Monk and Mental Health

Tony Shalhoub played the defective detective in the police drama “Monk” from 2002 to 2009.  Monk is obsessive-compulsive and has a list of 312 prioritized fears and phobias.  But, as the main character, everyone is expected to see and find his mental health challenges somewhat humorous.  However, I like the show Monk for another reason, all the other mental health issues swimming around Monk that nobody understands or even recognizes due to Monk’s fears and phobias being so over the top.monk tv show cast - Google Search | Monk tv show, Mr monk

Monk started a mental health conversation in America, reflecting that even those with mental health issues can be productive members of society if given a chance.  For example, Captain Stottlemeyer, for the majority of the show’s run, has anger issues, and yet he is considered capable and competent as a Police Captain.  Lieutenant Disher struggles with his identity as a person and his value to the organization.  The supporting character’s mental health problems create the drama.  Monk provides comedy and allows the supporting characters to be accepted for their mental health issues, which is essential in this discussion.

TV Reviews - TV Liveblogging: Some Episode Of Monk - KittysneezesSharona struggled with being a mother, her boss was driving her crazy, and her mental health issues stemmed from both her boss and her nursing responsibility.  Sharona plays a problematic role; does she provide nursing care for Monk or provide living assistance as a counselor?  Concluding that stress can be a mental health issue when taken to extremes.  Natalie Teager struggled with loneliness and a desire to be her own person outside of her family.  Both mental health challenges that many people struggle with silently.  Other supporting characters had substance abuse issues stemming from mental health concerns and personal choices, thus Monk’s subtlety and genius.

When Sharona, his nurse, leaves the show, Natalie Teager provides a lesson on mental health, the difference between coddling and helping a person with mental health problems.  Sharona, for all her care and concern, never saw Monk as capable without assistance.  Natalie Teager saw Monk as competent but needing some assistance.  The difference is subtle but very real.  Monk’s behaviors and mental health problems lessen when Natalie Teager enters the show, and the story becomes richer.

Perception vs. Reality in Care Support

Image result for monk tv show cast | Monk tv show, Mr monk, Adrian monkAre you weak to admit you have a mental health problem?  Per society, not as much anymore.  Per yourself, who knows.  Perception versus reality is critical in the person with mental health concerns and in the care-providing staff surrounding that person.  Now, I suffer from PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression, as mental health concerns; but, I thank God for my support (spouse) and those characters in my life that provide the drama, while my mental health provides the comedy.  Not a single person who knows of my mental health struggles has ever treated me capable without assistance, and this makes all the difference in how I approach the world.

The pattern of admitting the mental health challenges, coping with those challenges, and the consequences of those challenges have been made bearable because my supporters never waiver from the foundation that I am capable but occasionally need assistance.  Monk taught me that it was okay to have mental health issues, to see those issues in others, and a pattern of living and approaching others with mental health issues.  The perceptions of the supporting people become a reality in the mental health challenges of the person suffering.

Monk (S1/F12) im TV Programm: 22:35 - 08.11. - Universal ChannelIt is not easy supporting someone with mental health issues, and while mental health sufferers get the attention, Monk taught the world that the mental health of the family and friends is as important to the cure as well as the problem in mental health patients.  Consider the two different approaches of the psychiatrists on Monk, but never forget two other principles in mental health, change is hard, and change is beneficial.

Change and Mental Health

Monk was stuck in a rut, and a change in the insurance policies spurs Monk to change.  As the show develops, change is witnessed as beneficial and challenging.  When Sharona left, Monk experienced quite a shock; the different care styles provided by nurses spurred complex and healthy changes in Monk. Differences in approaches by the psychiatrists produced more changes and spurred growth in Monk and the other supporting characters.  Hence, as a mental health patient and as a care provider, another pattern is produced: am I looking for changes?  Am I open to helping others engage in change?  Do I embrace both the light and dark of change?

Pin by Smeesmii R on MONK | Monk tv show, Mr monk, Detective monkAdaptation is the only constant in life.  We adapt to the people around us, the social environments, the emotions, and the influences of peers, employers, family, and so much more.  Yet, we often try to control everything to prevent change, even though every new day brings change.  Monk showed he could not handle change, mainly because he and his brother had never been taught to handle change.

