: comprehensive strategies to target opioid storage, packaging, and misuse.  Target groups at risk for substance abuse and focus on improving family bonds and peer-resistance skills. Physician education on appropriate opioid prescribing, prescription monitoring programs, and campaigns to advise parents of teens to lock up prescription opioid medications and to dispose of old pills. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has endorsed numerous evidence-based programs shown to delay teen substance use and to protect youth into adulthood. The Strengthening Families Program, a skills training intervention for teens and parents, is one such program. This step will require states to invest money to begin.

Boston pediatricians Hagland and Bailey recommend intervention when teens first show indications of addiction. This could help avoid a lifetime of harm. Only one in 12 youth who need treatment for addiction, however, receive it. The reasons: treatment facilities are limited, few pediatricians are trained to treat addiction, and coverage by insurance carriers is also limited. As a nation, the docs say we should expand access and reduce barriers to addiction care for teens. Even when teens find treatment, however, many programs treat them as part of adult programs. Providers, however, should consider the unique developmental needs of youth. Traditional, sometimes punitive, rules of many treatment programs can drive young people away. As a result, youth are only one-third as likely as older persons to remain in treatment.

The doctors also state that effective treatment for teens should incorporate evidence based medications:  buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending that they be offered to youth, only 2 percent of teens in treatment receive one, compared to 26 percent of adults. As federal and state agencies work to expand access to addiction treatment, they should dedicate funding to programs to train providers on best practices to care for addicted teens. Finally, many young people’s caregivers are excluded from the recovery process. But enlisting family support offers a unique opportunity for treatment programs to foster long-term recovery. The Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Abuse Services and other similar agencies have  invested in family-centered treatment programs. Other services should follow their lead.

What information in this blog surprised you? How have you been affected by opiate addiction in your family, in your life? What steps have you taken to get help for others, for yourself? How have the spiritual needs of the addicted person been met?

[Sources: Graphic: Flikr.com  Gaither, et. al., National Trends in Hospitalizations for Opioid Poisonings Among Children And Adolescents, 1997 to 2017, Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, 2016, 170 (12), 1195-1201. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-pressonce/2016/03/29/fact-sheet-obama-administrationannounces-additional-actions-address http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/sc-opioidoverdoses-rising-among-kids-health-1109-20161031-story.html  http://www.npr.org/sections/healthshots2016/10/31/500091889/more-children-are-beingpoisoned-by-prescription-opoioids  Hung En-Sun, et. al., Nonmedical use of prescription opioids among teenagers in the United States: Trends and correlates, Journal of Adolescent Health, 37 (2005), 44-52. Hagland, Scott, and Sarah Bailey, The Opioid Epidemic Needs a Strategy For Teens, Common Health, WBUR, August 29, 2017.]

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What Opioid Crisis? II: Fentanyl

fentanyl_overdose_-_Google_SearchAfter posting my last blog (What Opioid Crisis? 9/1/17) about the skyrocketing deaths from overdoses of heroin, I came across new information, this time on the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Although heroin overdoses continue to present a serious health problem, annually killing an estimated 15,400 Americans, overdoses from all drugs now rank #1 as the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50. The Centers for Disease Control in a preliminary calculation reported  that deaths by drug overdoses increased over 22 percent in 2016. They killed over 64,000 of our citizens. The Drug Enforcement Agency issued new guidance to police departments across the country in June on how to handle heroin.

Unintended Consequences

When the government cracked down on doctors overprescribing pain medications such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percoset, the number of deaths by drug overdoses leveled off.  Some people, however, already addicted, sought more potent drugs, such as heroin. That process has now accelerated again so that overdoses by fentanyl, more powerful even than heroin, increased. Fentanyl, a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, represents a class of synthetic drugs helping to balloon our American drug epidemic. In 2016, it overtook heroin as the deadliest substance in the U.S. Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and its analogs, claimed roughly 20,100 lives in 2016, up from 9,945 in 2015.  Fentanyl is also fueling increased cocaine deaths as dealers, to make more money and provide a better high, cut the fatal painkiller into their cocaine supplies. Now, addicts have begun using opioids like the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil that are even stronger than fentanyl.


The numbers, unfortunately, trend upward. Driven primarily by fentanyl, deaths from overdoses rose from 33,000 in 2015 to nearly 50,000 in 2016. The STAT Analysis Corporation (STAT), a full-service environmental and industrial hygiene laboratory in Chicago, Il, predicts the annual death toll from opioids will rise roughly by another 35 percent  between 2015 and 2027. Their research predicts that up to 500,000 people could die from opioids over the next decade.

