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Pennsylvania Bridges – August 2018 – Ada’s Blessings

august-2018-cover_9xThe August 2018 edition of Pennsylvania BridgesAda’s Blessings – is now available online and in print.

The Entertainment Chuckwagon: A Tribute to Joe DeNardo, Pt. I

Joe-Denardo-Cal-4Back in 1969, the Monroeville Mall opened, which allowed Pittsburghers to shop at 125 retailers and ice skate in a tropical setting in the “Ice Palace.” They could watch Marshall Matt Dillion (James Arness) keep the peace in Dodge City on their new color television sets with new episodes of the hit western “Gunsmoke” during prime time on KDKA, and they could satisfy their appetites by purchasing a dinner box for only 60 cents at any one of 16 Pittsburgh Kentucky Fried Chicken locations.

It was this year when Joe DeNardo began his run as meteorologist on WTAE where, for the next 35 years until his retirement in 2005, he was known as a reliable source of an accurate weather forecast. He was more than a meteorologist, though. He was a trusted friend Pittsburghers invited into their homes via their television sets.

There were three channels—11, 2, and 4. No weather channel, no internet, no apps on cell phones—no cell phones. If you had a golf game planned and you didn’t want to be swinging at hail stones instead of golf balls, if you had a romantic picnic planned for you and your sweetie and you didn’t want to be drenched with rain, if you were facing a commute in wintery conditions or didn’t want to be up to your bellbottoms shoveling snow, your local television weatherman was the one to count on. Starting in 1969, for many Pittsburghers, that man was Joe DeNardo.

DeNardo’s Pittsburgh weather forecasting career actually began back in in 1957 at KDKA. But in 1968, he decided to leave.

In a November 22, 1968 interview with Press TV and Radio editor Vince Leonard, DeNardo explained (1) why he and KDKA were parting ways: “Well, there are so many forecasters associated with KDKA that I have no control over disassociating them with my weather service.”

But another career opportunity was just around the corner, thanks to Paul Long, a friend and colleague from the KDKA days, where they first met in 1960. Long was hired by WTAE just a few months before DeNardo in 1969.

After hiring Long, WTAE General Manager John Conomikes sought his advice. Long recalled this discussion in an archival interview:

Conomikes asked me what ideas I had, and I said ‘I’d like to see your weatherman be Joe DeNardo. I think he could be had now,’ or words to that effect. And he said, ‘We’ve been talking to him, and he’s playing hard to get.’ And I gave him some more tips on how to tie the rope around DeNardo and drag him in here feet first.

Of course, Conomikes eventually did sign DeNardo.

“DeNardo’s the name. Weather is his game!” touted a February 24, 1970 ad in The Pittsburgh Press, featuring a smiling DeNardo in a suit holding both an umbrella and a tennis racket. “And DeNardo makes it a pretty accurate game. Oh, once in a while he carries an umbrella to his tennis match, but most of the time he’s right on the button with the most accurate forecasts in town.”

The duo of Paul Long and Joe DeNardo became a hit. Both were familiar and beloved faces in local Pittsburgh television news. Long stayed with WTAE until his retirement in 1994 and passed away in 2002 at the age of 86.

DeNardo and Long also liked to play practical jokes on each other. As DeNardo recalled in an archival WTAE interview, one involved Long’s habit of leaving his keys in his car after he parked.

One night, (2) DeNardo hid Long’s car by moving it from WTAE’s lower lot, where Long had parked it, to the upper lot. Later after the 11pm newscast was done, DeNardo found Long in the lower parking lot, looking for his car. DeNardo said to Long, “You leave the keys in it all the time. It had to happen sooner or later.” DeNardo suggested Long look in the lower lot. While he did, DeNardo quickly drove and parked the car where Long had originally parked it. Long returned, saw the car, said “I’ll be a son-of-a-. . .,” got in, and drove home.


For more of our Joe DeNardo tribute please check out September’s issue of Pennsylvania Bridges.

Sources consulted for this piece:



Story by Chuck Brutz for Pennsylvania Bridges

Southwestern Pintsylvania: The Lipkes from Leaning Cask

Leaning Cask brewer Joshua Lipke and his co-owner and wife, Stefanie Lipke

Leaning Cask brewer Joshua Lipke and his co-owner and wife, Stefanie Lipke

This month, I sat down with Leaning Cask brewer Joshua Lipke and his co-owner and wife, Stefanie Lipke, in Springdale, PA. The brewery has been open for a little over a year, but Joshua has been brewing a lot longer than that. He, like many others, started with a homebrewing hobby and expanded. The turning point for the Lipkes to take the step from homebrewing to opening their own brewpub was a trip to England in the mid-2000s. While there, they tried cask ales, which are a bit different than what you normally get in the U.S. in terms of brewing and serving style.