Patterns in Family Rearing – Mental Health Challenges

As a kid, I was told that I would never amount to anything since I was raised in poverty and abuse.  I had teachers who made this comment often enough that I got mad!  Nobody was going to curtail my abilities and shoehorn my potential.  Their reasoning was the research that showed those in poverty as children stay in poverty as adults.  That abuse is generational, and that abuse will always influence those raised in abuse to perpetuate abuse to the next generation.

Monk (TV Series 2002-2009) - Posters — The Movie Database (TMDb)Monk showed me differently, proved that individual choices could change preset patterns, and end captivity.  Sure, Jack Junior and Ambrose are typical examples of the generational nature of abuse, leading to mental health issues.  But, Monk overcame, chose, and in choosing and sticking with his choices, he endured and conquered.  Monk overcame even with his mental health challenges, not because of, or as an excuse, but with his mental health challenges as a companion.

While it is true how a child is reared, does dictate how that child will approach the world as an adult.   Individual agency, moral choice, and the choice and consequence cycles also play fundamental roles in that person’s life.  Thus, one cannot, and should not, place blame upon how one was raised for the failures in one’s life; this position negates the agency inherent in each person, and shifting the responsibility of choices is not healthy mental health practices.  More lessons learned from Monk about how to face the world, even if you might not have had the best family environment as a child.

Did you notice that when Jack Junior makes his appearance, Adrian (Monk) has changed enough to know not to gratify and indulge his step-brother in his poor decisions?  Despite the differences in mental health problems, Ambrose, Monk’s other brother, was also not pampered, although he was given special care.  Cementing the theme that people with mental health problems are capable, have potential, and need only the opportunity to show who they are and what they can become, just like everyone else.

I am not my handicap

I have disabilities; disabilities do not have me.  I am not my handicap!  Monk taught me this lesson in spades.  When Monk gets his badge back, he realizes he has learned this lesson as well as learning what his abilities as a disabled person are.  Another subtle theme in Monk worthy of exploration.  Adrian Monk was not “Obsessive-Compulsive, Mentally health challenged, Adrian Monk.”  Adrian Monk was Adrian Monk who lived with obsessive compulsion, fears, and phobias.  The distinction is subtle but essential to living with mental health challenges as a companion, not a ruler!

I am forever grateful for the lessons learned and still being learned from Monk!  I encourage you who read this to ponder the themes herein; change is beneficial and hard, but critical; family and family life is not your life; you are not your handicap or illness.  These themes and more can help open your eyes and mind to new possibilities, freeing you from your captivity of mental health challenges, but only if you choose to open your eyes and mind.

Finally, remember your support staff.  Have you thanked them lately for their support, care, and kindness?  If not, start there, express gratitude to and for the care received from those who live with you, work with you and desire your success.  Never forget, on your bad days, your support staff is still there trying to help, and they need support too.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE: Come, Let Us Reason Together, Chapter 6 – Pride

Male v. FemaleHetro- or Homo- sexual, I do not care.  If you and your partner are over the age of consent, generally accepted as 18 years, you may do as you like.  All I ask is that you keep your bedroom theatrics in the privacy of your own home.

I realize family dynamics have changed; we have single parents, nuclear families (a female and a male parent), we have dual sex parents (two females or two males), and a host of imaginative genders, as well as polymorphous parenting.  In each of these parenting relationships comes the risk for divorce, death of one or both parents, long and short-term disease, extended family, and abuse of all types and sizes.  No single parenting relationship is immune, especially to death and disease.

Nuclear FamilyWe can find the same family organizations, the same risks, and the same problems with abuse throughout history.  Nothing in the modern family is new or unique.  Greece, Rome, Egypt, Babylon, Israel, all communities of ancient date report the same problems in family dynamics, mainly to the detriment of the society practicing any family relationship except nuclear families.  I am not the morality police, I am not the thought police, and I am not going to tell you how to live your life and handle your consequences.  Heck, I have enough trouble just keeping my consequences dealt with; you may do as you see fit.

