El Grito De Independencia

I found out what it’s like to have a big brother, back in 1968. Carlos Tapia lived with our family as a foreign exchange student during his senior year and my junior year of high school. Carlos’ stay with our family was probably the best thing to happen to me during my adolescence. I could go on for pages about Carlos and how he enabled our family to think more inclusively about the world.

Carlos shared my bedroom, so our bond had the strength of  brothers and best friends. We did homework together, finished chores together, played games together, and did some important growing up together. Carlos learned about the United States with us and I developed a love of Mexico from Carlos. In other words, Carlos helped me to greatly expand my horizons.

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The first Mexican holiday our family learned to celebrate with Carlos was El Grito de Independencia. The Cry for Independence is the most symbolic and important fiesta for most Mexicans.  El Grito commemorates the original cry that was called out by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla at the mission village of Dolores.

Carlos explained how the North American born people of Spanish  heritage, or criollos, had been plotting independence from Spain. There had already been a few minor skirmishes with the colonial authorities, but nothing organized or really assertive.

Carlos said that Father Hidalgo gathered his parish congregation of criollos, Indians, and mestizos together in the village of Dolores on Mexico-01September 15, 1810. He made an emotional appeal of solidarity to support the revolution to throw off the rule of Spain. Hidalgo openly advocated Mexican independence including the arrest or exile of all gachupines, (Spaniards) who had exploited and oppressed the people for centuries. Father Hidalgo ended his long speech, in the early
hours of the next day, September 16th, with the cry, “¡Mexicanos, viva México!” (Mexicans, long live Mexico!).

The speech aroused the emotions of the criollos to fever pitch. The villagers departed Dolores towards the town of San Miguel de Allende, gathering more support along the way. The revolutionaries regrouped and organized themselves then left for Mexico City. During this time, the criollos acquired a flag with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico. It was at this time that the movement became much more violent and effective.

The war for independence went on for a long, bloody eleven years. The recognition of Mexican independence was finally officially recognized by the Spanish Viceroy in 1821.

Carlos stated that the Grito begins the nationwide celebration called Fiestas Patrias. Mexicans tune in to mass media or gather publicly to watch the President speak from the National Palace balcony at Mexico City. On the evening of September 15th, he rings the same bell that Father Hidalgo struck on that historic night in 1810.

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After the tolling of the bell, the President performs the Grito de Dolores. This includes the shouting of the names of the heroes of the Mexican War of Independence.

“¡Vivan los heroes que nos dieron patria! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Hidalgo! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Morelos! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez! ¡Viva!
¡Viva Allende! ¡Viva!
¡Vivan Aldama y Matamoros! ¡Viva!
¡Viva nuestra independencia! ¡Viva!”

The roll-call ends with the President shouting, three times, “¡Viva México! ¡Viva!” In turn, Mexicans also shout the slogan, then sing the National Anthem. This is accompanied by noisemakers and fireworks.

The Fiestas Patrias continues today with civic parades, general celebrations, and feasting. Exuberant Mexican parties and dances take place across Mexico.

Back in 1968, our family’s first El Grito was much more subdued. We enjoyed Carlos’ story of Mexican Independence over a traditional Midwestern American dinner.

Adios
Mexico-iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness notes it is said, that in Mexico, your wishes have the power of dreams. When you want to see someone, you will see him in your dream, then he turns up.

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International Day Of Democracy

Plato supposedly said, “Democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequal alike.” I can’t think of a better definition of democracy. He basically implied that democracy is desirable, messy, and has the appearance of equality.

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I think one of the best demonstrations of what passes for modern democracy took place in the late 1960s, during my high school years. A big hubbub was made about the student council.  We had a couple of student assemblies in the auditorium,
during which the student body was obliged to listen to the candidates for “office” give campaign speeches. Most of the candidates shared the standard pat phrases about the power of the student vote and they planned to bring forth the interests of students to the powers that be.

The election was finally conducted on mimeographed ballots passed around in our homeroom classes. I can’t remember who tallied the votes, but the winners to the council were the most popular kids in school. During the first student council
meeting, the president and officers were chosen. Afterwards, the student body heard very little more about the student council.  They had absolutely no power at all.

