Talking helps

banner1I recently received a heartbreaking news release from the Minnesota Department of Health. The email was full of statistics about suicide deaths in Minnesota in 2015.

It’s painful to read. The Department of Health reports that there were 726 suicide deaths in Minnesota in 2015, up from 686 in 2014. That equals 13 deaths per 100,000 Minnesotans.

And that means that all of us have likely been touched by the tragedy of suicide.

As Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said, “Let us never forget that this is not about statistics; each and every one of these 726 deaths is someone’s friend, relative and neighbor. We need to work together by focusing on prevention.”

I’m extremely fortunate that I have never been that low. I had a bit of postpartum depression when I had my first child, but I went for counseling. Talking to a caring professional helped me figure out that my sadness could be attributed to exhaustion and the loneliness of living far away from friends and family. Talking helped.

But I have been an observer of the challenges a person with mental illness faces. I’ve watched family and friends struggle with social situations and normal day-to-day living. I’ve seen people I care about become so depressed that they have considered suicide as a way to escape their emotional pain.

I’ve also seen the difference that community support, medication and counseling can make. Talking helps.

The Department of Health news seems to bear that out. There is a bit of good in the report. The number of suicides went down for Minnesota residents under 25 (from 119 in 2014 to 114 in 2015). Most prevention efforts have focused on this age group in recent years.

So it appears that the old belief that talking about suicide will cause someone to harm him or herself is not true. The state and national efforts reaching out to teens and young people—talking and listening— to them is working.

We need to expand those efforts, which Minnesota Department of Health officials have pledged to do. The 2015 Legislature invested $47 million in new spending for mental health services. This additional funding is the largest investment in state history, which is great, but we as individuals need to do our part.

It’s not just up to mental health care practitioners and law enforcement. All of us can help those who face mental illness by being there, by talking and listening. By asking, “Are you okay today?” and really listening for the answer.

And for those that face the challenge of mental health issues, if you reach the point of wanting to hurt yourself, please reach out for help.

A loved one, a suicide survivor, received some excellent advice during treatment and counseling. A behavioral health practitioner gave some tips on what to do if my friend reached that critical point again.

She said to make a list. Write down the names and phone numbers of trusted friends or family members. Not just one person, make it a list of 10 or a dozen. Before contemplating taking your life, call the first person on the list. If you get voice mail, call the next. If you text the next person and they are unable to reply right away, contact the next person… and the next and the next until you find someone to talk to.

I love this advice. It is gut wrenching to receive such a call. But it is horrifying to think that you may not be available to answer that call or text. So as part of a support network, it is reassuring to me to know that there are other options.

The tattered list remains in my friend’s billfold. Thankfully, because of medication and counseling, it hasn’t been needed. But it is a lifeline that needs to be there.

If you face depression that could lead to death by suicide, please make a list. Please, please, please talk to someone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your
perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in
everything. That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen


Where are We in August?

where are we

Cook County News-Herald staffers love to get out and about the county. So we decided, while we are traveling the highway and bushwhacking through the forest, to take pictures to see if our readers can guess WHERE ARE WE?

Our July WHERE ARE WE? fooled a few people. There were guesses that the historical tableaux was at the Cook County Historical Society museum, inside the Grand Portage National Monument Great Hall or at My Sister’s Place restaurant in Grand Marais.

We were inside the Chik Wauk Museum near the end of the Gunflint Trail. Many people did recognize the spot and drawn from all the correct entries was Katherine Sullivan of Bloomington, Minnesota.

Try your luck! Take a look at the August photo. If you think you know where this photo was taken, send us your answer.

You don’t have to be the first to reply. The location will be announced next month and a winner will be drawn from all the correct answers. Whoever is drawn from the correct entries receives a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald (a $32 value). Good luck!

Stop by the office to give us your guess or return answer by mail, e-mail or fax to:

Cook County News-Herald

PO Box 757

Grand Marais MN 55604

starnews@boreal.org

Fax: 218-387-9500

Answer to the August WHERE ARE WE? must be received by September12, 2016.

 


Where are We in July?

index

Cook County News-Herald staffers love to get out and about the county. So we decided, while we are traveling the highway and bushwhacking through the forest, to take pictures to see if our readers can guess WHERE ARE WE?

It seems as if everyone knew where we were in June. We received correct guesses from the Gunflint Trail to Croftville; from Grand Portage to Silver Bay; from Rome, Georgia to Killeen, Texas and many points in between. Almost all knew that last month’s WHERE ARE WE? photo was taken at the entrance to Cascade Lodge.

Drawn from the correct entries were Ralph and Jane Johnson of Clear Lake, Minnesota. They win a free subscription to the Cook County News-Herald.

