For the first time ever, I think, I took the entire week of Thanksgiving off. I had all these plans to take care of all kinds of household chores like cleaning out closets, maybe painting the bathroom—all those things that begin to be a priority after living in a house for ten years.
Instead, I attended two funerals. Both funerals were for young men around 30 years old, leaving behind family, friends, and children, and both men died because of violence. One died from the violence perpetrated by others, and one by the demons of mental health that called him to take his own life.
Because of the line of work I’m in, working with organizations to create violence-free workplaces, situations like this cause me to take pause and reflect a great deal on how our organization changes other organizations. CPI’s Nonviolent Crisis Intervention®
training program isn’t specific to preventing homicides or suicides, but it is about managing those situations that can manifest as a homicide or suicide if left unattended.
In a previous post I reflected on the importance of eliminating the stigma
associated with mental illness. While both deaths were tragic and will have a lasting impact on the men’s friends and families and colleagues, I was especially struck by a comment that was made at the second funeral for the young man who had taken his own life, losing to the plague of depression. There was an opportunity for people to address the group and a colleague of this young man who was a nurse in a burn unit stood up to offer words to the family. She said, “We wish we would have known. We would have tried to be better friends to you.”
And so I wondered . . . I wondered what it would be like to work in a place where people could choose to be as open about their battles with mental health as we can be about our battles with cancer, or a need for a joint replacement, or our struggles with diabetes or other chronic conditions. I wondered what it would be like to work in a place where we celebrated people’s recovery from a mental health condition or where we celebrated a long period of good mental health the way we celebrate someone’s hard-earned weight loss. Perhaps if there were fewer stigmas, we would see more people seek treatment sooner versus later. Perhaps if people with mental illness weren’t made to feel like pariahs in their workplaces, people would be more open and honest when they felt the demons creeping back in.
In this short reflection I hope you see a challenge—a challenge to be more understanding, more informed about mental illness, and to encourage the same within your workplace. I hope you also hear a call to advocate for programs, services, and other efforts that are focused on reducing crime in your community. At a time of year when, regardless of our faith traditions, many of us take pause to look back and think forward to the coming year, I hope more people seek understanding and education on these sensitive issues for our communities and our organizations. From my friends in El Salvador: “No a la violencia; si a la vida.”
May 2014 bring peace and understanding to your organization and to your community. Happy Holidays.
for crisis intervention.