Archives for posts with tag: suicide

I have said it before and I’ll say it over and over because I’m a break the rules kinda’ girl when it comes to my retirement years…just in case there was some confusion ’bout that! I travel outside the box, write that way and, now, I’ve written a website to help Las Vegas performers and artists of all persuasions to find outlets and resources in a way that everyone says it shouldn’t be! Oh well. I was TOLD how the Home Page  was supposed to look in early April as I drove back to Las Vegas to handle Ava’s final affairs. And, as  I travelled with her small urn to the redwood forest where more was revealed and so forth as we drove through this great country into Montreal and back home again. I have followed very specific instructions. So if any of you web techies go nuts over the design, keep quiet! But if you have a valid point, I’m interested…always! And if you don’t believe in a greater power, you’re just making it harder on yourself than you need to!

So, here’s the latest. As of last weekend, we had no entertainers lined up and, as of today, we’ll be packed with a wide variety of grateful performers and artists all interested in helping to raise awareness of Vegas’s horrific suicide statistics because they have been personally touched by it in their families, friends or co-workers. All it takes is knowledge and perseverence and getting the right help in time.

This website has resources specific to bipolar, borderline personality disorder, the available facilities and other more alternative methods of healing like art, music and yoga therapy and to encourage friends and family not to be afraid of the bright light that MUST be aimed in the dark corners of brain malfunctions of this type because I think the statistics prove out more suicides result from these disorders.

My beautiful daughter wasn’t properly diagnosed as BPD until she met a psychologist, Andy, in late 2005, even though she had been seeing psychiatrist, therapists and psychologists since she was ten. However, the leading psychiatrist who handled Ava’s medications and therapy was treating her for Bipolar because that was easier. That’s my conclusion after interviewing people in the industry who automatically shove BPD’s under the rug as not being treatable. Her doctor was so highly revered in Georgia that we couldn’t get second opinions from anyone after they learned of his involvement. She had to be hospitalized to take her off the cocktail of six meds he had her taking in 2005. She continued to see him when in Atlanta and he continued to give her meds. It was the easy way out. I trusted this learned man. If you’re a parent of a bipolar or BPD child, arm yourself with knowledge. Our website provides that with links to reliable resources of information.

As this fledgling website grows, so will city speciic therapy alternatives but Ava’s Corner can be used now everywhere to work on that learning curve regardless of where you live. But for now, we want to help one family, one person, one life change for the better because of our one-stop-shopping approach to valuable information.

By the way, I’ve been “told” it will go global to buckle my seatbelt. So, watch along with me to see how it goes!

Ava’s Corner, inc. Mission Statement bears repeating:

“Ava’s Corner is a website constructed to encourage healing through creative energy shedding light into the dark corners of mental disorders. Artists of all genres can come to the Avascorner.org forum to voice their suffering through art, music, Videography, photography or poetry.

All friends or family of those suffering from brain disorders are welcome to utilize education, support tools and participate in Ava’s Corner forums.

These resources include broad scopes of therapy and self-expression to encourage loved ones to get the help they need.”

Here’s the press release that went out today.

“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Donna Friend (404) 313-3707

avascornerorg@yahoo.com

NEW RESOURCE OFFERS HELP, SUPPORT TO CREATIVE PERFORMERS —Singer Elisa Furr, Comedian Penny Wiggins headline Dec. 2 AvasCorner.com Launch Party— Las Vegas, November 27, 2012—

On December 2, AvasCorner.com brings a much-needed suicide prevention resource to Las Vegas’s creative community, and in true Vegas style, the site launch party celebrates the performers it’s designed to support.

The site is the creative labor of Donna Friend, whose daughter Ava Kaufman committed suicide earlier this year in her Vegas home. Like so many performers, Ava—an opera singer, animal activist, and graduate of UNLV—struggled with depression and borderline personality disorder that she hid beneath a confident veneer.

“After Ava passed away, I learned that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for people between the ages of 18 and 65,” says Friend. “I wanted Ava’s death to change that. And that’s why we’re launching Ava’s Corner.”