Try your luck! Take a look at the July photo. If you think you know where this photo was taken, send us your answer.

You don’t have to be the first to reply. The location will be announced next month and a winner will be drawn from all the correct answers. Whoever is drawn from the correct entries receives a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald (a $32 value). Good luck!

Stop by the office to give us your guess or return answer by mail, e-mail or fax to:

Cook County News-Herald

PO Box 757

Grand Marais MN 55604

starnews@boreal.org

Fax: 218-387-9500

Answer to the July WHERE ARE WE? must be received by August 15, 2016.

 


Where are we in June?

Cook County News-Herald staffers love to get out and about the county. So we decided, while we are traveling the highway and bushwhacking through the forest, to take pictures to see if our readers can guess WHERE ARE WE?

Last month’s WHERE ARE WE? photo was taken at the first overlook going up the Mount Rose trail in Grand Portage. Nadette Peterson of Overland, Missouri was one of the people who recognized the spot and her name was drawn from all the correct guesses.

Nadette wins a free subscription to the Cook County News-Herald.

Try your luck! Take a look at the June photo. If you think you know where this photo was taken, send us your answer. You don’t have to be the first to reply. The location will be announced next month and a winner will be drawn from all the correct answers.

Whoever is drawn from the correct entries receives a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald (a $32 value). Good luck!

Answer to the June WHERE ARE WE? must be received by July 11, 2016.

Send your entry to:

Cook County News-Herald
PO Box 757
Grand Marais MN 55604

Drop it by our office at:

15 First Avenue West
Fax: 218-387-9500
email: starnews@boreal.org
Questions? 218-387-9100where


The empty nest

The last few weeks have been fun at the News-Herald as we try to attend all the last minute school functions— the awards program, project fair, DARE graduation, guitar program, writers’ tea, and coming up as I write this, Baccalaureate and graduation.

graduationcapThe flurry of activities follows on the heels of our work to put together the Class of 2016 booklet. That is always a daunting task, trying to get the busy graduates to fill out an interview form and turn in a picture. We try really hard to include everyone, but occasionally we just don’t catch up with a busy senior.

I don’t think the members of the Class of 2016 mind too much. The memento booklet is more for parents and grandparents. As is this column, which has become a tradition for me.

I try really hard not to repeat myself in Unorganized Territory. In the almost 16 years I’ve written this column there have been times when similar ideas have been expressed. I’ve never intentionally run the exact same thoughts on the exact same topic.

But I’ve come close with the column I’ve written for parents of graduating seniors each year. It’s become a tradition to write this column, which almost writes itself.

The soon-to-be graduates are too excited to look to the News-Herald for sage advice. They are busy finalizing travel and housing plans for college or getting in shape for the physical training they will be met with when they enter the military. They are spending these final spring days with the dear friends to whom they will soon be saying tearful farewells.

It’s an amazing time for the Class of 2016 and they don’t need any more advice from caring community members.

It’s different for parents. It’s a bittersweet time for them. Parents are filled with relief that all those battles over homework and curfews are over. They are proud that their child has fulfilled the requirements of graduation and will make that dramatic entry in his or her cap and gown.

But there is also that looming goodbye—the one that every parent dreads from the time their son or daughter takes his or her first steps, shyly waves goodbye on the way to preschool, or gets behind the steering wheel for the first time. Graduation is a final rite of passage, one that comes all too soon.

It’s impossible that the tiny baby that changed your world could turn into an adult so quickly. It’s hard to believe how fast all those years of teacher conferences, spring concerts, sporting events, and last-minute grade concerns, flew by.

The last few months are the craziest, with the final chaos of invitations and open houses. I think the parents are the ones who need the pat on the back right now.

So, I hope they take a few minutes to sit down and read this column. They need a little time for themselves right now. They need a break between cleaning house for the party and figuring out where visiting relatives will sleep, between buying decorations and calculating how much cake will be eaten. They need a break from concerns about “Plan B” for when it rains. Hopefully this Unorganized Territory gives them a moment of quiet amidst the chaos that comes from planning for graduation.

Truly, it is good that there is a lot to do—it makes the fast-approaching farewell a bit easier for mom and dad. At least until the graduate packs up his or her belongings and leaves them to the empty nest.

For those parents, I’m ending with a longer than usual quote. It was a gift from my mom when my first “baby” graduated in 1997. I’ve shared this Erma Bombeck quote in Unorganized Territory every graduation week. It still makes me tear up when I read it, but I still find comfort in it.

I hope the parents of the Class of 2016 do too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Children are like kites. You spend a lifetime trying to get them off the ground. You run with them until you’re both breathless – they crash – you add a longer tail – they hit the rooftop – you pluck them out of the spout – you patch and comfort, adjust and teach. You watch them lifted by the wind and assure them that someday they’ll fly!