June has been taken over by “Pride” month, and the entire month set apart for the expression of sexual freedom and taking sexual freedom to parade bedroom lifestyles in public.  Frankly, as long as your partner is over the age of consent, you may act as you want; please keep your lifestyle in your bedroom and out of the public square.  However, “Pride” month refutes this plea, demands attention, and refuses to allow the privacy of choices to remain private.  Herein lay the problem.  Imagine a heterosexual “Pride” parade; would it even be allowed; I have my doubts.  Celebrations honoring the role of the nuclear family in society would be and have been attacked by the same people preaching Pride, unity, fairness, and demanding their rights to act foolishly in public.Plato 2

Here is the problem, opportunistic people have made and continue to make a lot of money detailing their lifestyles and bedroom practices.  I do not mind, provided the adult restrictions remain in place on adult topics.  But, when specifically peddled to children, in schools paid for through forced taxation, the schools should not be grooming children and providing materials that are more specifically adult related topics.  K-12 education has sexualized the children of the world so much that it is being reported that first-graders are being taught how “good it feels to touch themselves.”  Essentially, children barely able to walk, talk, and sit still, are being taught masturbation.  Their organs have not developed, their understanding remains cloudy, and they are being groomed for sexual perverts and abuse.  Either from themselves, family, or strangers.  We should weep for the lost innocence of the children!

Want the true horror story of long-term studies on sexualized children; support the facts that many of these toddlers will commit suicide, attempt suicide, or fall into destructive relationships and cycles of abuse.  All because from their earliest memory, their lives have revolved around some mystical belief regarding sex being the answer to all of life’s problems.  When the reality of sexual accountability, responsibility, and the dangers and damage sex can bring to a body, it will be too late.

Virtuous Woman 3Childhood depression is up, anxiety, PTSD related to sexual encounters and personal abuse is up, drug use is out of control, and the root causes are the disconnect between reality and personal belief that sex comes without cost or consequence.  Entire smut markets have become open to the youngest of children selling sex and sexual lifestyles, and many times the child is not ready for these consequences.  Tom Sawyer is banned reading material, but 50-Shades of Gray is not; consider what else is in the child’s library at school.  As a substitute, I was appalled when a box of suggested reading materials was delivered to the classroom, where 99% of the books were about homosexual relationships, coping with homosexual feelings, and discovering homosexual lifestyles.

WhyTo fully understand the sexualization of children, one must first cut through the hype.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which is another topic entirely, was cheering the drop in statistics of live births of children to mothers in the 10-14-year-old age range from 8,500 in 2000 to 2,200 in 2016.  Would someone please tell me why the CDC counts live birth statistics in the 10-18-year-old range as if a pregnancy was a disease akin to chickenpox, malaria, Ebola, while the Health and Human Services (HHS) report pregnancies for adults?  Next, why aren’t pregnancies, including abortions, in 10-14-year-olds considered what they are, a tragedy of epic proportion?  A ten-year-old girl should not be having sex as her body is not ready for the burdens of pregnancy, her mind is not prepared for the hormone dump, and she runs a considerable risk of just having sex, let alone getting pregnant.

Question 3I have reports from family court proceedings where young girls are pressured into having sex and getting pregnant as early as possible to increase welfare funding—taking a moral issue and making it a legal matter and a social problem.  Where is the criminal justice system in holding the parent/s responsible for pressuring children to become grown-ups?  Why is the education system, paid for through forced taxation, allowed to groom children for sex but cannot be held accountable for failing to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic?

I am not a girl, obviously, but all through junior high and high school.  I watched my friends who were girls suffer over when to have sex, how to have sex, and the resulting depression, anxiety, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other consequences of active sex lives.  More than one girl suffered abusive relationships or sexual partners who left physical wounds, emotional and mental wounds behind after sexual captivity.  I had acquaintances with guys who suffered from fathering a child, but the mother went and had an abortion.  The psychological and physical pain of being excluded from this decision destroyed the fathers.  Yet, the father’s rights are never part of the equation in making these decisions, even though it took two to create the pregnancy.Modesty

High school, Camden, Maine, Senior Year; I became good friends with a bi-sexual couple.  Together they were lesbians, but their relationship allowed sleep-overs with guys.  One member of this couple discussed how she became a lesbian and the physical pain she endured to become “comfortable being sexually active in a lesbian relationship.”  In fact, the horror stories she related are not anything new in the homosexual community, as I discovered over the years in counseling people both inside and outside the military.  The grooming of young boys for adult men is even more tragic and heartbreaking!  Yet, the LGBTQ+ communities refuse to discuss these experiences, the consequences, and the lasting mental and emotional scars, especially during June’s Pride celebrations.