The only major, to us students, issues to come up were the allowable length of hair for boys and the dress code. There were a few feeble statements from the conservative student council president. In the end, after no debate, the school  administration proscribed the rules by fiat.

Some form of student council exists in schools today as similar popularity contests that wield little if any real muscle behind them. As a result, a feeling of cynicism is born among the pool of future citizen voters.

“A modern democracy is a tyranny whose borders are undefined; one discovers how far one can go only by traveling in a straight line until one is stopped.”–Norman Mailer

After my high school graduation, in 1970, my peers and I were granted suffrage by means of the lowering of the voting age.   This was due, in part, because of complaints that recruits to fight the Vietnam conflict had no voice in government. We soon found out that voting in the national arena was much the same as voting for the student council. The results of the primaries and general elections gave us hope and little else.  Despite promises by “our” candidates, the war continued and even escalated. The only democratic voice that remained was the anarchy of mass protests and demonstrations.

This has been the outline of political activity for many generations. This is how radical mass movements are born and grow. The current abridgment of citizen rights and the shrinking of citizen voice points to more, not less “democracy” by organized reactionaries and anarchists.

“Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson

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During the International Day of Democracy, it is standard practice for politicians and the news media to trot out platitudes and praise for the ideals of democracy. The ideals and aims of democracy are laudable and I agree with them.   Because of the tattered state of democracy in our republic, I won’t bother to repeat any well-worn happy-talk here.

“In every well-governed state, wealth is a sacred thing; in democracies it is the only sacred thing.”–Anatole France

To anyone paying attention the past few years, much of the world has fallen into a void of financial miasma. It’s been a time of rude awakening about the weakness of the democratic republican form of government. Along with the failure of the
economic system to provide real support for the average person, has come increased strife between and among the political structures and parties in the West. Congresses and Parliaments are increasingly corrupted by wealthy special interests. These unfortunate developments have been extensively covered in the non-mainstream media, so I won’t belabor the points.

“If there were a nation of Gods, it would govern itself democratically. A government so perfect is not suited to men.”–Jean-Jacques Rousseau Democracy-Iiroquoisnations

Any mention of autocracy, oligarchy, theocracy, plutocracy, or rule by ideology sets off my warning bells. So, I agree with Winston Churchill, that democracy is the worst form of government but not as bad as the others that have been tried.   I like to think that we can get past the apathy, cynicism, bickering and calls to authority. I think that democracy is presently at low tide, but when high tide arrives, a more fair, and good democracy will manifest.

On this International Day of Democracy, we can celebrate and commemorate democratic ideals by finding speeches on the Internet by Martin Luther King, Jr., and Charlie Chaplin’s “The Greatest Speech Ever Made”. We can encourage ourselves to
abandon our urges toward cynicism and apathy. Check out some background on the history of democracy and its greatest advocates. Remember the history lessons made during the times when democracy was neglected and condemned; they are many.

Remember to do your part to become more fully involved in true democracy in whichever nation you reside.

Ciao
1984aThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Winston Churchill. “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.”

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Good Manners (Review)

I discovered that September is National Courtesy Month while I was piecing together this book review. One one hand, I’m glad there is some sort of commemoration for courtesy and civil behavior. On the other hand, I’m sorry that courtesy and civil behavior are becoming endangered practices.GoodManners-BoyScouts

I remember being taught, at a young age, that courtesy is the display of polite behavior and good manners. It’s all about getting along with others and showing respect, even if we’re in a bad mood, even if the other person is in a bad mood.

The practice of politeness has been reinforced by teachings about “The Golden Rule”, and “The Law of Karma”. The teachings have been proven experimentally in our lives when we learn that people shove back if we shove them. It’s not polite to push people around, physically or verbally.

Unfortunately, there have always been people who forget and neglect their lessons of good manners or were never taught them, in the first place. Bad manners are not a recent or a contemporary problem.

