Friday, April 6, 2012

Lake Forest Suicides; Remembering Why I Became a Psychologist

It was 1980 when the movie Ordinary People was released and today I decided to watch it again after watching a video of a community wide effort (Helping Parents in Difficult Times) put on by a Lake Forest Task Force in response the three recent public suicides in the Lake Forest community.  

Doing a short bit of research I also found that Sheridan Road magazine published an article today online titled "Ordinary People, Extraordinary Experience" (  So much for me being one of the few to remember the connection.

My own two son's made time today to poke their heads in as I watched (and for those that know me, yes it was a pirated copy found online and played through HDMI).  In response to their inevitable questions I informed them that this movie was one of the basic reasons I'd chosen Clinical psychology as a profession and the North Shore as the location of my practice.  Having moved them from Northbrook to our summer in Lake Geneva before they hit the upper grades of elementary school, I'd always felt that I'd gotten them out of harms way from the north shore but still felt the need to add that the movie was a fairly accurate portrayal of the north shore entitlement program I knew as a child and know so much about today.

When I watched the video of the Lake Forest presentation on youtube (!) posted by "enjoylakeforest" ( what struck me first was the effort that went in to making sure participation included all the possible stake holders.  Community Hospitals (Northshore University Heath System, Lake Forest Hospital) youth programs (CROYA), community outpatient programs, suicide prevention groups, etc.  What struck me next were the things that were not included.  Before I go on let me say I had no problem with the program or with the important ongoing effort being put forth to try and ensure that everything possible that can be done, is being done to try and ensure there are no repeats or additional losses.

What disappointed me was the lack of openness regarding the real nature of suicide and the environmental elements that accompany it.  That's where the movie, Ordinary People, came in.  Why is it that 30 years ago Robert Redford could make an Oscar winning best film (four Oscar's actually) and yet none of it's themes or honest portrayal make it into such an important discussion?  Having run a highly successful junior high program in Kenilworth for over 8 years, I know first hand about the level of work and responsibility that goes into living in an elite suburb.  I also know about the concept of "Lace Curtains" where a home (and what goes on inside) can have the appearance of being transparent but in actuality is very much closed off.

If you really want to learn about the suburbs and the mental health issues that effect it, take the time to watch Ordinary People.  32 Years later the film is just as accurate in all it's portrayals as it was then......except perhaps the idea of a bus as part of public transportation in Lake Forest.  That I believe is still a fallacy.

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