The ease with which a person can become addicted and the difficulty of treatment, including cost, makes this a problem almost impossible to solve. As a nation, we’re out of control. Using illegal drugs to control physical or emotional pain, to escape from reality, or to keep up with the overbearing pressures of work, as do countless employees in Wall Street firms and in the West Coast tech industry, continues to create addicts faster than we can rehab them. If, that is, anyone wants rehab. The costs of obtaining such drugs, not only financial, but the secrecy, shame, and fear of discovery, add to the weakening of our ethical, moral, and spiritual fiber. Profits accrue to murderous drug cartels.

How do you see this problem? How have drugs affected you or your family? What suggestions would you make to address the issue?

[Sources: Picture: en.wickipedia.org Content: http://dailycaller.com/author/stevebirr-2/ https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/02/upshot/fentanyl-drug-overdosedeaths.html                                                             http://dailycaller.com/2017/06/06/deputy-ag-horrifying-surge-in-drug-deathscrippling-law enforcement/                     https://www.vox.com/videos/2017/7/27/16049840/fentanyl-opioid-epidemic-worse                                                               http://dailycaller.com/2017/06/27/study-predicts-painkillers-will-kill-half-amillion-americans-over-the-nextdecade/  https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/health_policy/monthly-drug-overdose-deathestimates.pdf  ]



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What Opioid Crisis?

Opioid_Crisis_-_Google_SearchOne of my favorite TV programs is Justice TV’s Drugs, Inc., an in-depth look at specific drugs and specific areas of our nation and the world where drugs, including the opioid heroin, are manufactured, transported, distributed, marketed, sold and used. The program interviews users, pushers, cartel members, suppliers (all masked), and law enforcement personnel seeking to stem the flow. According to this program, heroin has become more in demand, the result of graduating from legal and illegal pain prescriptions. Cartel members and other suppliers offer a more pure grade than previously to increase profits. The more pure the heroin, the better able suppliers are to cut it into smaller doses. This enables them to obtain more money from smaller, but a greater numbers of doses, and to provide a better high for their users. Those who experience the best high return to the dealer from which they obtained the “product.”

This week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called attention to the nearly 60,000 US deaths from opioid overdoses in 2016. He impressed upon lawmakers the need to create an climate in which drug use is shunned or discouraged. “Our current drug epidemic,” he said to the National Alliance For Drug Endangered Children, “is indeed the deadliest in American history. We’ve seen nothing like it.”

Not Acceptable

“This is not acceptable,” Sessions said. “We must not capitulate, intellectually or morally, to drug use. We must create and foster a culture that’s hostile to drug use.”

Drugs feed an illegal trade worldwide, cost users their livelihood and self-respect, and corrupts society up and down the social spectrum. For a short-term high, users suffer long-term addiction. Withdrawal is almost impossible without the user getting “sick,” a sickness so unpleasant the user will do almost anything to obtain the next fix: beg, steal, or prostitute. One pregnant prostitute interviewed expected the state to take her baby when it is born because it will be addicted to heroin. When gang member encounters a “hopper,” a drug pusher independent of the rival cartel gangs (as described in a recent Drugs, Inc. program “Spring Break,” in Cancun, Mexico), he is beaten. Hoppers benefit by keeping all the profit, without needing to split with a cartel member. But the second time that happens, a special hit man is dispatched to kill him. So add murder to the consequences of the drug trade.

The Moral Issue

The challenge of Attorney General Sessions to avoid capitulating “morally” means more than words. Drug use fosters moral corruption. In another program, the pusher packaged a drug with candy in order to hook young children. Once started, the users first love the feeling, then they “got to have it” (or get sick); once hooked there’s no giving it up. That may take only one hit. The moral deterioration is relentless. It’s big business.

What can we do? We can educate ourselves, our families, our children and grandchildren. We can foster trust so that, should a family member want to experiment, we learn about it early. We can invite local law enforcement to our schools and community clubs to address the local issues with drugs. If we, or someone we know, is addicted to drugs, alcohol, or sex, go with them to Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, or Celebrate Recovery.

The Spiritual Issue

Behind the moral crisis lurks the spiritual breakdown of the person, family, and society. Pray for spiritual revival.

[Sources: Ivan Moreno, Associated Press, “One Nation, Overdosed,” ABC News, August 29, 2017. Justice TV, Drugs, Inc. Picture: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, commons.wickimedia.com]

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Chicago Violence 2017 Hits Home

Police_believe_teen_killed_four_to_avenge_father_s_slaying_the_night_before_-_Chicago_TribuneFrom January 1 to the present, 2,331 people were shot in Chicago. That number represented 280 fewer shootings than in 2016. But violence last year reached levels not seen in 20 years. So far this year in Chicago also: 432 homicides, 18 fewer than last year.

