Many of the issues presented by guest speakers at clubs and organizations stir emotions in the audience at varying levels of intensity. The speakers themselves, depending on the depth of their personal relationship with the subject matter, can visibly exhibit their emotional attachment as they speak. But few speakers have demonstrated their personal and intimate identity with the issue as has Linda Matherne, founder of the organization, Second Choice, who spoke recently to members of the Lakewood First Lions club at their Wednesday breakfast meeting in Burs Restaurant in Lakewood.
With no less a goal than to prevent and even eliminate suicide, especially among youth, Second Choice is about acknowledging the difficult decision made by suicidal individuals to step back from the precipice and opt for the second choice-life.
Matherne is intensely familiar with the experience. She had attempted suicide as a emotionally torn 17 year old. “I was living in paradise,” Matherne explained. “I had a good job, I lived in Hawaii, but I didn’t think I was worth it.” Her inner conflict tore at her until one evening she chose to end her torment by slitting both wrists. She succeeded with the first wrist and began bleeding profusely. But as she reach over for the second wrist the realization of her act shocked her into a different decision. She made the second choice to continue to live and she ran to her mother’s bedroom and sought help. The words her mother spoke to her-the acknowledgement of making the right choice in coming to her and the expressions of love and gratitude for choosing to live-affirmed the proper choice she had made. While her first choice made no sense in retrospect-“I talked myself into it,” she said-her second choice not only was the right one, but one that led to the formation of her organization and a critical resource for the many thousands of emotionally torn people looking for help.
According to Matherne there were 35,000 suicides committed in the U.S. in 2005, and over one million world-wide. She estimated that for every suicide committed there were probably 20 more attempted. Now her website, www.powerofthesecondchoice.org is being discovered and providing help to people from at least 18 countries. By day a distributor for Mission Foods, Matherne’s second career as founder of Second Choice began as a class assignment to start a community project that would make a difference. It was during her work on the project that she became aware of other individuals that had attempted suicide and were fortunate enough to step back in a sudden realization that suicide was the wrong choice. A second choice-or what many would simply term a change of mind-saved their lives. But what may be more important was the choice to reveal the problem and the attempt at suicide to someone close to them and openly discuss the issues.
Her advice for those close to a suicidal person is to acknowledge the wisdom of making the choice to step back from the thoughts of, or attempts at suicide, and to provide encouragement and words of support and love for that person. While Matherne admits the thought-the feeling of unworthiness-will occasionally creep into her subconscious, her experience has given her the strength to dismiss it and move on to help others.
Her home page leads with, “Power of the Second Choice is a movement created to end our silence in the face of suicide through acknowledgement and empowerment.” For more information Matherne can be reach at 253-740-5570 in Kent. She is open to speaking engagements, but is now booked through January.
Lakewood First Lions hosts guest speakers twice monthly on issues relevant to the community. For information call 253-588-6637.
Photo and story by Ed Kane, Freelance Graphics