Members of the media are invited to attend the AvasCorner.com launch party on Sunday, December 2, 2012 at Olive Mediterranean Grill & Hookah Bar (3850 E. Sunset Rd.) from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. RSVP to Donna Friend with your name and the name of your media outlet at avascornerorg@yahoo.com by November 30.

The website reveal and walkthrough begins at 6 p.m.; come early for appetizers and a jazz ensemble. The entertainment starts at 7 p.m., and features Ava’s friends in the Las Vegas community, including local performers singer Elisa Furr, comedian Penny Wiggins, singer Kelly Vohnn, and musician Charly Urso.

The website will offer a safe place for Las Vegas’s creative community to share their struggles through conversation and creative works, creating a support network to remind depressed or suicidal performers that they are not alone. The site also provides resources, from suicide prevention hotlines for severely depressed visitors to local listings for music and art therapy. People who suspect their friends or family may be struggling with personality disorders or depression can find information to help them better understand and support their loved ones. Members who struggle with bullying or on-the-job harassment can find support tools and resources. The heart of the site, though, is the ability to share with other people who are struggling with the same issues.

“AvasCorner.com is a safe haven, reminding its members and visitors that you are never as alone as you think you are and as Ava felt she was in her last days. That awful night, Ava couldn’t remember that hundreds of loving friends would have done anything to help her. At AvasCorner.com, you don’t have to phone a friend if you don’t want to; you can reach out to any venue on this site to find hope and comfort,” explains Friend.

Friend started work on AvasCorner.com with a small group of committed volunteers, many of whom had known her daughter in Las Vegas and, like Friend, felt inspired to build a meaningful tribute to Ava’s memory. It felt only natural to launch AvasCorner.com in Las Vegas, the city where Ava, who had battled depression for much of her life, found her “tribe” for the first time. The fact that Las Vegas residents are fifty percent more likely to commit suicide than other U.S. residents and that so many of them pursue the same creative passions Ava embraced were also factors in the decision.

“Without performers, Vegas is just another desert,” Friend says.”

Ava’s Corner Logo – her own 1993 art of the lion and the wolf. Both significant to her.

Inside of Ava’s Memorial in Las Vegas in March of this year. There were hundreds of business people, professors, performers and artists in attendance and they were all friends. You just never know who is this depressed until you’re ready to assume all is not as it seems. Ava’s death sure screamed that to all who know and love her (present tense intentional).

 

THE PRESS RELEASE WENT OUT TODAY TO LAS VEGAS AND SURROUNDING AREAS. HERE IT IS:

“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Donna Friend (404) 313-3707 avascornerorg@yahoo.com avascorner.org

NEW RESOURCE OFFERS HELP, SUPPORT TO CREATIVE PERFORMERS

—AvasCorner.org launches December 2, 2012—Las Vegas, November 16, 2012—

When Ava Kaufman committed suicide in her Las Vegas home earlier this year, she added another name to Las Vegas’s disturbingly high suicide rate. The UNLV student and opera singer was a beloved friend and daughter, a tireless social and animal advocate, and a talented performer, but like so many of the creative people who find their way to Las Vegas, Ava was also struggling with borderline personality disorder and depression that she never shared with her friends.

“After Ava passed away, I learned that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for people between the ages of 18 and 65,” said Donna Friend, Ava’s mother. “I wanted Ava’s death to change that. And that’s why we’re launching Ava’s Corner.”

The website, launching on December 2, offers a safe place for Las Vegas’s creative community to share their struggles through conversation and creative works, creating a support network to remind depressed or suicidal performers that they are not alone. The site also offers resources, from suicide prevention hotlines for severely depressed visitors to local listings for music and art therapy. People who suspect their friends or family may be struggling with personality disorders or depression can also find information to help them better understand and support their loved ones. Members who struggle with bullying or on-the-job harassment can find support tools and resources. The heart of the site, though, is the ability to share with other people who are struggling with the same issues.

“AvasCorner.org is a safe haven reminding its members and visitors that you are never as alone as you think you are and as Ava felt she was in her last days. That awful night, Ava couldn’t remember that hundreds of loving friends would have done anything to help her. At Avascorner.org, you don’t have to phone a friend if you don’t want to; you can reach out to any venue on this site to find hope and comfort,” explains Friend.

