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Let's work together against bullying and help bring the teen suicide rate down to zero

Posts Tagged ‘Health

For World AIDS Day, A Troubling Report

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I heard this report yesterday on the all-news radio station in my area, and it caught my attention.  With World AIDS Day coming up on December 1st, some sobering statistics were announced that I think we need to take heed to.  The first thing that grabbed my attention was this:

“More than half of young people infected with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. DON’T know they’re infected.”

Young people, between 13-24, account for more than 1/4 of all new infections.  If there are 50,000 new infections per year, which is what they’re reporting, that means that roughly 12,500 of those new cases are young males between the ages of 13-24.  That’s not a good statistic.  That means that we’re failing in educating young people on HIV/AIDS prevention.  How can that even be possible with a disease that has been around since the early 1980s?

According to Julie Steenhuysen, Health and Science Correspondent for Reuters, that figure of 1/4 being young males stems from high infection rates amongst LGBT young people, African-American, and, Latino males.  What makes this problematic is that a lot of these young people report that they “Haven’t really learned much about how to protect [themselves] against infection.”  And, again, the question, “how is this even possible?”, comes into play.

And, of course, there are some who report being subjected to a lot of shame because of their sexuality and the stigma attached to being LGBT.  Now, the picture becomes a bit clearer.  Shame and stigma.  That goes back to a huge cultural problem we’re facing in today’s society as it pertains to the LGBT community.  This is the year 2012.  There is no way we should still be dealing with prejudices and bigotry when it comes to something as intrinsic to our being as our sexuality.  Worse, here’s more evidence of the life-threatening harm that it’s causing.

When asked what she thought needed to be done to reverse this trend, Julie Steenhuysen added this:

Communicating to the community how important it is to support young people, no matter where they are [with their sexuality] so that they can at least stay safe. That could mean…to train leaders who are not LGBT, perhaps in the faith community and entertainers to be more sensitive to stigma, and help establish a healthy environment for these young men in which to grow and to learn about their own sexuality.

I was a young, gay man when the HIV/AIDS epidemic exploded on the scene back in the early 1980s.  Worse, I lived in San Francisco during that time.  “Worse” because a.) I literally watched a least one friend die from this epidemic on a daily basis; and, b.) it was easily the most frightening time of my life.  Being a young, virile gay man, myself, at the time, of course I was sexually active as I searched for my Mr. Right.  And, at one point, I even resigned myself to the “reality” of “well, if all of my friends are infected, I must obviously be infected as well.”  By the grace of God, that was not the case.  And, once I got myself tested and learned that I’d been spared of this devastating disease, I changed everything about how I lived my life.  I educated myself.  Educating oneself was very easy then, pre-Internet days; it’s much easier today because of the Internet.  And, education is 100% effective.

Gone are the days when we can feel invincible and just do everything, sexually, we want to do.  That half of these young people didn’t even know they were infected is all the proof you need.  The only foolproof way of avoiding infection is protection.  Yes, I know that there will be fundamentalists who will argue that abstinence is the only true foolproof way of avoiding infection.  But, perhaps, being more in tune with the reality that these young people are going to have sex, protection is key.  Education has to be a key component in protecting oneself from contracting HIV/AIDS.  It’s that simple.  It’s 2012.  There’s no way there should be anyone, anyone!, who doesn’t have access to all of the education necessary to prevent numbers like this report reveals from happening.

December 1st, as we remember those who have already died from this epidemic, we must also re-energize our efforts to prevent it from continuing to spread.  That’s going to take acceptance.  That’s going to take communication.  That’s going to take education.

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A Daunting Task

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It is well-documented that the October suicide of Jamie Hubley led me to roll up my sleeves and get more directly involved in trying to save lives.  That led directly to this blog:  Enough is Enough.  And, of course, since its conception, this blog has been read tens of thousands of times.  That great news!!!  That means, hopefully, that this blog is really making a difference.  Somewhere.  Somehow.  That’s my goal.  As Lyndsay Winegarden (STOP Teenage Suicide) put it, “if I can save even one life, this will all be worth it.”  Agreed.

Since starting this venture, I know that I’ve had a hand in quite a few situations that were teetering on disaster.  And, they’ve all had happy endings.  I’m sure that everyone who has gotten involved in this grass roots movement to make a difference and save some lives can say the same thing.  I’ve witnessed some of the letters.

What I’ve learned since October, though, is that this business can be a very daunting task, indeed.

