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9 risk factors for suicide and 1 important question you can ask to hopefully know for sure.

There's something you should know about people with severe depression.

Many of us feel inept when it comes to acknowledging suicide.

"It's so tragic."

"What a waste of a beautiful life."


"Why didn't he just talk to us about it?"

We are often at a loss for how to deal with the profoundly devastating topic of suicide. We can talk about it in a removed, social-ill, this-world-is-so-messed-up, throw-our-hands-up-in-helplessness kind of way when it comes up in passing — like when people are talking about how much they miss Robin Williams.

But we are poorly equipped to discuss it in any substantial way. Which is understandable. Most of us aren't trained in psychiatric services and are doing our best to muddle through our own difficulties in life. Figuring out how to solve America's suicide problem seems above our pay grade.

It's important for each of us to commit to getting better at talking about it.

When you have that one friend you can just sit and talk with about anything. Image by Garry Knight/Flickr.

The truth is that each of us could have a friend who's suicidal right now — today — and isn't telling us about it. They're not telling us about it because they know very well that they live in a world ill-equipped to help them without judging them.

The main thing that kept me from speaking up long ago when I toyed with the thought of ending my own life was: "If I admit I'm barely able to take each next breath right now, will I always be labeled as fragile or troubled forever for the rest of time?" Saying something is a decision to commit to someone else's memory that this messed-up mental stumble is happening. It takes bravery to talk about it, especially when you're in the thick of it.

Everyone and anyone could be at risk for suicide. Suicide doesn't have a "look." Moms, dads, 11-year-olds, pastors — the thought of ending it all can take root in anybody's mind. But there are some groups who are more prone to suicide than others. According to the CDC, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight peers. And 25% of transgender young people surveyed report having made an attempt to take their own life. The thing that some well-meaning people don't know is that snapping out of it or learning how to enjoy life isn't an option for those who are truly depressed — it's not a mind-over-matter thing. At that particular moment in their lives, the afflicted person just can't.

The little things that can spark our spirit during normal times don't do the same thing for someone who's depressed. Image by Rick/Flickr.

Why does suicide start looking like a viable option?

John Gibson, a pastor whose name was recently released as part of the Ashley Madison hack (where people were outed for starting accounts with the intent to cheat on their spouses), committed suicide in August.

"He talked about depression. He talked about having his name on there, and he said he was just very, very sorry. What we know about him is that he poured his life into other people, and he offered grace and mercy and forgiveness to everyone else, but somehow he couldn't extend that to himself."
Christi Gibson, on her husband John's suicide letter

Jody Nelson, a clinical social worker in Lansing, Michigan, explains part of why a person can be drawn to suicide in the first place:

"A suicidal person will often see suicide as a neat, tidy, and self-contained solution to their emotional state of desperation. Suicide is never neat. Never tidy. And never truly self-contained. Suicidal people are not capable of seeing or predicting the ripples and waves their act will cause in lives around them. Yet their suicide will impact lives they aren't even aware they are touching via connections their own illness makes impossible for them to see."

He advises us to know the risk factors:

"Not all of these are going to mean impending suicide attempts, but the risk increases as they pile on each other."

1. Depression. Isolation. Losses.

2. Big life changes (and sometimes, just some small ones like going on or off certain meds).

3. Prior attempts. Substance abuse.

4. Irrational or erratic behaviors.

5. Financial difficulties.

6. Access to means.

7. Suicidal intention.

8. A family history of suicide.

9. Connections to others who have died by suicide.

Nelson says that if we see those signs, we should ask straight-up something like this question:

"Hey I've noticed you've been particularly down lately. Are you thinking about hurting yourself?"

It won't make someone who's not suicidal suddenly consider it. And it won't make someone who is thinking suicidal thoughts go through with it. What it will do, if they have been thinking about it, is break through a wall that's keeping the person isolated and suddenly alleviate some of that buildup they've been sitting alone with. A person struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts is often very grateful to find someone they can talk frankly with about their thoughts.

And if they say yes, listen and talk, but also get them to an emergency room. Go with them. Get them there. They will be connected to the right resources once they get there. Then follow up and keep an eye. Keep talking with them. But don't let them put it off — they will try to downplay it as not that serious. Who wouldn't?

Here's why it's important for us to talk about this right now, and publicly.

There's no shame in needing your friends. These guys know. Image by SmellyAvocado.

When we learn how to talk about suicide more productively and demonstrate publicly that we're trying to understand it a little better than we used to, we open doors in case someone in our circle is thinking about opening up.

We signal that we aren't going to judge our friends and loved ones — just love them. Sharing an article like this is one way to start sending that signal.

And when more people get the message that there's someone around they can talk to, maybe we'll see the suicide numbers drop significantly.

In the big picture, that would be amazing. But as anyone who's lost a loved one to suicide can tell you, saving one person and stopping those devastating ripple effects from starting is immeasurably valuable.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Cellist Cremaine Booker's performance of Faure's "Pavane" is as impressive as it is beautiful.

Music might be the closest thing the world has to real magic. Music has the ability to transform any atmosphere in seconds, simply with the sounds of a few notes. It can be simple—one instrument playing single notes like raindrops—or a complex symphony of melodies and harmonies, swirling and crashing like waves from dozens of instruments. Certain rhythms can make us spontaneously dance and certain chord progressions can make us cry.

Music is an art, a science, a language and a decidedly human endeavor. People have made music throughout history, in every culture on every continent. Over time, people have perfected the crafting of instruments and passed along the knowledge of how to play them, so every time we see someone playing music, we're seeing the history of humanity culminated in their craft. It's truly an amazing thing.

The pandemic threw a wrench into seeing live musicians for a good chunk of time, and even now, live performances are limited. Thankfully, we have technology that makes it easier for musicians to collaborate and perform with one another virtually—and also makes it easier for people to create "group" performances all by themselves.

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A round-up of delights from around the internet this week.

Hey all!

Welcome to Upworthy's weekly roundup of delights from around the internet. This week's list features a little of everything—gorgeous music, cute kids, adorable animals, hope for the planet and a brand new video message from the late and great Betty White.

That's right, Betty White left us a message of gratitude shortly before her passing. It's brief, but how lovely to see and hear her speak to her millions of fans one last time. Few celebrities are as universally beloved as Betty White was, and though we knew she couldn't live forever, it would have been fun to see her celebrate her 100th birthday. Now, at least, we get to experience her joy and warmth with a few last words.

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