Knowledge Check!What is worse, none of the literature discussing physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual injuries is not allowed in public schools. It would disturb the mythical instruction and grooming of innocent children about the realities of having sex too early or the problems with homosexual sexual relations.  Parents, celebrate June Pride month if you want, but please watch your children and teenagers.  Please, for the love of your children, help them to make intelligent and informed decisions.  Better still, remove them from the perverts in K-12, so your child has a chance to learn how to read, write, and think logically through mathematical equations before it is too late.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Stress in the Workplace – Starting a Discussion on Organizational Design

Non Sequitur - Aphorism TroubleRecently, I was told that stress in the workplace was the most significant factor in how people in workplace settings can be understood.  I disagreed, rather pointedly, but the bias of the person making this statement was too loud for other points of view and perspectives.  Although the conversation got me thinking, I present the following as my perception of stress in the workplace.

Detective 4Labeling stress as a “significant factor in the modern workplace[s]” is disingenuous at best and thoroughly deceitful at worst.  What is the purpose of the stress being experienced?  Who is experiencing stress?  How resilient is the person?  These questions and more never appear in the research on stress in the workplace, but they are fundamental to understanding stress.  Training, experience, job satisfaction, home life quality and quantity, personal physical fitness, and so forth all play roles in stress (also referred to as anxiety) in the workplace and to lump all of what is being experienced into a label such as “stress” deceives and destroys where health and growth might be occurring, except for the label stress (Garcia-Izquierdo, de Pedro, Ríos-Risquez, & Sánchez, 2018; Moore, 2018; Sok, Blomme, & Tromp, 2014; Strutton & Tran, 2014; Vanhove, Herian, Perez, Harms, & Lester, (2016).

Scared Eyes!Garcia-Izquierdo et al. (2018) researched resilience among nurses and reported connections between emotional exhaustion and cynicism and nursing professionals experiencing burnout; yet, resilience was found to have positive causal relationships to psychological health, emotional exhaustion, and cynicism.  Hence, merely presuming all stress is harmful reflects an ingrained bias against stress, and the positive and healthy aspects of stress are never mentioned or researched honestly (Strutton & Tran, 2014; Vanhove, Herian, Perez, Harms, & Lester, 2016).  The more resilient a person chooses to be, the more potential they have to harness stressors from the environment and produce positive results; thus, Strutton and Tran (2014) maintain that stress can be a positive force for good.  The conclusions present a roadmap for businesses to follow.  Leaving a question, if resilience can be learned and trained, if stress is good and through learning resilience productivity has the potential to improve, why the focus on flexible working arrangements instead of productive tasks, e.g., employee training (Strutton & Tran, 2014; Dizaho, Salleh, & Abdullah, 2017)?

Baby Blues - Good AnswerDizaho, et al. (2017) again lumped all workplace activity into the term stress, doesn’t mention employees’ resilience, or differentiated between males and females, resilient employees and less resilient employees.  Dizaho, et al. (2017) labels stress as bad and promote flexibility in the workplace as an employer issue to manage through flexible schedules, job-sharing, part-time work, shift work, telecommuting, and encouraging a work/life balance arrangement.  While some employees might need these tools due to personal choice regarding the onboarding of resilience training, it seems to me that the academic community is cheating businesses through the disingenuous lumping of all anxiety from the workplace into stress and overlooking the positive effects of stress and the causal relationship in resilience.  Leading to several questions on this topic:

      1. Why is this a business organizational problem?
      2. Where is the individual employee held accountable and responsible for their own anxiety and personal training on resilience?
      3. Dizaho, et al. (2017, p. 462) make clear concluding the problem is “paramount,” and the business organization is responsible, but why is the business organization responsible?

Male v. FemaleAnother aspect to the flexible work environments discussion brought forth and detailed by Gloor, Li, and Puhl (2018) is the inequality of treatment between the sexes in receiving flexibility in the workplace.  Females are more likely and have an easier time obtaining flexibility in working arrangements, even when García-Izquierdo (2018) reflects both male and female nurses can experience resilience, learn resilience, and all mammals can experience anxiety in some fashion or another.  Why are females treated differently by policies for flexibility in the workplace (Vanhove, et al., 2016)?  The same inequality is apparent between male and female disabled individuals as well.  As a male disabled person, the processes are skewed to females with disabilities.

