Just in Time for Christmas-Room at the Inn

In a wonderful, uplifting opinion article titled “Room at the Inn”  in the Wall Street Journal on December 19, William McGurn wrote about  the Good Counsel home in the Bronx , now part of a network of six such homes that offer help to homeless pregnant women.

It all started when Chris Bell, a husband and father himself, went to his parish priest in 1985 complaining that no one was doing anything for homeless pregnant women. The priest replied in effect “Hey, pal, what about you?

With the help of that priest, the first Good Counsel home started shortly thereafter. The home not only provides a safe, warm environment for the mother and baby (and even siblings) until birth but also “lets them stay a year afterward—to finish school, train for a job and learn how to care and provide for their babies.” Mr. Bell takes no government money.

The first Good Counsel home was started in a former convent in Hoboken, New Jersey that was part of the parish where singer Frank Sinatra was baptized. When a news article about the home and its financial struggles was published, Good Counsel home received a surprise check for $10,000 from Mr Sinatra himself.

William McGurn notes that this Christmas, Good Counsel’s women known that there will not be many presents under the tree:

But there will be joy. Because Good Counsel is about life, and hope, and respect. As well as the promise that, with love and hard work, happy endings are still within reach even for those who have made some bad decisions.

And especially at Christmastime, Good Counsel wants that troubled young pregnant woman who thinks she’s all alone to know: There’s always room at this inn

It is often said that the pro-life movement is just an anti-woman political movement to deny  women the “choice” of abortion. Personally, I have found the pro-life movement to be one of the greatest volunteer movements ever, committed to people and principles.

CONCLUSION

Here in St. Louis, we have Our Lady’s  Inn that has long offered the same kind of help as Good Counsel.

Is there a similar kind of place in your area? If so, consider supporting it or volunteering. If you don’t know, check with your church, local Birthright  or Heartbeat International’s Worldwide Directory of Pregnancy Help.

Even a small donation would be a wonderful way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas!

Why Talk About Abortion?

Many years ago when I worked in home health and hospice, I cared for a very cranky, elderly woman I will call “Rose” who had rejected all the other nurses in our agency. Even her own doctor had problems with her and told me that he could not understand why she was even still alive because her end stage congestive heart failure was so severe. Part of my assignment was to measure her abdomen and legs to adjust her diuretics (water pills).

As I got to know Rose over several visits, she softened towards me and began telling me about her life. But one day, while I was measuring her abdomen, she burst into tears and told me she hated looking 9 months pregnant because of the fluid retention in her abdomen. Rose said she knew it was God punishing her for the abortion she had 60 years before!

Rose had never told anyone, not even her late husband, about the abortion she had before marrying him. She felt that baby was the boy she never had but she didn’t feel worthy to even name him. She also told me that she knew she had committed the “unforgivable sin” and was afraid to die because she justly would be sent to hell. My heart went out to this woman who was suffering so much, more emotionally than even physically.

We talked for a long time and in a later visit about God’s love, confession and forgiveness. I told her about Project Rachel, a healing ministry for women (and even men) wounded by abortion. I gave her the phone number and offered to be with her to meet a counselor or priest but she insisted that my talking with her was enough to help. I felt it wasn’t but she seemed to achieve a level of peace and she even started smiling.

Rose died suddenly and apparently in her sleep about a week later. I only had a few visits with her but I feel she finally felt ready to meet her Lord.

I have told this true story to priests and clergy who tell me that they are reluctant to speak about abortion in homilies for fear of causing further pain to a church member who may have had an abortion. I tell them that they may tragically miss the chance to tell a hurting woman like my Rose about Project Rachel. Also, by speaking about the many resources available through individual churches, local and national organizations like Birthright and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, this may help another woman to choose life for her baby instead of abortion. And, of course, talking about pro-life resources may help church members get involved in volunteer work.

WHY NONE OF US SHOULD BE AFRAID TO TALK ABOUT ABORTION

There are great pro-life news outlets like Life News that email daily or weekly updates on news about all life issues. There are many positive and even amazing stories such as those about babies who defy the odds against them, grateful parents who choose life in difficult circumstances as well as important pro-life news, education and upcoming events.

I have shared many of those stories myself with friends, family and people on my email lists and this has led to many great discussions and crucial referrals.

