In memory: suicide prevention resources

I usually post suicide prevention and mental health resources in December in memory of our son Paul. He would be 43 on his December 31 birthday. This year I'm sharing about the suicide prevention groups I belong to on Facebook. These groups vary in that some are open, secret, or closed. But in all cases they are caring and sensitive to the needs of someone trying to survive the death of a loved one by suicide. If you want to join, just ask, and some kind person in charge will more than likely accept you into the group. I've listed these in no particular order except for the first one. I was actively involved with Putting a Face on Suicide as volunteer admin for a couple of years. This organization has been priceless in always remembering our loved ones on their death and birthdays. I look forward to seeing my son's face on that site on his New Years Eve birthday. Putting a Face on Suicide - A project that lovingly pays tribute to those lost to suicide. 2792 Faces on Day 29 … [Read more...]

The April Poem A Day Challenge is back

I'm participating in Robert Lee Brewer's* month-long Poem A Day Challenge, as I've done each November and April for the last several years. At this point my poems are just drafts, but it's fun just to get something down that I can tinker with once the challenge is over. Robert's prompts are always interesting. Here's a few poems I've written so far, following the days' prompts. 3. Write a tentative poem. The poem could be about a tentative date, a tentative person, a tentative situation. The narrator could be tentative. The subject could be tentative. She once said, I'll pencil you in. I bristled. In fact, I erased her from my calendar and datebook entirely. I've also erased her from my mind. 4. Take the phrase Hold That (Blank), replace the blank with a word or phrase, make the new phrase the title of your poem, and write the poem. Possible titles include Hold That Thought, Hold That Space, Hold That Poem, or whatever else holds your attention. Hold That … [Read more...]

Remembering Paul on Rosh Hashanah

Poster courtesy of Mike Purcell, founder of the Facebook page, Putting a Face on Suicide So the Jewish High Holiday, Rosh Hashanah, is over. It begins a ten-day period of reflection ending with our Day of Atonement (a fast day) when we go to synagogue to pray to be sealed in the book of life for another year. Even though I'm not religious and I question the existence of God, and it is hard for me to pray or even say the pray word, going to high holiday services always makes me cry. Especially the reading on Rosh Hashanah that spells out who shall live and who shall die. (listen to Leonard Cohen's rendition.) On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by … [Read more...]

Suicide statistics

This is September, the month our older son Paul died by suicide after his seven year battle with bipolar disorder. On September 23 it will be thirteen years. And the pain of his loss is still here. Most Septembers or Decembers (his birth month) I like to post about resources that help erase the stigma of mental illness and/or provide help in preventing suicide. Today I'm doing my volunteer job at the Facebook group site: Putting a Face on Suicide mainly a memorial site for those of us left behind after the suicide of a loved one. As soon as I logged in, I found the words and photo shown below. If the magnitude of this data doesn't remind us how important suicide prevention is, nothing will. In the next 985 minutes 1478 people will take their own lives. In the blink of an eye 8868 family and friends will survive them and be profoundly affected. Those are some of the statistics; and these are their faces ¦ Click this link to download a high resolution 11 x 17 inch PDF copy … [Read more...]

Farewell, Lucky Press! What’s next after a publisher quits?

Right in the midst of saying goodbye to friends from Tuscon on Saturday morning, I got the news that Lucky Press was going out of business on April 30 that's today! That announcement gave me a whole three day's notice. What a shock and what a scramble. It took me the better part of that day, a sleepless night, and until the next morning to get over it and consider this event an opportunity, not a disaster. First, I decided my book is way too important to abandon now. Actually I should have seen the writing on the wall when Janice, the owner of Lucky Press, informed me about a month ago that she would not produce my e-book in May as promised. She had been in ill health and just moved. Plus creating graphic designs seems to be her passion and provides her real livelihood. However, I was fortunate that she resonated with my book and offered to publish it. Her attention to detail with my text, photos, and book design was flawless. I am very proud of the book she produced. And it … [Read more...]

LA Times Festival of Books – was it worth it?

I spent most the last couple of days at the LA Times Festival of Booksheld at the University of Southern California campus. And most of the time I hung at the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society booth. I'm holding Paul's Putting a Face on Suicide poster I was pleased to bond with several of the GLAWS members who volunteered to provide hospitality to people interested in joining our group and to help those of us who paid for a selling and signing place at the booth. Here I am with author and actor, Ace Antonio Hall, my GLAWS colleague I also learned a thing or two about my author colleagues. Most were lovely and friendly but as expected kept to themselves and their customers during our signing sessions. However, the woman next to me used her space as well as mine until I told her next time she needs to pay for two places, not one. She didn't bat an eye and just leaned over my table space to yet again sign one of her posters for someone. But I won out in the end. My friends in … [Read more...]