ParadoxA paradox occurs when two seemingly opposing items are compared, and reality shows the articles under question are more related than different.  Anxiety in the workplace is a paradox.  Understanding this dichotomy while embracing the power and influence of resilience is part of the solution to leading an organization in fundamental change.  An essential characteristic and work circumstance that can positively affect change-induced anxiety (stress) in the workforce will be resilience (Garcia-Izquierdo, de Pedro, Ríos-Risquez, & Sánchez, 2018; Moore, 2018; Sok, Blomme, & Tromp, 2014; Strutton & Tran, 2014; Vanhove, Herian, Perez, Harms, & Lester, (2016).

Strutton and Tran (2014) laid out three different plans worthy of modeling for turning non-productive anxiety into growing and motivating stress:

      1. Leveraging anxiety through pragmatic optimism.
      2. Leveraging anxiety through constructive impatience.
      3. Leveraging anxiety through confident humility.

Strutton and Tran (2014) discussed how to mitigate the risk of workplace violence during change by examining the positive influence of tension, claiming, “too little tension may promote contentment… too much tension may promote challenges that appear too large and increases anxiety (p. 1098-1099).  Gluschkoff, Elovainio, Hintsa, Pentti, Salo, Kivimäki, & Vahtera, (2017) emphasized that rampant anxiety can lead to violence.  Gluschkoff, et al. (2017) related how well an individual sleeps is an indicator of anxiety having a negative influence in the workplace; thus, the employees need encouragement in improving how to sleep as a managerial tool for organizations experiencing fundamental change.  Hence, a mitigatory force in workplace violence is how well an employee sleeps; but this leads back to a question of employee responsibility, not organizational change.

ResilienceVanhove, et al., (2016) and Sok, et al., (2014) possess the last word on organizations in fundamental change or organization-wide changes; the need to learn resilience.  Resilience is learned through workplace programs that facilitate employees maintaining a healthy work/life balance and understanding that work spillover is not always a bad thing for employees.  Those employees with work spillover need monitoring, but that is a leadership function at all times and seasons, not just during change initiatives.  Employers and business leaders need to understand the individual nature of workplace anxiety.  The leaders must not force a one-size-fits-most policy onto the employees.  However, knowing the employees, and training employees, opens doors to evaluate employee actions towards stressors in the environment and potentially select new leaders post-change.

Calvin & Hobbes - Pragmatic PrinciplesFascinating and related to stress in the workplace was how much of the literature rejects how beneficial stress can be.  Research also appears to contradict how stress is a choice and how choosing resilience, training about resilience, and improving a person’s resilience are better actions for an employer to take than what is indicated by the lawyers, researchers, and NGO’s (Garcia-Izquierdo, et al., 2018; Gok, et al., 2016; Moore, 2018; Sok, et al., 2014; Solomon, 2003; Strutton & Tran, 2014; Vanhove, et al., 2016; Zabawa, 2017).  Workplace stress is rarely, if ever, considered beneficial, but the research always wants to hold the employer responsible for reducing stress.  Frankly, I was appalled that the employer would be given more power over the employee’s life (IRS.gov, 2018).

Leaving me with questions:

      1. If the employer is responsible for employee stress, what about the employee’s role in choosing healthier emotional responses (Solomon, 2003)?
      2. What about employee responsibility and accountability for their own health, mental, physical, and spiritual (Garcia-Izquierdo, et al., 2018)?

BiasArnulf, Larsen, Martinsen, and Bong (2014) detailed how internal bias predicts results; thus, we can discount most stress-related research as nothing more than bias magnified and personal opinion presented as research, how the research questions are formed dictates the answer that will be arrived at when the study concludes.  Of all the topics I have learned and relearned, the need to question everything, ask more questions, and become ever more selective in the materials I cite has been confirmed.  Interestingly, the more I think I know, the more sure I become that I do not know anything; but, I want to learn so much more.