But what I have found most effective is a  sincere interest and willingness to help when encountering people struggling with an abortion decision for themselves or someone close to them. For example, a new colleague of mine was considering abortion after her obstetrician recommended abortion and listed all the birth defects that could affect her child after being exposed to a virus early in pregnancy. Getting a second opinion and the support of her coworkers gave my colleague the confidence she needed to reject abortion. She ultimately gave birth to a healthy daughter.

Why talk about abortion? Because we never know who may need to hear the truth.

My Most Memorable Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day has always been special to me since my children were born although I always thought I should be thanking my children for making me a mom instead of them thanking me.

However, Mother’s Day 1998 was my most memorable for another reason.

My oldest daughter Marie had just started college and dating the first boy she said she loved when she found out she was pregnant. The young man offered to marry her but she thought about some serious problems they both had and felt she had to refuse.

Over the next several months, Marie was torn between keeping her baby and choosing adoption. When she considered the most important question of what would be best for the baby, she finally decided on open adoption. It was not an easy decision and we were both heartbroken by the realization that Marie would not be raising the baby herself.

Unfortunately, due to the unwed pregnancy, there was almost no support from extended family members. In addition, most of Marie’s friends supported her rejection of abortion but not her decision for adoption. However, I was proud and awed by Marie’s heroic determination to give her baby the best life possible.

It was a difficult time but then on Mother’s Day that year, a card came in the mail from a priest friend of mine that brought a big ray of sunshine and truth to the situation. 

It was a beautiful Mother’s Day card for Marie!

Marie and I both smiled and cried because it was such a wonderful acknowledgement of Marie’s eternal motherhood as well as the gift of life. I can never thank that priest enough for his timely encouragement.

Four months later, Marie’s daughter was born and released to a wonderful couple who sent pictures every month.

Later on, when Marie’s daughter grew older, she called Marie every Mother’s Day and because of the generosity of her parents, she saw Marie often until Marie’s untimely death in 2009.

This thoughtful priest’s kindness in 1998 should remind us all that Mother’s Day should always be special whatever the circumstances and whether or not our children are in our arms or just in our hearts.

 

Why Are Suicide Rates Climbing after Years of Decline?

After years of declines, the US suicide rate rose 24% over 15 years according to a new report from the national Centers for Disease on suicide rates in the US from 1999-2014.  The suicide rate rose for everyone between the ages of 10-74 between 1999-2014.

National media like the Wall Street Journal  and CNN   speculated that the economic downturn, drugs and lack of mental health resources could be factors in the 24% increase.

However, one huge factor was totally ignored: the legalization and promotion of physician-assisted suicide.

The Legalization of Physician-Assisted Suicide and Suicide Contagion

It must not be dismissed as mere coincidence that the new rise in suicides correlates to the implementation of the first physician-assisted suicide law in Oregon.

A 2012 report on suicide trends and risk factors for the Oregon Health Authority found the state’s overall suicide rate had risen 41 percent higher than the national rate . This is the “regular” suicide rate. Physician-assisted suicides are not included.

Since Oregon, four more states (California, Vermont, and Washington) have legalized physician-assisted suicide via legislation with a Montana supreme court ruling in favor of assisted suicide but without a regulatory framework. But it is only now that the media is noticing a suicide rate that has been increasing for 15 years.

There is a well-known and recognized suicide contagion effect after reported suicides. Both national media guidelines   and  World Health Organization guidelines   warn against media glamorization or normalization of suicide by the media that could lead to more suicides.

Yet, since the legalization in Oregon, the media has become increasingly positive in reporting on physician-assisted suicide. This reached a peak when People magazine devoted it cover story  and some subsequent issues to Brittany Maynard , her impending assisted suicide, and her Compassion and Choices led foundation to raise money to promote the legalization of physician-assisted suicide throughout the US.

That’s not just glamorizing or normalizing physician-assisted suicide. That’s advertising.

And it is having an enormous effect. Now the media is bowing to the pro-assisted suicide movement’s propaganda by changing even the terminology. Instead of physician-assisted suicide, news reports now use more soothing terms like “death with dignity”, “aid in dying” or “physician-assisted death”.

Make no mistake. This is a calculated tactic to increase support of physician-assisted suicide by denying reality.

Why Don’t  Physician-Assisted Suicide Laws Require Psychiatric or Psychological Evaluation?