April Platform Challenge – Day 1

I've decided to enter Robert Lee Brewer's first ever April Platform Challenge. Anyone want to join me? Here's how he says it will work: On April 1, I'll post a task for writers to complete that day. (I didn't get April 1 until today) Each day afterward, through the month of April, there will be a new task for writers to complete on that day. At the end of the month, every writer who completes the challenge should have a stronger platform and be able to say they took part in the first ever April Platform Challenge. Day 1: Define yourself. I don't want you to worry about where you'd like to be or anything in the future. Instead, I want you to take a look at who you are, what you've done, what you're currently doing, etc. Below is a chart I'm using (with my own answers). Here's my information: Name (as used in byline): Madeline Sharples Position(s): Author of Leaving the Hall Light On (Lucky Press, 2011); Web journalist at Naturally Savvy and PsychAlive, … [Read more...]

The last January 2012 small stones

January 22 Dark gray clouds cover the roaring waves. I wonder why the surfers aren't riding them instead of taking them them one by one lying down. January 23 Kristi's photo was posted on Putting a Face on Suicide today. She was just 19 when she took her life. I wish I could share her huge eyes, her smooth skin, her friendly closed-mouth smile with you. She was beauty. And even that couldn't save her from a drug addiction that sucked the life out of her. January 24 I met an old friend this morning and within five minutes of talking she was in tears. She told me about her mentally ill daughter in yet another healing institution. She's been in nine since she was thirteen; she is twenty now. I hope my writing will inspire my friend to take good care of herself. Her daughter will have to find her own way. January 25 I was so proud of myself last evening for being an advocate in getting a mentally ill young man some help. I was told at ten in the evening that he would be in … [Read more...]

Putting a Face on Suicide – it never ends

I'm at Facebook's Putting a Face on Suicide page again today, still wondering what goes through such beautiful young minds that tells them to kill themselves. Some of these young folks are 14, 16, 19, 22 years old and had so much to live for. We must find a way to save our precious ones who look like they should be so full of life. And in the words of one of the people who came by the page: Cherish your loved ones, be kind to people, we will never know how long we have to enjoy someone. Paul was twenty-seven … [Read more...]

Happy Birthday

This is the thirteenth year we are celebrating Paul's birthday without him. He would have been forty years old today. So as I've done in past years, I'm sharing some of my memories of him. It's amazing how clearly these things continue to stay in my mind and continue to beget even more memories of our boy, Paul. Happy Birthday, Paul, always with love. · I'll always remember he slept without closing his eyes all the way · I'll always remember he walked fast and way ahead of us · I'll always remember he had long, thick, black eyelashes surrounding clear-blue eyes · I'll always remember he played the piano, legs crossed at the knees, leaning way down over the keyboard · I'll always remember he liked to wear second-hand clothes and didn't mind if they were ripped · I'll always remember the way he stood at the pantry door munching almonds · I'll always remember he liked to climb trees, rocks, up the highest diving boards · I'll always remember he was meticulous … [Read more...]

Compartmentalization is tough

I've been volunteering at the Facebook Putting a Face on Suicide page for nine weeks now. Each Monday I sign in at twelve noon and stay focused on the page until eight in the evening. My job essentially is to either Like or respond with a message to every comment that is posted on the page. Though I'm able to move back and forth to my writing work or look at my emails or write a blog post, as I'm doing now, I need to check back every couple of minutes so I can respond quickly. It's not good to let people know there is no one minding the store, so to speak. I have gotten a lot of value from doing this job. I look forward to it every week because I know the wonderful service it provides solace to those who have lost loved ones to suicide. It is a place where our memories never die. It is a place where we can see their faces and read their stories whenever we want. Paul's Putting a Face on Suicide poster This job is also a huge confront for me. Even though my Paul died over twelve … [Read more...]

Ventura County Book Fair

Paul's Putting A Face On Suicide poster will go to the fair with me I'll be signing books from ten to four tomorrow at the Ventura County Book Fair, and I'll read about ten minutes at 1:30 pm. The fair will be held in Camarillo California at the The Pleasant Valley Community Park Auditorium, 1605 Burnley Street. So I'd love to see my Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara county friends there. But just in case you can't make it, here are a couple of the poems I plan to read from my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. You might have read them here before, but for me they are timeless. My Jazzman My jazzman beat it out on the mighty eighty-eights, played those riffs, tapped his feet bent his head down to the keys, felt those sounds on his fingertips. Yeah, he was a hot man on those eighty-eights. But all too soon his bag grew dark. He went down, deep down. My jazzman played the blues, lost that spark, closed the lid. And, yeah, you got it right, quit the … [Read more...]