The thought is always in my mind “what if?”  What if we are unable to save this one?  What if all of our efforts go by the wayside?  Would I take that as hard as I would if it were my own family member.  That answer is yes.  When I took on this task, I put everything I have into it, emotionally speaking.  I was either going to give it maximum effort, or I wasn’t going to do it at all.  And, this is far too important of an issue for me to opt for the latter.

Recently, I’ve run into a situation where the young person at-risk literally and honestly did not want to be helped.  I was angrily told to just give up, to stop caring.  That’s not something that I’m able to do.  I told him that.  It didn’t matter.  He was adamant that I should just forget about him, that he had already given up.  Frustration.  Then, determination.  Quitting is something else I’m not good at.  I will not “…just forget about…” him.  I will do whatever I need to do to keep him alive.  And, if I fail, I’ll know that I tried my best.  I didn’t give up.

I’ve had the occasion more than once where I’d been chatting with someone who was right at the brink.  Or, at least, so it seemed.  So, as I kept them chatting, I tried feverishly to reach someone on one of the several suicide prevention pages on the social network I’m a part of. (yeah, me and 800,000 others!)  And, in EACH case, I was shouting to an empty room!  THERE WAS NO ONE THERE!!  What if I were the one sitting there, gun in hand, tears staining my shirt, looking for that one last person to tell me “don’t do it!!!  You’re going to be alright”, and I went to one of these suicide prevention pages?  Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do when I’m feeling that low?  That’s what I’ve been told.  So, I try it, as a last-gasp effort.  AND, NOBODY’S THERE!!!!  Chances are pretty good, at that point, I’m pulling the trigger.  Dominic Crouch tried reaching out in his final minutes, and the effort went unanswered.  And, we lost him.  So, my point is that if these pages are supposed to be there to help save lives, shouldn’t there ALWAYS be someone on there to respond to the despondent?  Isn’t that the purpose?  Frustration.  Then, determination.  I will be sending messages to the administrators of each of these pages strongly urging them to get enough administrators on their pages so that there will ALWAYS be someone there!!  Getting a message from someone from their page the next day asking me if I’M alright is certainly not good enough.  I pulled the trigger the night before…when I couldn’t find anyone to tell me that I was going to be ok if I just held on a little bit longer.

This is a daunting task, indeed.  By far, it’s the most emotionally drainage task I’ve ever had.  However, it’s also the most worthwhile venture I’ve ever involved myself in.  It’s task that I will see through to its completion.  Because every life is worth the effort.

By a Thin Thread

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I was talking to a friend last night.  In fact, she is a very dear friend whom I met since embarking on this life’s journey of trying to save lives.  She’s right there on the frontline with me…and, many others.  Last night’s conversation was sparked by a young man who was posting suicidal comments to his facebook page.  He’s fine.  At least for now.  As she was about to sign off, she told me about another person who was now posting suicidal comments.  This one seemed urgent.

Joshua hasn’t been a teenager since 1999.  Then again, we’re not JUST about trying to save teen’s lives.  Any suicide we can help prevent is a job well done.  I don’t know the circumstances that has led Joshua to feel so hopeless right now. And, frankly, it just doesn’t even matter.  What matters right now is building a wall of support around him to keep him from falling to that place where he won’t be able to get up.  The wall was erected very quickly.

According to his facebook comments, Joshua was hanging on by the thinnest of threads.  Whatever is going on with him has really hit him hard.  The good news is he’s still here.  He went to work today.  He’s now home from work and communicating on his facebook page.

See, I don’t believe for a second that Joshua wants to die.  I don’t think that any suicide victims REALLY want to die.  They want the pain to stop.  They want to feel whole again.  I believe that’s the case with Joshua, as well.  The great think here is that he is freely accepting friend requests on his facebook page right now!  That says to me that he WANTS someone to hold him up until he regains his strength.  And, that’s where we all come in.  That’s what our mission is, right?  Saving lives…one at a time?  You can go, right now!, to Joshua’s facebook page, send him a friend request, he’ll accept it.  I guarantee it.  Right now, he’s hanging on by a thin thread.  What’s most important, however, is that he’s hanging on.