As most of you may know,  I am the mother of a physically healthy 30 year old daughter who killed herself in 2009 using a technique the medical examiner called “textbook Final Exit”, the title of a book she read by assisted suicide supporter Derek Humphry. But I am also an RN with 46 years of experience who has cared for terminally or seriously ill people considering even physician-assisted suicide who changed their minds after suicide prevention and treatment interventions.

I am appalled that no physician-assisted suicide law actually requires a psychiatric or psychological evaluation before a person is given the lethal overdose prescription. For example in Oregon, the physician-assisted suicide law only states If in the opinion of the attending physician or the consulting physician a patient may be suffering from a psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression causing impaired judgment, either physician shall refer the patient for counseling.”   (Emphasis added)  Not surprisingly, very few such evaluations are currently done, according to Oregon’s annual reports.

That stands in stark contrast to the standard evaluations given to other suicidal patients.

There must be no medical discrimination based on a predicted  prognosis when it comes to standard suicide prevention and treatment interventions. Suicide for any reason is always a tragedy to be prevented when possible.

The terrible despair that leads to suicide must not be ignored in favor of a cold piece of paper with a lethal prescription.

 

 

Mass Shootings and Mental Illness

The rash of recent mass shootings is alarming, especially the most recent mass shooting in San Bernardino following so quickly after the Colorado Planned Parenthood one. Now, people are not only talking about mental illness as in the Planned Parenthood shooting but also the existence of evil as in the apparent terrorist attack in San Bernardino.

Can mental illness and evil be totally separate issues? I confess I don’t know the answer to this.

But I do know that our mental health system needs vast improvement from my own personal experiences.

My first husband and the father of my children was a brilliant, caring psychiatrist whose articles were published in medical journals. When I left bedside nursing to start our family, we had a plan for me to eventually join his private practice to specifically support the families of his patients. We both believed that families were ideally the best support system for people with mental illness and we hoped that such a plan would lead to better outcomes and help keep families together. Communication was key.

However, while our children were still small, my husband started slowly succumbing to severe mental illness himself despite treatment. I was frantic to help but at that time in the 1980s and even without the current HIPPA privacy rules, I was unable to get much information about his condition or how to help him from his psychiatrist even when there were multiple hospitalizations.

As his condition deteriorated, I was told by his psychiatrist that there was nothing I could do or not do to help the situation and that he was handling the situation. Then he told me that I should consider divorce for the sake of our children.

Since I believe in the sanctity of the marriage vows, especially the part about “in sickness and in health”, I soldiered on and got second and even third opinions for my husband. Nothing helped very much and I was still shut out from comprehensive discussion of treatment plans.

My husband finally abandoned our family and I reluctantly had to file for divorce. However, I still wanted to help him.

My now ex-husband eventually went on total disability for mental illness but since mental institutions were closed decades before for “less restrictive” measures, he became homeless and eventually shuffled from one assisted living facility to another until his death in 2014.

When our oldest daughter started using drugs at 14, I ran into many of the same problems with the mental health community. Even though she was a minor, she had the right to  “confidential health services”. This came about because it is thought that minors will be more likely to seek help from a doctor if confidentiality-even from parents- is assured in matters like sex and drugs. Unfortunately, as in my case, that meant that I could be mostly kept in the dark when it came to helping my child. I could pay for rehab but I couldn’t get much information or direction about helping my daughter. I contacted mental health organizations and tried to research support groups on my own with mixed results. My daughter died by suicide using an assisted suicide technique in 2009 when she was 30 years old.

We now have “mental health parity” under Obamacare which was intended to make mental health care better by increasing coverage. However, a recent Washington Post op-ed titled “The problem with Obamacare’s mental-health ‘parity’ measure”  shows how difficult it can still be for family or friends to get help for someone with a mental illness.

Mass shootings get our attention about gun control and terrorism issues but the mental health care crisis goes on. We need to do a better job and I still believe that mental health care must try to include and help the whole family for better long-term outcomes.

Terror in Paris

My first inkling that Paris had been hit by terrorists in Paris was an alarm on my smartphone that signaled the breaking news. All throughout this weekend, my husband and I monitored the news on TV with growing horror.

The pictures of the carnage were devastating. Years ago, I worked in an ICU with trauma victims. That made me extremely sensitive to the bloody reality of violence and its’ effect on victims, families and society. I could never accept the idea of extreme violence as mere entertainment in movies, video games, etc.

My family’s thoughts and prayers today are especially with the people of France. We also pray that our leaders and society will totally commit to stopping terrorism everywhere.