References

Arnulf, J. K., Larsen, K. R., Martinsen, Ø. L., & Bong, C. H. (2014). Predicting survey responses: How and why semantics shape survey statistics on organizational behaviour. PloS One, 9(9), e106361. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106361

Dizaho, E. K., Salleh, R., & Abdullah, A. (2017). Achieving work life balance through flexible work schedules and arrangements. Global Business and Management Research, 9(1), 455-465. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/docview/1903433226?accountid=35812

García-Izquierdo, M., de Pedro, M. M., Ríos-Risquez, M. I., & Sánchez, M. I. S. (2018). Resilience as a moderator of psychological health in situations of chronic stress (burnout) in a sample of hospital nurses. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 50(2), 228-236. doi: http://dx.doi.org.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/10.1111/jnu.12367

Gloor, J. L., Li, X., & Puhl, R. M. (2018). Predictors of parental leave support: Bad news for (big) dads and a policy for equality. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 21(5), 810-830. doi:10.1177/1368430217751630

Gluschkoff, K., Elovainio, M., Hintsa, T., Pentti, J., Salo, P., Kivimäki, M., & Vahtera, J. (2017). Organisational justice protects against the negative effect of workplace violence on teachers’ sleep: A longitudinal cohort study. Occup Environ Med, oemed-2016.

Gok, K., Sumanth, J. J., Bommer, W. H., Demirtas, O., Arslan, A., Eberhard, J., … & Yigit, A. (2017). You may not reap what you sow: How employees’ moral awareness minimizes ethical leadership’s positive impact on workplace deviance. Journal of Business Ethics, 146(2), 257-277.

Moore, P. V. (2018). Tracking affective labour for agility in the quantified workplace. Body & Society, 24(3), 39-67. doi:10.1177/1357034X18775203

Purcell, N., Shovein, E., Hebenstreit, C., & Drexler, M. (2017). Violence in a US Veterans Affairs healthcare system: worker perspectives on prevalence, causes, and contributors. Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, 15(1), 38-56.

Sok, J., Blomme, R., & Tromp, D. (2014). Positive and Negative Spillover from Work to Home: The Role of Organizational Culture and Supportive Arrangements. British Journal of Management, 25(3), 456–472. https://doi-org.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/10.1111/1467-8551.12058

Solomon, R. C. (2003). Not passion’s slave: Emotions and choice [Kindle 6.10 version].

Strutton, D., & A. Tran, G. (2014). How to convert bad stress into good. Management Research Review, 37(12), 1093-1109. doi:10.1108/MRR-06-2013-0139

  1. S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS.gov) (2018). Independent contractor vs. employee. Available from http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,id=99921,00.html
  2. S. Internal RevenueService (IRS.gov). (2018). The Agency, its Mission and Statutory Authority. Retrieved from http://www.irs.gov/irs/article/0,,id=98141,00.html

Vanhove, A. J., Herian, M. N., Perez, A. L. U., Harms, P. D., & Lester, P. B. (2016). Can resilience be developed at work? A meta-analytic review of resilience-building programme effectiveness. Journal of Occupational & Organizational Psychology, 89(2), 278–307. https://doi-org.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/10.1111/joop.12123

Zabawa, B. J. (2017, November 14). Using the law to reduce worker stress – WELCOA. Retrieved from https://www.welcoa.org/blog/using-law-reduce-worker-stress/

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: Suicide

LookAmerica lost a soldier last week.  For the second time in my sister’s life, suicide has deeply affected her.  Maybe this article is being written for me; perhaps, this article might help someone struggling, I do not know.  I know that suicide deeply affects everyone involved, some carry guilt over another person’s suicide to the grave, and others will always feel sad and empty.  Suicide hurts!

When I served Active-Duty US Army, I was a Chaplain’s Assistant.  My duties were mostly clerical in nature, but I supported every soldier’s beliefs, regardless of their religious belief or flavor.  I loved that job; I sat on the front lines between religion and personal faith, and often my duties were most impactful as I held the hands of grieving people.  I held up the weak knees, lifted hands that hung down, and tried to help people.  I was not perfect then, I am not perfect now, but I can say I did the job.  Like all of life, there is a cost to be paid, and many times that cost is very high!

As a Chaplain’s Assistant, my education included psychology, trauma, hidden wounds, and spotting and helping people seek professional help.  I was often a resource to community support, options, and many times just a listening ear.  Frequently, my day began after I closed the chapel and went downrange, off base, and walked among my fellow soldiers in various bars throughout Dongducheon, S. Korea.  Where I heard about love life’s, extra-marital affairs, affairs gone sour, divorces, pay problems, and every stress known to deployed soldiers.

