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Impressions of the American Association of Suicidology

  • June 14, 2011

Here's my impressions of the American Association of Suicidology. This was a great week, even in Portland, in the pouring rain. Caught up with some friends from Octel (this is the high tech company where I worked many moons ago) who live in Portland that I had not seen in over a decade - Maren Symonds and TC Schuler. The day I saw Kathie Russo (talk about this in my Psychology Today Blog) I decided to go for an early morning run by myself along the Wilamette River. Sort of a drizzly but beautiful morning - cherry blossoms dripping from the trees. About 30 yards ahead of me on the path I saw two men. One yells loudly to the other, the other falls down and begins going into convulsions. I'm struck with the dilemma - do I turn around and run the other way or see if I can help? I wasn't sure if this was a drug deal gone awry or someone having a heart attack.

I saw a woman coming toward me on a bicycle (she clearly decided it best to not volunteer). I stopped her, convinced her to go over to the men with me. The man was convulsing violently. He'd bitten his tongue - blood streamed down his face. I turned to the other man and said "He's having an epileptic fit. We need to make sure he doesn't choke." No, I did not sleep at a Holiday Inn the night before, but I just knew this was what happened. I thought I should stick something in his mouth to make sure he didn't swallow his tongue (hey, this is what happens in the movies), but I was unwilling to get my finger chomped off. We turned the man on his side. Turns out this was the right thing to do - prevents choking, but avoids finger chomping. Just FYI in case you happen upon an epileptic in mid-seizure while you are strolling down the sidewalk.

I was running without my cellphone, so I ordered the woman on the bike to call 911. I explained where we were. This path goes along the river with a wall between the path and any roads - I was pretty worried no one would come help this guy. My cyclist friend took off - i told her I'd wait with the two men. Both of them were immigrant farmers. I worried that their English was not good enough to explain what happened, so I waited with them. Had a nice conversation with Luis (his friend) in my broken Spanish and his broken English. He said his friend's name was "Trenta." "30?" His friend nodded. He didn't know his last name or why they called him 30. I told him his friend really needs to get some medication to control his seizures (apparently he has them periodically).

About five minutes later a little golf-cart like vehicle with paramedics came down the path. I explained that the man appeared to have an epileptic seizure, fell to his side (luckily onto an elevated grass area so he didn't have a hard or long fall), but it did not look like he had a concussion. I felt like I was standing outside of myself as Doctor Julie took over. Anyway, strange ordeal in a very strange week. This makes me realize that I have a million stories like this of odd things that have happened on book tour. Maybe my blog should be about writing them all down. What do you think?

Here's my link re my impressions of the conference.

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"Julie Hersh has bravely recounted her experiences with suicidality and depression. Her story is profound yet poetic. Julie's narrative provides a much-needed patient-centered perspective to those who care for the mentally ill. Her passion for communicating the devastating effects of depression and suicidality to others is a powerful tool in the war against the social stigma experienced by those who live with suicidal thoughts, those who have made suicide attempts, and those who have survived the suicide of a loved one."

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In Struck by Living, Julie Hersh picks apart the irony of her life with humor and brutal honesty. Despite a loving husband, healthy children, financial security, Julie attempted suicide three times. With the help of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), Julie broke the deadly course of her disorder. Now well, Julie promotes the importance of mental health with collaborations with other artists and organizations.

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