The brewery has three authentic English hand pumps, one of which is portable. Leaning Cask is also one of the only places in the Pittsburgh area that has a beer engine, which assists in pumping the beer from casks stored in the basement. Joshua says that while they do keep their beer warmer than most, it isn’t quite to the 50°F to 55°F that it would be served at overseas. Their beer is stored in the basement but not quite at those true “cellar” temperatures you would see in England. The casks are closer to traditional temperatures at 45°F to 50°F because they are stored in the farthest corner of the cold storage.

When it comes to the beer itself, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t only English-style beers that are brewed and stored in casks. Stefanie says they put any type into casks, and they often use it as a way to try out a new beer or style of beer since the initial release is on a smaller scale. Cask beers aren’t the only types they have, either. The brewery has 12 taps, which allows a wide variation—a little bit of everything.. On most visits to Leaning Cask, you will see three to four different IPAs on tap, their own cider, a stout or porter, a wheat, English ale, and some type of Belgian. Depending on when you visit, various seasonal beers will come into play, too. Another tradition you might notice is all the brews are named with a dog theme. The Lipkes love dogs and appreciated how dog-friendly English pubs are. They wanted to bring a little of that home with them, so they not only have dog-themed beer names, but they are also very welcoming to dogs, as long as they are well-behaved. They go even a step further than allowing dogs inside the bar—they have an actual indoor bathroom for dogs only. While it is becoming more common for breweries to allow dogs, this may be the only indoor dog restroom!

Joshua, the sole brewer, brews as close to traditional English style as his equipment allows. He has a thirteen-barrel setup in the basement of the pub, as well as room to expand upstairs. He says this setup is relatively large for a new brewery; less than ten barrels are more common for somewhere that has only been open for a little over a year. I asked if he had any advice for homebrewers who may be considering expansion into commercial brewing, and Joshua said, “Be prepared for the business adventure. It’s a lot more than just making beer. That’s the simple way to put it. Do your research, know what you are getting into and, really, if you don’t have a business background, get some help or some education on it because the bottom line is you are running a business. Brewing is my downtime. That’s when I don’t have to think about the other things. Even if you are making stellar beer, you’ll be able to make good beer at the commercial stage, but it’s everything else that goes into a business.”

At this point, Leaning Cask is Joshua’s full-time job, but Stefanie still works as an elementary school counselor full time. It was refreshing to meet a woman in the industry because the craft beer and brewery field is dominated by men. Stefanie says she doesn’t feel she’s been pushed aside or ignored and feels like she gets the same amount of respect as Joshua when she introduces herself as an owner. She is a member of the Pink Boots Society, an organization for women in the beer industry and, despite the support she’s experienced, says, “I definitely think there could be more recognition, awareness, and more females involved.”

With so many breweries in Southwestern Pennsylvania, The Leaning Cask offers a British twist that helps it stand out in a booming industry and provides a style of beer that was under-represented in the area until now. They distribute to approximately 20 locations in the area but, since Springdale is not far outside the city limits, why not go to the source to try their beer?

Leaning Cask is located at 850 Pittsburgh St, Springdale, PA 15144. They are open Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. New casks are released every Thursday.


Author’s Note: I am working on setting up interviews with other Southwest PA breweries. Is there a brewery you’d like me to cover? Reach out to me via email –

Story by Reanna Roberts for Pennsylvania Bridges

Pennsylvania Bridges July 2018 – “Land of the Free”

july-2018-cover_9xThe July 2018 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges – “Land of the Free” – is now available online and in print.

Also, did you know? You can now read individual stories on our website! Keep scrolling for all the fantastic features contained in the pages of our July edition.

The Entertainment Chuckwagon: I don’t wanna grow up!

Washington-Mall-Toys-R-Us-EBack in my day, we didn’t have We had these places called toy stores. You know, stores that sold toys. Just toys, not weed whackers, kitty litter, or hygiene products – just toys. And, we liked it!

There was Children’s Palace, Toyco, Circus World, Kay Bee, and more. But, now, those stores are gone. Toys R Us was truly the last of the stores that was solely toy focused, where a kid might look at this, look at that, get excited, and later throw a temper tantrum in the middle of the store until their parents bought them the toy they desired. Come on, you know you know someone who did this.