Friend started work on AvasCorner.org with a small group of committed workers, many of whom had known her daughter in Las Vegas and, like Friend, felt inspired to build a meaningful tribute to Ava’s memory. It felt only natural to launch AvasCorner.org in Las Vegas, the city where Ava, who had struggled with depression for much of her life, found her “tribe” for the first time. The fact that Las Vegas residents are fifty percent more likely to commit suicide than other U.S. resi- dents and that so many of them pursue the same creative passions Ava embraced were also factors in the decision.

“Without performers, Vegas is just another desert,” Friend says.

Members of the media are invited to attend the AvasCorner.org launch party on Sunday, December 2, 2012 at The Olive Mediterranean Restaurant (3850 E. Sunset Rd.) from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. RSVP to Donna Friend with your name and the name of your media outlet at avascornerorg@yahoo.com by November 30.

Ava’s Corner logo is taken from a cut out Ava did in 1993. It’s of a wolf (on left) and a lion. Ava always connected to the wolf and, in our family, we have lionesses. It was more than appropriate for this piece of her art work to be the website’s logo.

From her Memorial service in Las Vegas

Kinda’ weird how Thanksgiving comes on the eighth month anniversary of Ava’s leaving us but it does make me pause and try to find the silver lining in the message. The easiest one to find is that a handful of dedicated individuals came together at the first calling to help build, create, engineer and formulate what is going to be an amazing tool for hurting creative people like Ava in Las Vegas (and beyond) to find comfort in knowing others who feel as they do are there listening and caring. Avascorner.org kicks off on Sunday, December 2, 2012 in Las Vegas thanks to these incredibly giving, loving, pay-it forward kinda’ folks.

The harder part in finding “thanksgiving” is the loss of my best friend and daughter who alternated from being a brilliant light in the night to the darkest of dark. But, I would take all the dark, heavy nightmare stuff back in a blink if I she were here again. Did I get exhausted and frustrated? Absolutely! But, somehow God gave this impatient person, flawed in many ways, the unconditional love that enveloped my soul in the form of my shooting star, Ava.

They say when you see a star that it’s really already gone. It’s true.

After Ava left, I stood on my deck looking up at the black velvet night sky where God placed twinkling diamonds for us to enjoy. There was one in particular that was brightly flickered in a seemingly meaningful pattern. It was, on that night, anointed Ava’s Star.

Every night since coming back home from Vegas in July, as Montana did her final “business” for the night, I would talk to the star and feel a connection with Ava. A real connection like that umbilical cord which was never severed that we both felt while she was here.

Recently, I couldn’t find her star in the sky. I knew it had taken its autumnal course away from its normal spot, but that knowledge gave me little comfort. I stood frozen as I examined the sky hoping to find Ava’s Star. My final logic (after some panic) was that it was probably too early and that I just needed to look again when it was darker.

As Montana has me trained to take her out when she rings the camel bells hanging from the door knob (that Ava gave her because who else would give a dog camel bells for Christmas to train their owner but Ava),  I took her out upon her signal. This time, the sky was black/blue velvet but I still had trouble finding Ava’s Star.

I stared at the western sky trying (in vain) to recognize the surrounding stars. I obviously was looking too high because, just then, a shooting star blazed from the spot where I was looking right down to the tree-lined horizon leading me right to it. I probably can count on my fingers how many shooting stars I’ve seen in my life…maybe even on one hand.

I proceeded to try to memorize the surrounding stars so I could find her even though she’ll be moving again.

I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find her when I got to Vegas but now I know I just need to look westward for a shooting star. Ava, I love you forever…my very own star.

Look for Avascorner.org and I pray you will never need it nor know anyone depressed enough to need this site. However, it’ll be there waiting for the one life we hope to save.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Newborn Ava

I was blessed to have been chosen by a remarkable soul to be her mother. She challenged me on all levels of my knowledge, experience and capacity for love. She filled my life with drama, trauma,  jubilation, extremes, shock and awe. I was quite proud that I lived  a life outside the “box” but she took that to a whole other level as she never recognized there was a “box” at all. She broadened my horizons like no one else in the world could have ever done because she was such an integral part of my existence. I don’t know how I’ll ever continue without hearing her amazing angelic voice singing “O mio babbino caro” or just her voice on a daily phone call or a big hug from my girl.

