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Public safety

Blog posts with a category of Public Safety.

Cyberbullying: The dark and deadly side of social media


By Lisa Kalinski, New Oakland Therapist

Kids have been bullying each other for generations. What makes it different now is the long-standing nature, the permanent nature of statements on line.

Rosalind Wiseman, Author of two books on bullying

If it takes a village to raise a child, it’s now taking a national awareness movement to prevent our children from causing devastating emotional wounds and provoking suicidal thoughts and actions on their equally young and fragile peers.

Social media has vastly intensified the ability to inflict relentless pressure and pain, and America has been jolted again by the suicide of 12-year-old Rebecca Ann Sedwick of of Lakeland, Florida, who leaped to her death from a cement factory silo.

Rebecca Ann Sedwick

Rebecca Ann Sedwick

What makes cases like this so deeply troubling is that Rebecca couldn’t escape. Her mother pulled her out of the middle-school, home schooled her and then had her transfer to a different school. But Rebecca’s 14-year-old tormentor still attacked on Facebook, telling her to “kill herself” and to “drink bleach and die.”  After Rebecca fell to her death the girl posted, “Yes I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself, but I don’t give a (expletive).”

It was then that the Polk County Sheriff arrested the 14-year-old on charges of aggravated stalking, a 3rd degree felony.

The viral effect of social media allowed her tormentor to recruit as many as 15 girls who picked on Rebecca for months through online message boards and texts. She had no effective defense, no hiding and no escape. Even her mother’s awareness and vigilance couldn’t shield her daughter from a prolonged and ultimately deadly attack.

The words of cyberbullies live online forever, keeping psychic wounds open and bleeding and leaving victims like Rebecca feeling that there is no way out other than to end her life. Continue reading

Suicide prevention: we’re all on patrol

By Eli Zaret, New Oakland Guest Blogger

I was golfing with a friend the other day who suddenly had to leave after 9 holes. When I asked why, he told me a horrific tale. A good friend in his early 50’s had taken his own life a few weeks ago, leaving a wife and 4 children behind. It was utterly baffling to all involved. People who don’t suffer from mental illness, or have a loved one who does, can’t comprehend stories like this. Even more bizarrely, there had been no suspicions of depression, as the victim had managed to shield his inner torment. My friend had to leave the golf course because the suicide victim’s wife was doing quite poorly and desperately needed comfort.

A significant part of New Oakland’s mission is to help families understand the warning signs that can prevent the majority of suicides from taking place. There is no disputing that between 2-15% of people diagnosed with depression, bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia commit suicide, but the ratio drops dramatically when friends and family learn the warning signs that lead people to end their lives, and then get them help.

 Here’s a list of the most common warning signs of an impending suicide:

  • Expressions of hopelessness or helplessness
  • An overwhelming sense of shame or guilt
  • A dramatic change in personality or appearance, or irrational or bizarre behavior
  • Changed eating or sleeping habits
  • A severe drop in school or work performance
  • A lack of interest in the future
  • Written or spoken notice of intention to commit suicide
  • Giving away possessions and putting their affairs in order

As we watched All Star game starting pitcher Max Scherzer of the Tigers this week, we were reminded that his brother Alex took his life last summer. Alex’s depression had been treated for years, but was still too much to overcome despite his and his family’s vigilance. Same so for popular evangelical Pastor Rick Warren who lost his 27-year-old son Matthew to suicide in April after years of struggling with mental illness and deep depression. Continue reading

Explaining the unexplainable to our kids


Dr. Jeffrey Sendi, DO, New Oakland

It’s the age we live in. Events like the Newtown Connecticut massacre and the Boston Marathon bombings not only won’t be the last, but we also accept the reality that they might come in more rapid succession as time goes on. How we deal with these events as adults is one consideration. The other consideration is how we help our children absorb, accept and move on from this sobering modern day reality.

Emergency Room physicians like me deal with all manner of medical crises.  As parents, however, we can feel as uncertain as any other adult when it comes to communicating to our kids about existential crises like the inexplicable one in Boston that confronted us this week. Continue reading