ToolsBecause I was frequently downrange, I heard about unit problems, offered suggestions, and tried to help the people that make up an Army.  I was handling a situation in my own unit the night a soldier drank himself into alcohol poisoning and died; only later was it discovered the soldier wanted to commit suicide and did not know how except through drinking.  I was not downrange the night a young soldier walked in front of a very large truck; he survived his suicide attempt and received the help he needed.  I hope he is better!

I was supposed to be getting a vehicle ready to take the chaplain to see a training exercise.  Instead, I was in a Quonset Hut, sitting beside some medics who were trying to help their buddy not step in front of a tank.  They found his note, found me, grabbed hold of that soldier, and saved a life.  I was proud to take the Article 15 UCMJ action my chaplain ordered, my friend the medic got the help he needed from a friendlier chaplain and our Battalion Commander.  I am not bragging in relating these episodes, and I do not have aspirations of grandeur that I could have helped.  I describe them because problems with suicide lurk just beneath the calm waters that surround each of us.

I was not in the country of S. Korea when my mechanic friend accidentally hit a little girl who darted out into traffic, and my friend could not stop the truck he was driving in convoy in time.  Unfortunately, I lost track of my friend, but I grieve with him over this event in his life.  The calm waters always hide problems, rocky shoals, traumatic events, and much more.  This brings up the first and most principal point; suicide has long been portrayed poorly by media, Hollywood, and popular culture.

Thin Blue LineUnfortunately, the media, Hollywood, and popular culture get paid to get suicide wrong, and will not change.  As a kid, I was expected to be like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Marlon Brando.  Strong, tough, unyielding, and capable!  Then, Hollywood and the media said this was too stressful, labeled masculinity as toxic, and all men were suddenly supposed to be some mix of Pee-Wee Herman, Rudolph Valentino, and Rock Hudson.  Now, men are appendages, sex toys for women, or other men, and absolutely spineless.  How does this apply to suicide?  Where are the examples, the role models, and those people a person can look up to and see good or emulate?

When I was in Junior High School, I planned to kill myself and make it look like an accident.  I knew where, I knew how, I was not going to leave a note, and on the day of the planned event, a friend saw me walking home from school and offered me a ride.  We talked, not about anything important, but by the time we reached my house, I knew I could not commit suicide to escape my home life.  I looked for role models of who I wanted to be, there were plenty to choose from, and I slowly took the best of each of them and created a life.  I was exceedingly blessed to have such an amazing friend!  Long have I tried to be the same for others.

When counseling those who had tried or were considering suicide, one of the questions I was commonly asked usually was framed like, “Who do I look up to?”  Too often followed by a story of a broken home, abuse, failures at sports, pressures to perform, the list is endless.  Role models are essential, role models are needed, but do you steer a child to model the president, a governor, an athlete, etc.; not bloody likely!  Hence one of the foundational problems in our society is a dearth of role models.  People committed to living honorably where the media talk about them, instead of the latest athlete bashing his girlfriend’s face in an elevator.

Friends QuoteOne of the best pilots recently died.  His story was pointed out to me, his exploits became legend, and his skills were the stuff of dreams and fanciful imaginations.  Chuck Yeager could and did do things to an airplane that caught and held my imagination.  The world lost a great and talented man, I lost a person I would love to call a friend, and we never met!

Hollywood and the Media keep getting the story wrong on suicide because of the toxic culture they have invented to punish good, demean the strong, handicap the great, and dumb down the wise.  We see the results daily.  Sports figures beating up their domestic partners, drugging, or merely acting like a spoiled brat.  From politicians that cannot respect each other or their constituents, Hollywood types acting like puerile rubes off camera.  Magazines are selling sex like a new toy to America’s continuing issues with drugs (legal and illegal), cigarettes, and alcohol.  Every waking moment is filled with toxicity, acting like acid on the mind, detracting from the good, and creating unequal comparisons through social media that can never be matched.

CourageI talked to a depressed person, a guy who got so lost in comparing his life to his friends’ lives on Instagram and Facebook, he was contemplating suicide.  He said it started when he was 11 or 12, first with girls, then the size of his manhood, his inability to be good at sports, his mid-level grades, and the pressures just kept building.  This same person was a Force Recon Marine, had battle badges, and an amazing service record.  Because he could not raise his personal value to meet social media demands, he considered himself a failure.  I sincerely hope he is doing better now.