For me, it was a world of He-Man, The Real Ghostbusters, Go-Bots – that’s right, I said Go-Bots, not Transformers. I didn’t wanna grow up, I was a Toys R Us Kid.

So, when it was announced this past March that Toys R Us would be closing their doors for good, for this old fart, it signaled the end of an era for this middle aged guy. With the closing of Toys R Us, it so went the final piece of my childhood. First Children’s Place and Kay Bee Toys, now Toys R Us, now forever shuttered. That’s a real bummer, and it prompted me to learn more about the origins of the store.

So, where did it all begin for the Toys R Us saga?

According to, the store was the brainchild of 25 year old Charles Lazarus, who first opened a baby furniture store called Children’s Bargain Town in 1948 in Washington, D.C.

In 1950, Lazarus decided to try selling toys as well, soon discovering that when toys broke or fell out of fashion, parents would bring their children back to buy more. In order to ensure the success of his venture, Lazarus offered a wide assortment of toys for Joe and Jane Consumer to purchase for their children.

Then came 1957. Americans liked Ike, as he was sworn in for his second term as 34th President of the United States, Great Balls of Fire! was a huge hit for Jerry Lee Lewis, and Doris Day was playing The Pajama Game to the delight of packed movie houses across the country.

It was also the year the very first Toys R Us Store was opened in Rockville, Maryland. The “R” in the store logo appeared backwards to give the impression it was written by a child.  With a catchy name in place, now Toys R Us needed just the right mascot.

Choosing the right mascot is essential for a brand. Lucky Charms has Lucky the Leprechaun. The Pittsburgh Pirates have The Pirate Parrot. Pennsylvania Bridges has Chuck Brutz. And Toys R Us has Geoffrey Giraffe, a character who soon became as beloved as Toys R Us itself.

Geoffrey Giraffe made his commercial debut in 1973 as a live action guy dancing in a giraffe suit, then appeared in animated form as well. Geoffrey soon found a wife, Gigi. Soon, Junior and Baby Gee joined the family.

In 1983, the company branched out into selling children’s clothes as well, with the addition of Kids R Us, followed by Babies R Us in 1996 in 1996. In 1990, Lazarus was inducted in the Toy Industry Association Hall of Fame.

Sadly, Lazarus passed away on March 22 of this year from respiratory failure. Only two months earlier, in January, Toys R Us had announced that like Macy’s, Sears, and K-Mart, they would be closing a limited number of stores.

However, two months later, it was announced that all Toys R Us Stores would be closing their doors for good. Some in the Pittsburgh area closed by April, while the remaining locations closed this past June 27.

In an age of and Wal-Mart, specialty retail stores are a dying breed. Some may call that progress, but shopping online lacks of the excitement of a visit to an actual toy store.

Goodbye, Toys R Us, you may be gone, but never forgotten in our hearts. We’ll always be Toys R Us Kids.

Story by Chuck Brutz for Pennsylvania Bridges

Freshness is always in season at Triple B Farms in Monongahela

corn12Sticker shock. Though it happens when looking at new cars, there is a more common arena in life where it’s more prevalent – the grocery store. Small containers of berries, usually trucked in from out of state, can command prices ranging from $4 or $5 and up. Apples, peaches, corn, and more also cause one to swallow hard when deciding to pay the price. Freshness is compromised by shipping, and many a consumer has been dismayed to discover mold on their pricey produce the next day after purchase.

And taking the whole family to the grocery store for a shopping trip? Oy, what a headache.

The good news is, there is place to avoid sub-par produce while having a grand time with the entire family, and Triple B Farms, at 823 Berry Lane in Monongahela, is pleased to be that place.

Triple B’s berries, apples, peaches, corn, and much more are produced on location, as is fresh honey from their own hives. It’s easy to walk in and pick up something fresh and delicious, such as seasonal fruits, pies, jams, jellies, homemade fudge, and other delectables, but it’s during picking season where family fun on the farm comes into play.

Pop’s FarmYard, open on weekends during all picking seasons, provides plenty of fun – such as tube slides, jumping pillows, and rope maze, to name a few activities – along with Education Acres, where everyone can learn about agriculture in an entertaining, hands-on atmosphere.

“We do special (pancake) breakfasts and have a farmyard activity area where everybody plays together, and for adults and children to enjoy together,” said Suzanne Beinlich, who helps manage the market. The operation is owned and run by the Beinlich family, who have made it the family friendly location it is today. “If it’s a nice day, people enjoy getting out together as a family, and healthy, fresh food is a good thing now, and people enjoy doing that,” Beinlich said.