I’m a new volunteer and I love it

I have a new job on Monday afternoons. I'm a volunteer administrator for the Facebook page: Putting a Face on Suicide [PAFOS]. I blogged a bit about this project last June but it doesn't hurt to tell you all again and again about it. I think it is just that powerful. Otherwise, I wouldn't be spending eight hours on a Monday afternoon volunteering to keep the sight up and running and very user friendly. People who have experienced a suicide of a loved one are hurting. PAFOS is a place to put that hurt and to keep the memory of their loved ones alive. It is not, however, a place to go if you are suicidal yourself. If you are in distress call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800 273-TALK. The mission of PAFOS states: Every 40 seconds somewhere around the world someone dies by suicide, that's 99 people every 66 minutes. PAFOS is an ongoing project soliciting pictures of your loved ones who died by suicide. Each 99 pictures will be used in a poster and a video, roughly … [Read more...]

September 23 is never a good day

Paul, 1992 - before bipolar This is probably my worst day of the year. It's Paul's death day. And today it is twelve years since he died. I've been up since 4:30 this morning, not even able to sleep in to my usual 5:30 or 6:00. I finally got up around 5:30 and went to the gym. That I worked out was a good thing. Working up a good sweat is always cleansing. I also did a couple of things I've been meaning to do for a long time. I replaced his photo we've had fading on our mantle for the last twelve years with a new vibrantly colored copy. And, after Bob and I went to visit Paul's grave this morning, we stopped into the cemetery's administrative office to make sure his gravestone is cleaned before our next planned visit on his birthday, December 31. Today, we saw a very dirty stone with grass growing over it. Still, as is our tradition, we each left a stone. Other than that I am just hanging out not doing much of anything. Not able to concentrate very well. But I didn't … [Read more...]

Thank you for sharing my memory of Paul

A big thank you to all of you who have donated and/or signed up to join me on September 25 for the Didi Hirsch annual suicide prevention Alive and Running 5K. Now that I'm on the 5K committee I was asked to set a fundraising goal. And at the outset I set my goal only at $500. But thanks to you I just upped it to $1000.00 and I'm only $48.00 short of reaching that because so many of you responded to my Ask. Just to give you a little background, I first discovered Didi Hirsch after Paul died. My husband and I participated in their eight-week Survivors after Suicide workshop. And as depressing as those sessions were, they had a lasting effect on me. I also found out that as horrific a story of loss as mine was, it could always be worse. I also reconnected with a person I've known since grade school in Glencoe, IL through my involvement with Didi Hirsch. Stan Lelewer's son killed himself about six years before Paul, and when he heard about Paul through a mutual friend he was … [Read more...]

No, I shall never forget

Putting a Face on Suicide Just because I haven't mentioned it all month, just because I've been busy posting about my European trip and September 11, just because I'm working like a fiend on book marketing doesn't mean I've forgotten. No, there is no way that would happen. The anniversary of my son Paul's death day (did I make up that term?) is looming and it is constantly on my mind. September for me is that dreaded month. First because of Paul's death and two years later the September 11 disasters. I've never been able to make sense of either one. I wrote this poem (really just a musing) in October, 2001 at an Esalen, Big Sur CA workshop. Tragedy in Perspective They say the poets need to retell the story to find meaning in the devastation, the incineration of over 3,000 people. We are the ones who can make the world feel better with the beauty of our words. But, I can't find the meaning. All I can see is the grief, the disbelief, the yearning, searching looks … [Read more...]

Putting a Face on Suicide

The Facebook Putting a Face on Suicide is a personal project of Mike Purcell done in collaboration with the American Association of Suicidology. Mike's son 21 year old Christopher Lee Purcell, died by suicide in 2008. As Mike states: every 15 minutes someone dies by suicide in the United States, that's 96 or so people each day. Putting a Face on Suicide [PAFOS] is an ongoing project soliciting pictures of your loved ones who died by suicide. Each 96 pictures will be used in a poster and a video, representing one day's loss. The posters and videos will be posted on the PAFOS facebook page and may be freely used by any person or organization to promote suicide awareness and prevention. The goal of PAFOS is to collect 35040 faces representing 365 days of loss, and then to visually send a very powerful 35040 faced message. Please go to to see the faces gathered so far. So far four videos have … [Read more...]