Written by Ron Kemp

December 28, 2011 at 11:38 pm

How To Tell The Difference Between A Cry for Help and Crying Wolf

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A very dear friend and relative of a recent suicide victim suggested to me that I should write about the hazard of crying wolf.  Good idea, I thought.  She was inspired by the occasional posts from young people bluffing or “crying wolf”.  And,  to be sure, I’ve personally witnessed a boy who, in private chat sessions with myself and another friend, talked very strongly about ending his life while simultaneously yucking it up with friends on a couple other pages.  In addition to that, I’ve personally had several instances where someone was talking serious suicidal talk yet became infuriated when people tried to step in and intervene.  What’s the answer?

The fact of the matter is if we’re serious about saving lives, if we’re really dedicated to seeing the number of teen and gay-teen suicides decrease dramatically, we have to look at each individual threat equally.  We have to consider that every single time someone speaks of “ending it”, there’s a crisis that needs immediate attention…whether that person “wants” help or not.  I know that I am personally not trained to be able to distinguish the real threats from the ones “crying wolf”.  And, I’d go as far as to say very few of us are.  As annoying as it can be dealing with someone who’s simply crying wolf (and, trust me, being cussed out, called names, and belittled for your efforts can definitely be annoying!), I think it’s essential for everyone to remember that even their lashing out is a huge, bright-red flag.

The bottom line is that we have to take every single threat seriously.  And, since precious few of us are professionals in this field, having readily available resources in times of crisis is essential.  The Glendon Association provides a lot of valuable information and other links.  Also, I would think that knowing the warning signs of teen suicide is also crucial.

The unfortunately high number of high-profile teen suicides over the past few months has brought needed attention to the severity of the situation.  Jonah Mowry’s painful video of strength and courage intensified the spotlight.  Now, it’s up to us, the compassionate ones seeking to make a difference, to be prepared when the moment arises.  And, trust me, it will.

Prayers for Brittany and Roger

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I want to thank every one of you who rose to the occasion last night in attempt to save a young life.(blog entry “AN URGENT CALL TO ACTION”)  I don’t know where this young man lives other than in the US.  I’ve sent him links for help, my own contact information, and prayers.  Many of you did, too.  Let’s hope for the best.

And, as I’m sure you know, there’s always more to do.  Fourteen year old Brittany needs your prayers.  The facebook posting that I saw said that she’s in ICU after attempting suicide today.  We need to send lots of prayers her way.  And, yes, she was yet another victim of bullying, but we’ll get to that later.  For now, let’s send lots and lots of prayers and hope she pulls out of this first.

Lastly, and sadly, we lost a crusader in the war against bullying.  Roger Crouch, whose son, Dominic, committed suicide in May of 2010, passed away tonight.  In loving memory and honor of his son, Roger worked hard to bring about changes that would hopefully help prevent other teens from going through what Dom endured.  His efforts reached around the globe, and he will be missed.  I’m sure his family would love to hear your words of support.  R.I.P. Roger Crouch.

A Day of Rest (Updated)

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Today, and everyday, give thanks for what you have in your life…especially your loved ones.

I’m actually doing something today that I very seldom get the chance to do:  nothing at all.  It’s my day of rest.  In just about an hour or so, I will be well-rested with a big, full belly.

I wish that the dilemma of teen suicide, gay teen suicide, and suicide in general could take the day off, as well.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  In fact, suicides tend to increase during the Holiday Season, which is now upon us.  Unfortunately, depression, the feeling of isolation, and all of the other native causes of suicide doesn’t take the day off.  As we gather with our families and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s also remember the families and friends of those who have left this world through their own actions.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, everyone!!

UPDATE:


It was quickly brought to my attention that suicides actually DON’T increase during the holidays, that it’s just a long-held myth.  I stand corrected.  In fact, suicides tend to lower in December.  Sorry for the misinformation.  I, too, fell for the myth.  Thank you, Barb, for the correction.

Know the Signs

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I awakened this morning to the following post on facebook:  “I want to die”.  Needless to say, every alarm in my head went off .  I checked my text messages, and the same person had texted me:  “Well, things are worst than ever.  suicide seems like the best way to go now”.   Let me first say that he’s alive and well.  Secondly, this is a young man I’ve known a few years.  And, it’s been a struggle for him the entire time I’ve known him.  He doesn’t want to die.  He wants the pain, suffering, and struggling to go away.  Sound familiar?  I do know that he suffers from depression, so I contacted him right away.  Depression, however, is just one of the warning signs to look for.  Can you name 4 more?  Most people can’t.  In order to bring this sad chapter in our history to an end, we need to educate and re-educate ourselves. LEARN THE WARNING SIGNS!!!! (lives depend on it)