Triple B Farms provides agriculturally themed children’s books and toys to go along with education, Beinlich said. “One of the things we provide during the spring field trip is we teach (kids) to plant in a plastic glove, and once it sprouts they can remove the seeds and plant it and watch it grow.”

Picking seasons vary with crops, with berries in full swing now, and peaches, apples, and pumpkins available in the not too distant future. Head right in to Triple B and turn left to get started picking your own. In addition to having the freshest fruit picked by your own hand, saving money in the process is another plus. “Generally speaking, when you’re doing the labor, you’re saving some amount (over store bought) and that’s the idea behind pick your own crop,” Beinlich said, adding “and it’s a family activity everybody likes to do together. And you learn where your food comes from and how it grows”

Picking hours are limited generally from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., because, as Beinlich notes, “ripe fruit should be picked in the morning hours, because later when it gets warm, it’s getting soft, and by the time you get it home it has made its own jelly. We want you to have fresh fruit you can enjoy in the next 24 – 48 hours.”

Triple B Farms offers seasonal tours which focus on various growing season stages. In the spring it’s planting and growing, while in the fall it’s harvesting and storing crops. It’s the summer season, however, when visitors not only learn how bees pollinate crops and fruit, but they can view bees hard at work at a real hive built with Plexiglass.

No southwest Pennsylvania cookout would be complete without fresh corn, and Triple B Farms is known to have the sweetest around. Starting in July and through September is the best time to get corn on the cob, and Beinlich offers an important cooking tip: “Don’t overcook your corn. 2 – 3 minutes in boiling water is all you need because it’s already so sweet that, if you cook it longer, you’re cooking the tenderness and sweetness right out of it.”

Beinlich advises checking the web site ahead of time for updated crop picking availability. “I realize we’re a destination, so it makes sense to call ahead so you’re not disappointed when you get here.” However, Triple B Farms is always stocked with fresh food even when picking season isn’t in full swing.

Visit Triple B Farms at to learn more about upcoming events and festivals, growing season, picking seasons, and much more. Or, call ahead to check picking availability at 724-258-3557.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

Pastor Hargraves: On Beginning a Dialogue

I attended our Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in June and like most years am often surprised by the legislative item that stands out with controversy. This year in my naiveté, I again found myself again caught by surprise. That surprise came when we debated a piece of legislation written to encourage our local United Methodist churches to begin to have conversations about gun violence.

Gun violence conversation is the topic, nothing more. Yet even now, as you read this, you may have already shifted to one side or the other hearing gun rights or gun restrictions. The fact is that the legislation (W.PA United Methodist Church only) is about gun violence and not at all about gun rights or gun restriction. More so, the legislation is about conversations about gun violence. Conversation, which we at Annual Conference didn’t really do well because the debate was heated from my perspective.

I want us to say/read this word slowly: C O N V E R S A T I O N

We, United Methodists, that were at our Annual Conference pretty much looked a lot like the rest of the country when it comes to having a conversation about gun violence. We dug in, planted our heels, staked our claim, pitched out tents on the side we represent and generally speaking did not want to hear one word from those other people (said with an air of disdain). We skipped over “conversation” and went right for the debate and argument. The murmuring happened. The social media happens. The positioning happens. The conversation does NOT happen. Yes, I intentionally changed the tense there. The conversation did not happen and does not happen. Fortunately, the voice of authority, our Bishop, told us what we are voting about, period.

In three of the gospel accounts, this authority tells us “it is said a house torn apart by division will collapse.” (Matt. Mk. Luke) In my house, the understanding is, “if momma ain’t happy, no one is happy.” This doesn’t mean I get my way. This means we work together to build up, work together, maintain so there is no collapse. This requires we converse and not just those that think like us, rather we converse with others, those that do not have the same thoughts and perspective as us. That we have diverse points of view in the conversation.

This means that self-awareness of our position on any sensitive and hot topic be desensitized so that the emotions that drive us to a fight or flight mode do not come in to play. Then a conversation can occur. Why is this a good way? Well, I don’t know about you but I’m not always right, so clearly, I should be in conversation with someone else other than one who thinks just like me.

And conversations don’t have to hurt where gun violence always hurts or worse.  

Isn’t it better to converse than to fight and be divided? Even the winner of a fight walks away with busted knuckles. Talk need not be cheap.

Written by Pastor Dawn Hargraves for Pennsylvania Bridges

The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers: “Appalachian Bluegrass”

JFS-(1)During the 1600s, Irish, Scottish, and English settlers in Jamestown, Virginia, brought with them musical influences from their respective countries, typically played with passion and skill on stringed instruments.

