Yesterday morning I was checking my various and sundry quick hit websites. Took a look at Twitter and saw a Tweet from PostSecret – I’ll see you on Capitol Hill today at 10AM in the Cannon Room. http://www.hopeline.com.
Curiosity peaked, I found the event on Facebook – the 6th Annual 1-800-SUICIDE Capitol Hill Press Conference. Speakers to include PostSecret founder Frank Warren, To Write Love On Her Arms founder Jamie Tworkowski, 1-800-SUICIDE founder Reese Butler, Blue October lead singer and songwriter Justin Furstenfeld, Skip Simpson renowned attorney with a specialty in handling inpatient suicide cases and Carolyn Robinowitz, M.D. who is one of the most influential psychiatrists in the world, and past president of the American Psychiatric Association.
Took the medium fry to school at 8:45 and jumped on the Metro. Got to Cannon House right at 10:00 and found a seat on the aisle. Reese Butler had just begun speaking. Good looking tattooed guy was in and out and then sat in the row in front of me, a few seats to my right. Took a look and realized, “Oh, that’s Justin, from Blue October.” As the wife of a journalist, I totally believe in privacy and didn’t acknowledge or bother him, just enjoyed the fact that I was sitting near a guy with a beautiful look and gorgeous voice.
Learned alot during all the speeches. Did you know, when a person who is suspected of having suicidal thoughts is placed in a hospital, they’re usually only put on a 15 minute observation status? That means a person checks them 4 times an hour. Did you know the leading method of suicide in hospitals? Hanging. You know how long it takes to die by hanging? Less then 8-9 minutes from the time you take to secure a sheet over the door to the time you are truly dead (as opposed to left with permanent brain damage from lack of oxygen).
The purpose of the press conference was to call on Congress to enact rules requiring hospital clinicians to be skilled at detecting patients likely to kill themselves and to abolish dangerous hospital observation levels for suicidal patients. It is estimated that up to 1600 people kill themselves each year in US hospitals. Studies show up to 95% of clinicians fail basic suicide risk assessment tests. If the mental health industry will not make hospitals safe for its patients on their own, the government will.
The last speaker was Justin. OK. What? Bi Polar and sometimes hearing and seeing things that aren’t there? Wow. His speech nearly had me in tears. He was hospitalized last year after what can only be called a breakdown at an airport. He said he didn’t even remember standing in the airport, waving his arms over his head, asking for help before he hurt himself. The hospital staff were so busy finding out who he was and getting autographs and sneaking family members in for autographs that treating him wasn’t even a priority. To know that the people who were supposed to help him were more interested in his celebrity than in his care is a sad and scary thing.
I’ve been a fan of their music for years. Heard alot of stuff on the radio but as a late 30 something didn’t get around to buying albums. Had no idea about his personal history but learning what I did gave me a true appreciation for the words in his songs. Actually, as a mom, I even wanted to offer a hug to him after he spoke. I refrained.
The band did an acoustic set when it was over, including Hate Me (freaking made me cry, and I’m crying now as I listen to it on ITunes), Into the Ocean and Black Orchid. An amazing couple of hours. I learned a great deal, some enlightening and some kind of frightening. Hopefully, this is the start of change.
Oh, and I’m now a 40 year old mother of 3 with Blue October on her IPod. I ended up buying 5 albums from their website when I got home.