Ava in the “Mikado” 2008

Why? Where did she go? What happened? Is she dead?

She was so sensitive, fragile, creative and unique. Yet, she was so broken by her failed marriage, exhausted from the last two semesters of  college, anxious to be recognized for her operatic talent and, finally, being bullied, that she couldn’t find her way out of her depression to see all the blessings of the next day that she took her life.

I had been arm wrestling with her for a couple of days over the painful familiar subject of suicide and I knew I was losing ground but she had pulled through rough spots like this before. Right at the crescendo, when I needed to be 100% present, I couldn’t be because I had to rush to Atlanta to take my ailing 91-year-0ld mother to the emergency room. Right when I needed to be with her, holding her hand, I had to stay in Atlanta. When I needed to be with her, I couldn’t.

I’ll NEVER forget her final expressionless words to me, “sleep good Mom”  as I passed out from sheer exhaustion from being on the phone with her around the clock for the last 72 hours and Mom’s sudden critical illness.

I wish I could remember every word she said over those last days as clearly as I remember her “goodbye” but I can’t. I talked with her about eighteen times each twenty-four hour period of those last days trying to help her cope with all the bullying she’d endured those last months of her life.

Now the questions become:  How do I carry on?  How do I let go of thinking I could have stopped her? How do I help others thinking of doing the same thing to get a glimpse of the nightmare their decision creates? How do I reach ONE person in such depths of despair? After all, I sure couldn’t reach my own daughter that last day to keep her from taking her life. It’s a reality I will live with regardless of all the platitudes used in times like these. Those words are caring attempts to comfort me in this horrendous time, but platitudes nonetheless.

I’ve been home for a month now and it has been excruciating. Everything reminds me of her. The drive home through Virginia and Tennessee only served to remind me of our trip down those same roads last year. Upon arriving home, I emotionally deflated like an old balloon and that’s where I’ve been…haunted by her smell, laugh and pain…but also exhausted, brain-dead and unable to move most days but making myself go out at least once a week. All I’ve been able to do is pull weeds, do yard work (sometimes for only five minutes) and watch French foreign films and BBC Presentations as they have helped me keep my sanity for I know I have a job to do…I just can’t do it right now.

Finally, after four weeks, I have turned a corner on that first full moon of the blue moon phase of August, 2012. Blue moon is when there are two full moons in one month and, seeing as how my moon is in Cancer, it only makes sense that it would happen on a blue moon. I’ve turned a corner. I’m not sure what corner but my hair has started growing again after four months and I’m not constantly depressed these last four days. I’m thinking again about what needs to be done for the website (although I can’t quite work on it again yet). I hear the clock ticking and know I need to move forward with my life as everyone else seems to be doing. I’m jealous they can do it while I’m stuck in purgatory. I’m jealous they have “found” happiness while I’m still in such pain. But, it’s not a bad jealousy…just a normal one.

I hope that I, too, will find happiness one day for I truly never have experienced that phenomenon and that’s been part of my depression…that reality. As I always say, however, it’s okay to recognize the realities of your existence enabling you to accept it for what it is. My resilience of spirit tells me it will come in a way not anticipated and I look forward to the surprise.

I just hope it involves writing and more back road travels.

Happy Trails!

Graduation Day – Bachelor of Music (Vocal Performance) 12-2011. The last time I saw her happy.

© Donna Friend 8-5-2012  All rights reserved.

 

 

My daughter, AVA, committed suicide two months ago after struggling on so many levels:  fighting chronic severe depression, being bullied at work, exhaustion from college, worry over money  and pushing for nothing short of perfection in every performance, especially her career as an opera singer.

As a very serious, devoted opera geek and full lyric soprano, every note, every syllable, every dialect, every language (German, Italian, French, English, Czech, etc.) had to be studied over and over and over until every molecule of her body vibrated and celebrated the aria, the opera and the passion of the moment. Truly a revolutionary woman not only in her own words but of those who were privileged to hear her perform but who love her and call her friend (present tense intentional).