As the New World began to grow and these settlers expanded their borders, stories about their travels, or their rural farming way of life, peppered their lyrics, painting verbal pictures of life in a pre-United States landscape. And with the advent of high technology in the 1900s, viz, records and radio, “mountain music,” as bluegrass was formerly known, could finally debut to a national audience.

However, it wasn’t until 1948 when Kentucky native, Bill Monroe, assembled his Blue Grass Boys that this musical style solidified as a genre. Named after Kentucky’s state motto, the Bluegrass State, Monroe’s bluegrass band formulation of acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and upright bass, would set the standard for generations to come. Though the mid-1940s saw the Dobro introduced into the genre – thanks to The Foggy Mountain Boys, formed by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs – Monroe’s instrumental assemblage most commonly forms the instrumental basis of today’s bluegrass music.

Those seeking traditional “country” inspired music will not be disappointed by the powerful sound and lyrical purity of today’s bluegrass artists. Still, there is one band, The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers, who are redefining just what bluegrass music is by combining both the tradition of writing about their own experiences on the road, and in life, but with more intricate and hard-edged twists on the typical bluegrass playing style.

Gary Antol, 2014 co-founder of The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers, along with Libby Eddy, describes the band’s sound as “Appalachian Bluegrass.” According to Antol, an audience member once said, “You guys sound great, but do you have to be so aggressive?” “Have you ever been to Appalachia?” Antol asked, “You’ll find the people there are pretty aggressive and pretty hard. Guys walked out of coal mines and wrote fiddle tunes, and they were pretty hard guys.”

While two prior releases from the band reflect life and times on the road – Lane Change, 2014, and White Lightning Road, 2016 – it is their new release, Poison River, where the Appalachian Bluegrass sound rings most clear.

Lyrical inspiration for Poison River developed through the band’s extensive cross-country touring schedule, meaning they are in disparate geographic, and cultural, locations on an almost day-to-day basis.

Poison River is “just the experience of playing all the time and fitting in on a cultural level with different people,” Antol said. “Being in Pennsylvania one day, North Carolina another, people are completely different with different views and outlooks on things. It’s made me listen more, and so it’s been a learning experience.”

PoisonRiverCoverWith Poison River, The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers lyrically echo a more global view of life. Antol describes the CD’s overall timber as reflecting a “sadness about the way the world is going. I wrote four (songs), Libby and I co-wrote, our mandolin player co-wrote, and three songs were written by friends we’re covering.”

“It’s a dark but pretty album. On this one, we went for a little more intricacy on the arrangements,” Antol said of the production process. “This one was different and neat because it really was a collaborative effort in how it was arranged. That’s because we had the time this time. I think we got it, actually, and I’m really happy about it.”

Though The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers only formed in 2014, Antol has realized his long-time goal of seeing the Stragglers perform at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Bluegrass Ramble showcase, coming up in Raleigh North Carolina, September 25 – 29, 2018.

“It’s good for a career move, and I only had one goal for the year, and that was to get into that,” Antol enthused, adding “I wanted to make a new record (Poison River) that would get us into that.” However, Antol notes that ego wasn’t part of his motivation; instead, his desire to “reflect all aspects of Americana with original sounding material” was the underlying goal.

The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers are: Gary Antol, guitar and vocals; Libby Eddy, fiddle and vocals; Evan Bell, upright bass; Ray Bruckman, mandolin, fiddle, and vocals; and part-time member Jody Mosser, Dobro.

Step into the world of Appalachian Bluegrass by visiting The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers at;; and

Find Poison River, tour information, videos, & more at

Photo: (from left) Evan Bell, bass; Libby Eddy, fiddle & vocals; Gary Antol, guitar & vocals; Ray Bruckman, mandolin, fiddle, & vocals, & Jody Mosser, Dobro (part-time member)

Photo of The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers by Ed Dewitt. Cover design for Poison River by Chelsea Elliot.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

Keep PA Beautiful Calls for Fresh Paint Days Applications

brushes_industrial_196405Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful is accepting applications for their 2018 Fresh Paint Days Pennsylvania, a program designed to provide community groups with paint and painting supplies enabling them to renew a community structure in need into something beautiful through the application of fresh paint. This event is held in partnership with support from BEHR paint and The Home Depot. Eight grants of up to 20 gallons of exterior paint and a gift card for painting supplies will be awarded to tax-exempt groups within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Groups will have 30 days to complete their projects, September 1 through 30.