…Finally they are airborne, but they need more string – you keep letting it out and with each twist of the ball of twine, there is a sadness that goes with the joy, because the kite becomes more distant and somehow you know that it won’t be long until that beautiful creature will snap the life line that bound you together and soar as it was meant to soar – free and alone.

Erma Bombeck


Honoring all on Memorial Day

I try not to get into discussions on social media. I’ve learned, after a time or two of making what I felt was a benign comment, that the online reader often interprets comments in an entirely different way than intended. So when I see a heated conversation on Facebook or a dispute in blog posts, most of the time I scroll on by.

An example of a time when I should have stayed silent was when an acquaintance commented that active duty military or veterans must get angry when people get confused over the meaning of Memorial Day. This fellow stated that it must be frustrating for these military folks to be thanked on Memorial Day, when it is a day intended to honor those who have fallen.

I couldn’t resist commenting. I quickly wrote a reply stating that the military folks that I know don’t mind. I wrote that after the way some service people were treated in the 1960s, a kind thank you is appreciated in whatever form it takes.

I was shocked at the angry discourse that followed. People I did not know accused me of being disrespectful to the men and women who had lost their lives. I was called ignorant and uncaring. I was accused of being a peacenik—which I don’t consider an insult, but the writer thought it was.

I tried to defend my statement, explaining that the people I knew over my 20-plus years as an Army spouse—or as I liked to describe myself, as a camp follower—wouldn’t mind a thank you. The soldiers that worked with my husband Chuck and the military family members that became dear friends all celebrated days of honor—Flag Day, June 14; Armed Forces Day on the third Saturday of May; the 4th of July; Memorial Day and Veterans Day—with the same thoughts.

We honored all of these meaningful days in the same way. We prayed for the safety of the men and women currently in harm’s way. We said thank you—and celebrated— all those currently serving. And of course, we remembered the men and women who had served in the past and those who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

The Internet conversation continued to deteriorate and became extremely unpleasant so I did what I should have done from the beginning, I left the discussion.

However, this week as we approach Memorial Day, I am reminded of the exchange. As I see the flags fluttering on the graves of veterans at our community cemeteries and as I enjoy the line of flags at Harbor Park placed by the American Legion, I do remember those we have lost in wars and conflicts.

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The grave marker of my mom’s uncle Lenard. Thanks to cousin Terry Evans for the photo.

The sacrifice of these brave young men and women—now forever young—will never be forgotten. My heart goes out to the friends and family left behind.

But I still think it is appropriate to say a thank you to the people currently serving and to those who served. When I say thank you for your service to a member of our military, it doesn’t just mean thank you for getting through boot camp and for learning your job—whether it is as an engineer, a driver, a cook, quartermaster or sniper. It isn’t just for learning how to shoot a rifle or run five miles.

While the separation from families, hard work and stress constantly faced by our military is appreciated, when I say thank you on Memorial Day it is in remembrance of the horrors these men and women have seen. At the News-Herald, I have had the honor of interviewing dozens of servicemen and women and I am always touched by their humility and their insistence that the true heroes are the ones who did not make it home.

The members of our armed services know more than anyone the pain of losing someone to war.

So thank you, to all our military men and women for bravely carrying on, for reminding us of the great loss we mourn on Memorial Day. Peace to all who have been touched by war.

With the tears a land hath
shed, their graves should
ever be green.
Thomas Bailey Aldrich


Where are We

whereCook County News-Herald staffers love to get out and about the county. So we decided, while we are traveling the highway and bushwhacking through the forest, to take pictures to see if our readers can guess WHERE ARE WE?

Although News-Herald Editor Rhonda Silence thought the April WHERE ARE WE? would be really easy, we only received a few correct entries. Drawn from the correct entries was Bonnie Kabe of St. Joseph, Minnesota, who knew that the bench in the photo is at the Grand Marais Recreation Park. The bench sits at the top of the steps near the Arrowhead Animal Rescue building. It overlooks the rocky shoreline west of the Grand Marais harbor.

Bonnie wins a free subscription to the Cook County News-Herald.

Try your luck! Take a look at the May photo. If you think you know where this photo was taken, send us your answer.

You don’t have to be the first to reply. The location will be announced next month and a winner will be drawn from all the correct answers. Whoever is drawn from the correct entries receives a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald (a $32 value). Good luck!

Answer to the May WHERE ARE WE? must be received  by June 13, 2016.

Send your entry to:

Cook County News-Herald
PO Box 757
Grand Marais MN 55604

Drop it by our office at:

15 First Avenue West
Fax: 218-387-9500
email: starnews@boreal.org
Questions? 218-387-9100