A friend of mine in the U.S. Navy got caught in the same comparison problem, devised a method to get more money through housing allowances, and got caught.  He is in Leavenworth now, I lost track of his wife and kids, and my friend got lost.  He should be getting out of Fort Leavenworth later this year.  I wish him the best of luck!  Between toxic culture and a lack of role models, Hollywood, and the media, including social media, have a stranglehold on people, and suicides keep increasing!

Another factor in suicide rates is the increasing lack of a nuclear family.  Not to say that a nuclear family is all roses and lollipops, but every democratic society worldwide is suffering from a staggering increase in broken homes through murder/suicide, divorce, hookup culture, and friends with benefits lifestyles, add in homosexuality and gender fluidity.  It is no wonder people are confused, and single parenthood and suicide continue to climb.  When religious decline due to media attacks on religious thought and standards are added to the equation, it is not a wonder that more people are contemplating and committing suicide.  There is no wonder why depression and anxiety are rising steadily as mental diseases.

Duty 3I will offer some ideas for consideration, both to aid in reducing suicide and to aid in helping those struggling.  Of a truth for certain, I contemplated suicide in late December 2020, and had it not been for mental mechanisms installed through learning; I would not be here typing this article.  These ideas for consideration are things I daily apply to help me.  Hence, when I ask you to consider these ideas, I am in the same trenches, doing the same things, and working right alongside you.

    1. Most importantly, find a religion you can live.  There are hundreds of flavors of religious belief systems.  Experiment until you find one that works for you. Faith helps by placing a buffer between how you think and how you act while supplying a why as a motivating force towards action.  Believe it or not, even atheism is a religion; it’s just really hard to live.
    2. Unplug the TV, disconnect from social media, and spend at least one day a week technology-free. Your mind needs to rest from all the inputs of modern living.  Choose a day, any day that works for you is perfect, and put down the cellphone, walk away from the computer, turn off the TV, and plug into mental relaxation.  Make cookies; I used to pound bread dough, do something where your activity levels are up, your mind is down, and you are not plugged in.
    3. Reduce your social media commitments. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., are time sponges where you will spend a ton of time trying to compare, keep up, stay afloat, and you never will succeed!  It is okay to end social media commitments!  It is perfectly normal to have a life not posted every 20-seconds to Instagram or another social media platform.
    4. Reach out to people, real people. Use letters, emails, phone calls, or walk down the street and talk with a complete stranger.  I find that when I am reaching out, I am not as self-conscious and not as depressed.  One of my favorite activities is to go to a long-term care facility and ask people about their lives.  I have met incredible people; I have learned, laughed, cried, and celebrated lives that have reached their pinnacle.
    5. Mental toxicity feeds upon what comes into our bodies through the senses and social environments. Change music genres.  Change the authors you read.  Change the magazines to which you subscribe.  Change social settings.  If you are struggling with mental toxicity, change something small and watch how impactful that small item becomes.  A friend of mine is oft to quote, “It’s a matter of a few degrees;” there is a cool story on the internet that accompanies this quote.

Regardless, please talk to someone if you are hurting and thinking about suicide.  Please listen to your friends and close associates.  Do not be scared to ask, bluntly, baldly, openly, “Are you considering something?”  An acquaintance related to me a story where a friend saw something, asked bluntly and saved a life.  On the phone one night, I talked to a friend; he mentioned he was considering swallowing his shotgun and hung up.  I called 911 and asked for a health and welfare check, stated what I heard, and waited anxiously for the authorities to call me back.  Eventually, they did; they helped my friend.  I am exceedingly grateful for the first responders who too often are the front line when suicide happens.

Detective 4I am going to offer one other idea for consideration.  Every time you hear a siren or see flashing lights offer a prayer for the first responders and those involved.  The prayer does not have to be grand and eloquent; your religious flavor does not matter; we are all connected, and those responding can sure use the help.  When you see a medic/EMT/Paramedic, Firefighter, Police officer/Sheriff, please thank them.  The suicide rates among first responders are incredibly high and always tragic.  Nothing grand or embarrassing, just a simple word of kindness will help the first responders in your area.  Until injuries took me, I used to be a first responder as well.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post!  May God bless and keep you!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.