Statistics may shock (these certainly do) but perhaps even more important, consider the human anguish that each each homicide represents. Because of the family story involved, two of those deaths by gun violence caught my eye. At 3:51 p.m., on March 30, 2017, 19-year old Maurice Harris walked up to the Nadia Fish & Chicken restaurant in the 2700 block of East 75th Street, on Chicago’s South Side. He shot and killed two men inside the restaurant. A third man was found dead outside. A fourth man’s body lay in the 7500 block of South Coles Avenue. Harris’s father, 37-year-old Jerry Jacobs, had been shot and killed the previous day, Wednesday Mar. 29, at 79th Street and South Phillips Avenue. As of this writing, the full motive is still unclear, although police theorize conflict between rival gangs. Emmanuel Stokes, 28, and Edwin Davis, 32, lost their lives. But two of the other men, Dillon Jackson, 20, found inside, and Raheam Jackson, 19, found against a tree, were brothers.

Not OK

Another assault on our credulity: their mother, employed at the restaurant, witnessed their sons, the Jackson brothers’ deaths. Georgia Jackson, 72, grandmother of the two victims, said at the scene that they had gone to the restaurant to get food and to see their mother.

“It is not OK. It is not OK when we lose a child like this,” their mother said. Officers directed her and others away from her son’s body. “There’s two dead — there’s two other boys in there.” With her red apron on from her job at the restaurant, the mother pounded the hood of a blue and-white police vehicle parked across the street from her slain son.

Mother’s Anguish

If the Jackson boys’ mother was inconsolable, we can understand. After blaming herself, and questioning her faith, she revealed that she had nothing to live for. “I can’t go on, my life is over. I’m about to goddamn kill myself. I was standing right here in the window, they killed ‘em right in front of me.”

Other than simply reporting the facts, like with many other tragedies, we are at a loss for words. What do we say? What can we say? The community rallied for an Operation Wake-up Anti-Violence rally the following week (picture). But there are no easy answers to a mother’s anguish, nor to a city’s, when one homicide statistic hits home.

[Sources: Elvia Malagon, Chicago Tribune, August 14, 2017. Kelly Bauer (//www.dnainfo.com/chicago/about-us/our-team/editorial-team/kelly-bauer) and Peter Jones (//www.dnainfo.com/chicago/about-us/our-team/editorial-team/peter-jones) | March 30, 2017 5:48pm | Updated on March 30, 2017 6:18 p.m. Peter Nickeas and Deanese Williams-Harris, Chicago Tribune, March 31, 2017. Jeremy Gorner and Peter Nickeas, “Man charged in 4 South Shore killings is son of man killed the day before, police say,” Chicago Tribune, APRIL 5, 2017. The Chicago Tribune’s Megan Crepeau contributed. Picture: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune]

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Discouraging Suicide

Victim_s_mother_after_texting_suicide_case___My_pain_will_always_be_the_same__-_ABC_NewsMichelle Carter, convicted of involuntary manslaughter for texting Conrad Roy III, her boyfriend, to commit suicide, was sentenced this week in a landmark case making headlines nationally. This past June, Bristol County Juvenile Court, in Massachusetts, Judge Lawrence Moniz had ruled that Carter was responsible for Roy’s 2014 suicide because Roy had followed Carter’s instruction and placed himself in a “toxic environment” she had placed him in a situation that led to his suicide. He died from carbon monoxide poisoning in his truck. Carter faced up to 20 years behind bars.

Carter’s use of texting to urge her boyfriend to take his life represents a new development in interpreting and applying the law. According to this conviction, the law interpreted Carter’s actions as whispering in his ear, “kill yourself, kill yourself,” said Laurie Levenson, criminal law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, after Carter’s conviction. The law in essence said that those words can lead someone to suicide.

Roy, 18, and Carter, 17 at the time, had been texting about death in the days and weeks leading up to the tragedy. In one message, Carter told him: “You’re finally going to be happy in heaven. No more pain. It’s okay to be scared and it’s normal. I mean, you’re about to die.”

But Moniz focused on Roy’s final moments when he wavered, stepped out of the truck — but Carter told him, “Get back in.” The judge said although Carter knew Roy was in trouble, she took no action. “She admits in a subsequent text that she did nothing — she did not call the police or Mr. Roy’s family,” Moniz said in court. “Finally, she did not issue a simple additional instruction: ‘Get out of the truck.’ ”

Contrary to the opinion of the ACLU that Carter was exercising “free speech,” Martin Healy, chief legal counsel for the Massachusetts Bar Association, said Carter sealed her own fate “through the use of her own words,” according to the Boston Globe. “The communications illustrated a deeply troubled defendant whose actions rose to the level of wanton and reckless disregard for the life of the victim,” Healy said in a statement. Healy said the verdict, which captured widespread attention, will have “national implications” and is “a clarion call that seemingly remote and distant communications will not insulate individuals from heinous acts that could rise to the level of criminal culpability.”

