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In Tough Times, Talking Helps

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Wednesday, November 18, 2009, at 02:49PM
flowers Ed Fuentes

The day after a young woman committed suicide by jumping off a Spring street building, a small memorial stood in her honor.

Last week, a stranger brought a Downtown neighborhood together.

In the days after a young woman committed suicide on Spring street, those who lived and worked nearby reflected on the event in comments here on blogdowntown. Perhaps they found it cathartic to share with others who had a shared experience of the neighborhood.

"Events like these sometimes make us think about life, death, purpose, meaning, faith, family, community and more," said Jesse Ross, Pastor of Live Church L.A. "It would be good if as a result of hearing these stories, we as a community would be more cognitive of each other, that we would seek community and not isolation, that we would seek to help others and ask for help ourselves instead of trying to go it alone."

"Things that really matter are community, relationships, family, friends, helping others," added Ross. "Unless we are completely self-absorbed, or spiritually unconscious, we feel sad when someone dies, or is suffering."

"Talking is a big part of recovery, and when you find a community to share that with, it helps the healing process," said LAPD Captain Blake Chow during last week's Central Division Open House, adding that when an officer is lost from suicide "fellow officers are a supportive community."

"The hustle and bustle of living and working downtown often causes us to forget how important community is," added Chow. "From a societal stand point, all too often it takes tragedy to remind us of how close our communities really are and how important are neighbors or coworkers are."

Bringing people together to talk is considered preventive counseling at SHARE!, a self-help recovery exchange that recently opened on Broadway near 4th. With the motto “Whatever the problem, there’s a support group for you,” the Proposition 63 funded non-profit is a crisis center tailored to meet the needs of the new mix of Downtown residents.

Those who witness, or hear, or simply know about a suicide in an environment they are familiar with can have strong emotions about it, said Executive Director Ruth Hollman. "They are considered survivors too. It's very common. The grieving isn't just for those who are related. These are normal feelings."

Downtown's jumper suicides are particularly public. "The Westside and Lancaster are higher than Downtown on the [per-capita suicide] list, but they happen behind closed doors," said Hollman, citing a recent Los Angeles County Health survey.

SHARE! is designed to also be preventive measure to avoid crisis, as well as dealing with those in recovery for a number of issues, including addiction and abuse. "In this case, we could create a night where people talk about this," she says. "And like our other programs, it's free and anonymous. It's the commitment that in taking care of people, of each other, you are taking care of Downtown."

Yet, it may also mean that you could be in a group that finds you sitting next to a neighbor you've never met. Downtown becomes smaller because the community is getting bigger.

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