How do I know all this? I’ve just spent eight weeks listening to every single recording of every single lesson she had over the last several years and being embraced by each of those wonderful performers who love her and call her friend. I feel more at home in Vegas with these wonderful men and women than I do in my own state.

As a public speaker, I know what it’s like to put your all into what you’re doing behind the podium or on the stage but certainly not to the level of performers who put their guts on the stage when they get up there to entertain the public with their jokes, magic, singing, comedy, acting, music, voice… They are exceptional, loving individuals and a clan of their own…a true all-for-one-and-one-for-all group the likes of which I’ve NEVER experienced before. They are not only Ava’s tribe but mine as well.

It is that reason why I am driven, yet again, to not just step outside my comfort zone but leap into mid-air off a bazillion foot cliff to start AVA’S CORNER.ORG with an associated Hotline, initially in Vegas, to be that source for these extremely sensitive, loving people who may feel the need to search for assistance regarding a concern or want a caring person on the other end of the Hotline to listen to whatever it is they need to say with understanding, acceptance and assistance.

Ava’s Corner will trump every negative site my daughter searched that fateful night. It will be the FIRST place a person goes when searching all topics related to “suicide”. It’s my belief we should always dream in terms of a perfect world and work backwards so all you website people are cringing over the task, I only know that none of my previous experience as a commercial real estate title insurance underwriting, real estate law or consulting work ever prepared me for this and I’m just gonna’ jump in with my whole being because there is a need! Tell me what you CAN do…not what you can’t do!

We’re creating an album to be called “all things AVA”. We (Ava and all who has  written a song, a poem or a melody to go with Ava’s lyrics or anything related) are collaborating our love and our efforts to raise money for our efforts to assist with mental health resources and to help prevent as many suicides as possible in the performance industry with the power of positive influence. Every performer will receive full credit for their work including a Bio with photo of each artistic contributor of this beautiful collaborative effort will help fund AVA’s Corner & Hotline.

So far, we are hoping to have AVA singing art songs and arias “Trials and Tribulations of Love”, along with Jenni Kearns orchestrating melodies to Ava’s lyrics, performances by Mirjana Milovanovic, Marisa Johnson, Carmen A. Woodruff, Susanne Knauf’s melody, Beauregard Higgins performing his original song he wrote for Ava, Vital Germaine’s poem with his painting of Ava on the cover, Scott Gordon’s poem, Charly Urso performing his original song, Mirjana performing her original song and anyone else who has an original piece written for Ava. You just need let me know so we can review it.

I want this to be a collaborative effort of all of us to share and enjoy for a long time but also to give credit to some beautiful and talented people who love Ava dearly and will always feel that way. All proceeds will go to the Trust (or non-profit organization…haven’t decided which was is best yet) which I will form when I’m back in Georgia that will fund Ava’s Corner & Hotline.

I have plenty of artists (of all persuasions) but I don’t have a person to assist in creating the website. If you need money to do this and you’re the right person, contact me and I’ll see what we can do to come up with $$. Without the website (the right one, that is) this will never leave the ground. The web creator must “get” what we’re doing and feel passionate about its creation. As the focus will naturally be Vegas, I would love to have a Vegas creator who understands performers.

We’re rapidly building our team! If you feel the callin’ to join us, please reply to this message. Even if you can’t join us but have ideas, bring ’em on! If you can’t do either, support our efforts with love and appreciation for all those performers you’ve enjoyed.

Although I’ve been immersed dealing with this unimaginable loss and with giving all her possessions away to friends, family and loved ones from Vegas to Montreal to Florida, I have one last task. Ava and I were to go camping in the redwood forest where God lives in northern California. It’s a bitter-sweet expectation. I’d told her about this place for over 15 years and, this year, was the year. I cry each time I think about not having her with me on this next Great Adventure and I doubt if I’ll ever think about it without a tear no matter how many years pass. But, rest assured, I’ll be working diligently on this project as well as the big picture of a greater good.

Ava’s last head shot taken in Austria summer, 2011.

I also tear up at how amazing each of her friends embraced me as their own family as they did Ava…how hugging, loving and accepting of us both. And, as each of you pick up the pieces of the lives you had before all this happened, know that I know you haven’t forgotten. It’s just a necessity of living. I’ll be back soon!