Something that intrigued me was how this incident relates to many young people I encounter on Google Plus who join a Community in which other young people express the desire to take their own life, and, like Michelle Carter, they encourage the act. Fortunately, the other Moderators and I have encountered this less and less, perhaps because we’ve discouraged such behavior. Some of them may also have been banned from the Community. Rather, we focus on providing understanding, support, and (realistic) hope.

I can think of some reasons why young people might encourage suicide, however. One is that it’s hard to sit with or live with someone who threatens their own life.  It drains the friend or loved one emotionally to experience such despair over a period of time. People stop trying. Related to this is another reason: they feel helpless, don’t know what to say, or how to help, so they give up. A third reason is the teen fascination with death, sometimes glorifying it, romanticizing it and generally denying its finality. I can recall watching a skit put on by high schoolers at a large camp many years ago, where someone lays down to portray a “dying soldier in Viet Nam.” The actors seemed oblivious to the tragedy of their portrayal.

No matter how serious the depression or the desire to die, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Every mental health professional is obligated by law to do whatever is necessary to prevent suicide. They may not be successful, but will be held liable for not taking the necessary steps, including calling the police, who would escort the person to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation. Judge Moniz sentenced Michelle Carter to 2 1/2 years in prison, with the opportunity for parole in 15 months. Hopefully, what seems an extremely light sentence will, nevertheless, teach her to take responsibility for her actions.

Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 24 hours-a-day: 1-800-273-8255

[Sources: Lindsey Bever and Kristine Phillips, The Washington Post August 3. Picture: Matt West, The Boston Herald via AP]


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The Dalai Lama’s Recent Quotes

the_dalai_lama_-_Google_Search“I promote this type of secularism” says the 14th Dalai Lama, winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, “to be a kind person who does not harm others regardless of profound religious differences.” I find much to commend in the Dalai Lama’s recent article, on How To Become A Buddhist In Today’s World. He correctly identifies, for example, three main hindrances to religious faith today: communism, science, and consumerism/materialism. As his statement above shows, he is most concerned with ethical behavior, kindness, and lack of harm to others.


Communism continues its war against religion. He shows how in his own native Tibet, Communism controls the religious and educational institutions, teaching that Buddhism is “old-fashioned.” In this gentle way, he blames the Chinese government for oppressing his people and for oppressing his fellow Buddhists. But he is correct in laying the blame to Communism, the underlying (anti)religious belief system officially espoused by the government.


Although science has greatly expanded our knowledge of the physical world, it’s purview is limited to that physical world. “Scientists largely examine only what can be measured with scientific instruments,” says the Dalai Lama, “limiting the scope of their investigations and their understanding of the universe.” But the mind, and I would add the spirit, the intangible and unmeasurable may in the end be at least as important. The Dalai Lama says he has met with some scientists who may be open to such understanding, giving him “reason for optimism.”


The big danger in consumerism/materialism, says the Dalai Lama is loss of kindness. “Religious values such as kindness,” he says, “generosity and honesty get lost in the rush to make more money and have more and ‘better’ possessions.” Instead of immediate gratification in consumerism, religion teaches delayed gratification. Instead of accumulation of things to make us happy in consumerism, religion teaches peace of mind. One of his more famous quotes: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Why Be Ethical?

Counseling against peer pressure, blind faith, or tradition, he concludes his article with an appeal to reason. “Continue to investigate and reflect on what you discover.” What the Dalai Lama doesn’t answer, however, is “Why be ethical?” In ancient Israel, ethical behavior was based on the character of Israel’s God. “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy,” God says to Moses (Leviticus 19:2 RSV). The following verses link this holiness with honoring father and mother, keeping the sabbath, and avoidance of idolatry: “Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods: I am the Lord your God” (v. 4). Because God’s character is righteous, he expects righteous behavior from his people.

Why Be Kind?

I would also ask, “Why be kind?” In the Old Testament, God’s character determined how the Israelites also treated their neighbor. In that same chapter, Leviticus 19, God says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (v. 18). In the New Testament, along with love, peace, and joy, the Holy Spirit produces the gift of kindness (Galatians 5:22). In Christian understanding,  kindness has a very specific motivation: “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32 RSV). Because of God’s kindness toward me in the mercy of Jesus Christ, forgiving my sins, I must show kindness toward others, forgiving them.

Although the Dalai Lama’s injunctions help many people today, his instructions fail to provide sufficient motivation for the moral, ethical, and kind behavior he desires. We therefore need to look deeper into the religious motivation in order to find sufficient motivation to “Be kind whenever possible.”

[Source: The Dalai Lama, “How To Become A Buddhist In Today’s World,” Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2017 online. Picture: commons.wickimedia.org]

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