It was during my weekly visit to the Norfolk (Nebraska) Public Library, that I GoodManners-bookjacketstumbled upon the latest book by Amy Alkon.   Good Manners For People Who Sometimes Say F*ck is certainly an eye-catching title. The title even seemed germane to me and people like me. The librarian even chuckled nervously when he OK’d my check-out.

Perhaps I have some latent Victorian reserve in my personality, but I think the title of Ms. Alkon’s book is a horrible one that detracts from the message that should be
central to the book. The title is a cheap shot that panders to some sort of lowest common denominator in society for a quick sale in a book store or on line. It shows a poverty of vocabulary whenever someone resorts to using the F-word, even thinly disguised with an asterisk in place of the vowel.  I suppose that this fault will probably pass unnoticed by many readers or it will be purposely overlooked by those of us who have been drawn in by this tacky title. I’m sure there are many folks who disagree; so I’ll let it pass.

This is my first exposure to advice columnist Amy Alkon, whose syndicated work appears in several newspapers in North America. In hindsight, I realize I’ve seen many of her nuggets in random Facebook entries on the Web, as well. The  ginger-haired pundit presents a more rough-edged variety of etiquette for those of a new generation. One of my favorite writers is Judith Martin “Miss Manners”, so my impression is that Alkon may have been inspired, in some way, by Miss Manners.

Alkon’s writing style is also somewhat similar to that of Miss Manners. This might be due to the fact that both women contribute to our knowledge base in the context of newspaper syndication. The two address very similar problems. The main difference is that Alkon comes off as more funky.GoodManners-AmyAlkon

I suppose a writer needs to be extra assertive in order to break through the current babble of saccharine platitudes that pass for “homespun” wisdom these days. I’ll allow Alkon her approach, if it actually gets through to those who really need
to read it. Good luck, though. People who need lessons in etiquette don’t usually read books on good behavior, regardless of who writes them or how condescending the book title.

For those of us who enjoy reading etiquette books, Alkon’s latest effort comes off as entertaining and witty. She displays the spunk of Miss Manners in the context of Internet culture. We already know what we need to do in awkward or disrupting situations. Alkon validates those actions with humor and knowledge.

Some of the best advice regards cell phone use. Is it polite to cold call somebody? When should we leave a voice mail? You’ll see the boorish behavior of others, and perhaps your own in Alkon’s descriptions. She blends some knowledge of technology and psychology to come up with some zingers and solutions that might actually work.

Amy Alkon’s latest book is an amusing read. Perhaps some of her advice will remain with the reader to be used when it is actually needed. On the spur of the moment in daily life. If you enjoy Miss Manners, you’ll probably get a kick out of this book, too.

{ Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck by Amy Alkon; published June 3, 2014 by St. Martin’s Griffin; 304 pages; ISBN: 978-1-250-03071-9 }

Ciao
l rm a 07-01The Blue Jay of Happiness hopes you have a pleasant National Courtesy Month.

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International Chocolate Day

To trigger your taste buds and imagination, all I needed to do today was to use the word “chocolate” in the title of this post. It doesn’t matter where you live, you know chocolate.  ChocolateDay-DelespaulHavez

It may be written out as: çikolata, الشوكولاته, chocolade, Schokolade, cioccolato, sjokolade, Шоколад, choklad, チョコレート, चॉकलेट., or its original Nahuatl name xocolātl. Xocolātl (foam in water) transliterated into the Spanish word “chocolate”. The word “cacao” is the Mayan word for the plant. An inaccurate English interpretation became the word “cocoa”.

The food was first developed in the area of South America now known as Venezuela. Ground up seeds of the cacao tree were in use by Mokaya and pre-Olmec people at least as far back as 1900 BCE. The plant was already highly valued by the inhabitants and was used in trade with other peoples like the Mayans. It was a base for breads and noodles but more commonly as a spice.

Most popular histories of chocolate include the use of cacao as the beverage of the Emperor. The cacao beans were roasted, then ground up, and mixed into extremely hot water. Usually some ground maize was added with chilies or vanilla to taste.
It is believed that only the nobility and priestly classes were allowed to consume the drink.

When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived to take over the land, they quickly adopted cacao because of its energizing benefits.  They utilized it to enable their armies to march long distances with little food. It was introduced to European high society to compete with coffee, tobacco, opium, and tea.

