Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Art of Happiness 16

Suicide Prevention

In the last post here, I presented the poetic response of William Wordsworth to the death by drowning of his brother Captain John Wordsworth who was lost in a shipwreck.  He wrote the poem a year after his loss, and it is obvious from the text that he has dealt with his grief.  Indeed, the poem itself can be seen essentially as an act of poiesis or healing in action.

There are fewer more traumatic experiences than the death of a loved one through suicide.  Monday September 4 marks the beginning of International Suicide Prevention Week.  In this extended series of posts I have been commenting on The Art of Happiness by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Dr. Howard C.Cutler. This book argues that happiness is a legitimate goal in life and that through the Buddhist practices of compassion and meditation this state can be achieved by the individual.

Listen to Me

As I write these words I am very aware that many of us do not have the time to stop and listen these days.  In the rush and the fret of modern society, fewer and fewer of us have time to stop and listen to others.  Listening is at a premium in a capitalist society whose emphasis is solely on the acquisition of both wealth and success.  Now listening is not just about hearing.  One can hear what people are saying without truly empathising with them, and empathy takes time to learn.  We can teach one another to listen and to empathize.  By doing so we can help prevent possible suicides, and of this there is no doubt.  In Ireland, as in most modern industrialized countries, death by suicide among young men especially is on the increase.  Learning to listen is part of the skill of compassion which both The Dalai Lama and Dr. Cutler impress upon us.  They both emphasize that these skills are infinitely teachable and learnable.

Talk to Me

Now this is a fitting diptych to my previous heading.  Listen to Me and Talk to Me are, as it were, two sides of the one coin.  We must let as many people as possible in our lives know that we are available to be talked to.  No good having all the wonderful listening skills if others don't know it.  That's why I am impressed by the slogan "Talk to Me" which is being used as a key selling point by one organization for the Prevention of Suicide campaign in the US. The Trevor Project has launched a new campaign ahead of National Suicide Prevention Week (September 4 – September 10) called “Talk to Me” designed to get people to reach out to their loved ones and really communicate. There is a particularly good video promoting this campaign by T.V. programme Glee’s Kevin McHale in which the actor encourages everyone to get involved in the Talk to Me campaign by taking the Talk to Me pledge to spread the word about the initiative ahead of  International Suicide Prevention Week.

Talking to someone regularly and telling them about our lives might seem simple and unimportant, but it can produce tremendous and even life-saving benefits. When we make a habit of talking with a friend, family member, colleague or counselor about the important issues in our life, we're more likely to talk with them about those issues that have the potential to be harmful or even life-threatening, including thoughts of suicide.  
Getting into this habit now is also well-timed. National Suicide Prevention Week begins the Sunday of Labor Day weekend and extends through the following Saturday, Sept. 4 -10. This important awareness week helps us learn what to do if someone we care about is in crisis, including if that person is you. One of the best tools to preventing suicide is lowering the bar to getting help. When you say, "Talk to me," your offer of care and acceptance could help save a life. (See here )
Also please listen to the important words of Kevin McHale below:

The Importance of Learning, Conviction and Determination Leading to Action:

One important lesson I have learned from reading this wonderful book,  The Art of Happiness, is that it is possible to learn and to teach compassion as an interpersonal skill.  Fine, you may agree, as certain current research is showing that human beings are by nature compassionate, but without a doubt this basic original compassionate nature has been supressed and indeed virtually completely drowned by hundreds of years of so-called progress that emphasizes materialism, profit and success.  It may be innately there, but it has to be nurtured, sustained, strengthened and promoted by teaching/learning on an on-going basis.  The Dalai Lama emphasizes that while learning is important, it is simply not enough.  We can know something is right and not do it.  After we have learned the facts about SUICIDE, the harmful effects of smoking, alcohol abuse, drug addiction or whatever other pressing human problem is at issue, we must become completely convinced by this knowledge so that we develop a determination to put in the effort to combat the problem.  The Dalai Lama also speaks about "a sense of urgency as a key factor" (The Art of Happiness, p. 186) in helping to overcome problems, whatever they may be.


Christopher Dos Santos said...

Excellent post again, looks like a great read. Thanks for sharing. See if you can find a used bok (out of print) by an author Peter O Erbe, God I Am is the title.

In Lak' ech, prosper in truth...

TQ said...

I have just ordered this book on Amazon. Thanks for the recommendation. It looks good! Tim