It was during the 16th Century that Spaniards began to enhance the bitter beverage by adding cinnamon, black pepper, and cane sugar. The addition of sweetness caused the popularity of cacao to skyrocket.

The use of cacao beverages spread into the Hapsburg Empire, including Austria, Belgium, and the Spanish Netherlands.  Emperor Charles VI moved court from Madrid to Vienna in 1711, which changed the history of European chocolate consumption.  The Germanic countries were on the way to overtaking Spain in
cacao use.

The Dutch press was invented in the late 1820s by Coenraad Johannes van Houten in the Netherlands. The device removes 98-percent of the fat from cacao beans by means of a hydraulic press. The product is treated with an alkalizer to bring the
natural acidic nature of cacao to a neutral pH factor. The result is an easily adaptable product that can be used in food  or drink. Dutched cacao or Dutch Chocolate is the basis for most of our modern chocolate products. Of course, the fat is now known as “cocoa butter”. The dutching procedure also removes most of the nutritional “flavinoids” and the narcotic qualities out of cacao.ChocolateDay-solid

In the early 1870s, a process was discovered to combine melted cocoa butter into the dutched powder to create the first molded bars of chocolate. Then, in 1875, Daniel Peter and Henri Nestlé invented a recipe to use sweetened condensed baby formula milk. We know this combination as milk-chocolate.

The refinement of chocolate conching was then invented in Switzerland by Rudolphe Lindt in 1879. The milk chocolate mixture is scraped and agitated through frictional heat in vessels that originally resembled conch shells. This process resumes for up to 78 hours. It is this final processing that is top secret because it determines the end flavor of the chocolate.

In the United States, popular, commercialized chocolate production is attributed to ChocolateDay-Hersheythe talents of the Mennonite believer, Milton Snavely Hershey. He was an advocate of alcohol prohibition and envisioned chocolate as a profitable alternative to booze.

In 1900, Hershey began marketing his milk chocolate candy bars and “Hershey Kisses” to an eager American market. He was so successful that he bought and renamed two towns, one near his Cuban sugar mill, and the other in Pennsylvania. At the outbreak of the first World War, Hershey lobbied the US Army to include four Hershey bars to each soldiers’ daily food ration.

It is because of Milton Hershey that we have International Chocolate Day, today. Hershey was born on September 13th, 1857 in Derry Township, Pennsylvania. He is saluted for his contributions to promotion and mass production of chocolate products.

Ciao
1978veryhappymeThe Blue Jay of Happiness notes that chocolate is a good reason for you to align yourself with the environmental movement.  Cacao is grown in the rapidly diminishing rain forests.  No rain forests, no chocolate.

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Plus d’expériences …Floral Friday

The combination of unsettling weather events and the ending of Summer has contributed to my need to channel some creative energy in new directions. Whenever a spike of this sort happens, I need to bring out the floral materials to create more FF091214aexperiments.

An impractical but fetching object has had me puzzled ever  since it was given to me. It’s a polyethylene plastic array  of tall “grasses” surrounding a cupped well. The container is just the right size for a candle. However, if a person actually used it as a candle holder the fire risk would be too great.
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I did decide to use it as a candle holder, anyway. I found a medium size pillar battery powered LED candle for the well. A space age Red Wing planter from the 1950s works as the perfect base for the candle holder and an array of some very old faux flowers. The idea ended up as a radically decorative nightlight.

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An experiment in container design by someone else has been sitting on my shelf for a few weeks. The trio of bulbous pots connected with twine will provide the opportunity for many design experiments. My first attempt began with three lotus
pods. They were to be the basis for a tropical arrangement.  However, as I began adding more elements, I became less satisfied. I removed the excess flowers and decided the pods were sufficient.

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The last experiment became another exercise in practical design. I brought out a standard rectangular glass vase as the base. A careful arrangement of some decorative potpourri pieces came next. A trio of 1980s vintage plastic flowers and tall grass elements finishes the project. The distinctive scent of mango contributes an exotic touch to the room.

When a surge of creative energy sweeps into your mind, the best thing you can do is to take action, right away. Use it.

Ciao
mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness cautions not to analyze the where and the what of a burst of creative energy. Simply perform more experiments.

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Spirals

Our beginnings are woven into our ends in a cyclical manner.  Concurrently time appears to advance in a linear fashion.  These two ways of examining time are sometimes placed at odds with one another.

Certainly, we are taught in school that we measure our years by the completion of each Earth orbit or circle around the Sun.  In another class we’re given timelines of historical events. Each of these ways of presenting time and events are convenient, one dimensional tools in examination of our civilization and ourselves.

In my private moments of self-examination, I prefer the combination of the two.  I visualize the rotation of the Earth, the orbit of the Earth, the orbit of the Solar System within the Galaxy, and the Galaxy’s travel through the Universe.  My mind’s eye selfexamination-03traces a faint “tail” left behind the path of all these movements.  What I “see” is a series of spirals.

While the Earth and everything around us appears to complete circles, we can never exactly repeat events in the same place in space. While the rotations of a motor or a windmill seem to be steady and exact around an axle, these motions are also illusions.  They are subject to the movement of the planet and everything else.  In my quiet times, I see everything behaving within spirals.

There’s an ambiguous beauty in this vision that gives the illusion of meaning. 

However it is that one visualizes the personal world and the Earth around us, I think it’s important to set aside time for honest reflection and self-evaluation.  The operative word is “honest”.  This self examination should not be too self-critical, nor should it be a time of passing blame onto others.

During these important times of quiet contemplation we can eventually come to deep understandings about the common cycles and their progression through our lifetimes–the spirals of our lives.  Which spirals need a change of direction?  Which spirals drill into situations that bring about good things in life?

Self examination lets us know about the spiraling progress of our life journeys.

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Seeing life as a spiral, enables us to understand that we complete circular cycles.  At the same time those cycles are impossible to faithfully, exactly repeat.  Look at the cycle we know as the day.  Each day we awaken from sleep, go about our daily tasks and routines, then return to sleep. While our mental templates for each day seem consistent, in reality, each day is different.  Also, each day is “connected” to the one before and the one afterwards.  Each day is measured by the place we occupy on the Earth’s surface.  That place spins with the planet at tremendous speed, while the planet travels in Space within the Solar System, and so forth, and so on.

In effect, we can never truly return home, even in a galactic sense.

As we see the cyclical spirals of life, we can awaken to new possibilities.  We selfexamination-02understand that we don’t need to live life in the grind of repetitive cycles.  Seeing the spirals, we are able to envision our lives in a different way.  By mentally guiding our spirals we can steer our lives in ways that are true to ourselves and our needs. We can see the need to be true to ourselves and the necessity of living in harmony with other people and the planet.

Circles and lines are one dimensional. Spirals stretch into the realm of the multi-dimensional.

As I visualize my personal spiral, I can see the meaning of my life as almost solid.  I can see if the direction that the spiral is headed is leading towards “higher” needs.  Does my spiral offer hope and inspiration to myself and to others? The movement along the spiral helps me feel the need to take action and not merely lie dormant in passivity.

As you visualize your spiral, you can understand how your past experiences have propelled you along the path of the spiral.  You can see the matter of putting what you have learned to work in the process of moving along the spiral.  You begin to discover the untapped energy that will enable you to confront the unfinished business of life. The fog of misunderstandings begins to clear.

Just as the spiral combines a circle with a line, we can see that life is a blend of intuition and intellect.  Our self examinations can take on a depth when viewed in a multi-dimensional sense.

The next time you sit back in self examination, try to visualize the spirals,  just as an experiment.  Seeing the spiral of your own life will help you to not be overly critical of yourself and other people.  You can more easily “see” that other people are moving along their own personal spirals.  You can see how each spiral is enmeshed with everyone else’s spirals in an amazing geometric procession.

Ciao
selfexamination-iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness hopes that all of this business of spirals hasn’t made you feel too dizzy.

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World Suicide Prevention Day

Suicide-GGBSuicide-hotline
One of the most difficult problems about the world’s most famous and beautiful bridge is suicide.  This problem is also one of the most controversial aspects about the Bridge.  The very facts that the Bridge is world famous, presents a stunningly beautiful view, and spans a powerful body of water make the Bridge attractive to tourists and potential suicides alike.

The emotional backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge is a metaphor for human life.  Like the Bridge, we all have the beauty and strength to make life’s journey about more than just a mundane trip.  Also, like the Bridge, we have places of sorrow.  Both sides are compelling and have been at the heart of much discussion.

The Golden Gate purists have disagreed with anti-suicide advocates for many years.  On the one hand, there is the understandable desire to preserve and maintain the original design and style of the Bridge.  On the other hand, there is the humanitarian desire to prevent people from jumping to their deaths.

As someone who has enjoyed many strolls across the Bridge, I fully understand and appreciate both points of view.  If a person intends to do away with oneself, the Golden Gate is the place to do it.  Indeed, people from across the globe have chosen to make the Bridge their final destination.  As an average sightseer, I can appreciate the beauty of the Bridge.  As someone who feels empathy, I can understand how family and friends of anyone who has jumped can view the Bridge as ugly.

The complexity of the Bridge safety issue is mirrored and magnified in the complexity and conflict that goes on in the mind of a person who contemplates suicide, anywhere in the world.  I don’t want even one more person to end life in the waters below the Bridge.  Similarly, I don’t want anybody else to kill themselves anyplace else, either.

Regarding the Golden Gate Bridge, this June, the Bridge District’s board of directors unanimously voted in favor of funding a steel suicide net system to prevent people from leaping to their deaths.  Once the system is in place, the span will no longer be the Bridge of Death.

The bigger problem is how to prevent suicides in all the other locations of the world.  Someone who has wanted to end it all, but can’t jump from the Golden Gate Bridge will only find somewhere else to accomplish the act.  Physical barriers are only a stopgap measure and  bandaid approach to the much more serious, deep problem that goes to the heart of a suffering human being.  We need to reach people before they decide to jump off a bridge, overdose on drugs, or engage in any sort of violence against themselves and others.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.  It is a time when we can focus on all aspects of suicide, from the outward acts to the inward motivations of the victims.  The drive to kill oneself often arises out of despair and dark feelings.

Sometimes the root causes include alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, bipolar Suicide-sayingdisorder, schizophrenia, outward pressures like financial problems, or dysfunctional interpersonal relationships.

Suicide is the 13th overall cause of death, globally.  Meanwhile, it ranks first for youth and people under age 35.  There are close to 20,000,000 non fatal attempts across the globe each year.  The rate of successful suicides is much higher for males than females.

There are no “special” categories of people who attempt suicide.  They include military personel returning from our wars in the Middle East.  There are middle class breadwinners who lose their jobs.  Sometimes famous celebrities succomb to suicide.  There are youth who are relentlessly picked on by their peers, especially problematic is the problem of harrassment of LGBT people.  Overall, the greatest risk factors involve interpersonal relationship conflicts, unemployment, or bullying.

When somebody dies at her/his own hand, other people are deeply affected.  Some experts have estimated that for each victim of suicide, up to ten other people are intimately affected by the loss.  Family and friends experience various emotional reactions, ranging from grief, shock, depression, and anger.

There are many sources for suicide prevention and intervention in our communities and on the Web.  Most developed nations have some sort of national suicide prevention hotline center that offers confidential help and counseling for people suffering a crisis.

You can quickly locate a list of helping organizations and agencies by doing a web search.  You will likely find some sort of support for specialized needs.

One of the more recent additions is The Trevor Project. They provide information about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.  The Trevor Project is especially effective in the understanding of the underlying causes of LGBT suicides and how to prevent the deaths and injuries.

Other organizations to consider include StopBullying.gov , SAMSHSA Mental Health Services Locator, National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, and The Suicide Prevention Resource Center.  The locations are easily found by an Internet search.

Help and understanding from all of us serve as the bridges from despair, to hope and survival.

Ciao
Suicide-iconThe Blue Jay of Happiness ponders Albert Camus. “There is but  one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”

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