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful will select the eight winning projects from among applications submitted. Selected grantees must meet the following requirements to be considered – only one building per application, proof of liability insurance, signed permission to paint from the building owner and two before photos of the intended project. Selected grantees must also agree to select a color from the Behr paint line and provide a final report with during and after photos.

Applications must be received by July 31, 2018 and grants will be awarded early-August. For more information or to download the application click here Questions can be answered by Michelle Dunn, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful Program Coordinator, at 877-772-3673 ext. 113 or The Fresh Paint Days Pennsylvania grant is available to any tax-exempt group within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Private property owners or individual applicants cannot apply.

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful’s mission is empowering Pennsylvanians to make our communities clean and beautiful. Since 1990, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful and its volunteers have removed over 133 million pounds of litter from Pennsylvania’s roadways, greenways, parks, forests, and waterways. To learn more about Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, visit

Mental Health Spotlight: Spotlight on Suicide Prevention


Wednesday night was a pretty special night for me. After decades of fandom, I finally saw Peter Frampton. Frampton Comes Alive was one of the first albums that I ever owned, and I listened to it to the point of chiseling grooves into the old 33 RPM. For those younger readers, before digital everything, record players kept our teen years occupied.

Music has always been a safe place for me with my illness in addition to one of my passions. I’ve never given up my love for playing acoustic guitar, albeit rather poorly. Midway through the concert, an amazing thing happened. Mr. Frampton spoke briefly about his instrumental Grammy winning album, “Fingerprints,” more specifically one track, Black Hole Sun.

Any fans of Chris Cornell, Audioslave and/or Soundgarden know who he is, his body of work and untimely suicide. Although when it comes to suicide, is there any such thing as a timely one? It seems more and more entertainment figures have succumbed to this terrible fate from whatever mental health diseases they endure.

It’s difficult imaging why those who are incredibly successful choose this end. They seem to be on top of the world, no financial worries, apparent storybook lives. Perhaps that is the best way to understand this disease called “mental illness.” One in five have it and when it comes to suicide, there is no rhyme or reason, it is the final action. The decision center of the mind is broken. It’s not more complicated than that. These people we look up to, admire and emulate may have the perfect lives to the casual onlooker, which we all are, but inside they are fighting a very difficult struggle. The frequency of this issue has become so severe, a national light has been cast on it. By the time this article goes to print, the time will have passed on a Town Hall Meeting, moderated by Anderson Cooper on suicide on CNN. I am sure that the broadcast can be streamed by the time you read this, and/or a transcript will be available. I will update you in the next issue with any applicable links related to this important program.

I’ve never been enough of a fanboy to place anyone in the public eye on any higher pedestal than anyone else. Sure, I enjoyed the Frampton concert, but if I were to meet him, I’d prefer discussing normal stuff but I don’t know him at all so where would I begin? Conversely, we are surrounded by heroes every day who never get their credit, pay or live that same illusory storybook life. Odds are you know one, have them in your family or talk to them on a consistent basis. If the same fate were to befall them, would it have the same impact as a celebrity you’ve never met?

The reason I ask this is that we all have the opportunity to connect with those who struggle in our friend circle, families and community. Our companionship can make all of the difference when those afflicted hit the wall where that decision-making process is no longer functional. For those who are the one in five who deal with a mental illness, identify a friend or family member who accepts you through the stigma. It may even be a person you know from group therapy. Explain to that person how it feels when you are slipping, the signs that you are having a bad day and may require a little help. Ensure they have emergency numbers like the one below this article in the event you may require help.

We are our own advocates and must proactively take care of ourselves, but some days we need a little help from our friends, as the Beatles remind us. It’s not a backslide, nor are you a failure if help becomes necessary. This is the nature of the illnesses we all suffer. Think about it, if you are a diabetic, have you asked a friend or family member to help with insulin injections or medications in the case of emergency? I would even go so far as creating a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) with realistic expectations and review with that one or two people you have chosen as a wellness partner. Also, prep a mental health first aid kit with things that are uplifting. They might include photographs, memories, or – in my case – music, anything that makes you feel better and grounds you in the here and now.

Remember, you are more important than anyone you may look up to in the entertainment field. You are unique, loved and irreplaceable. Treat yourself this way.

NEED HELP? IN THE U.S., CALL 1-800-273-8255 FOR THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE.*Mental Health Spotlight is an opinion based column. Any resources mentioned are provided for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the specialized training and professional judgment of a health care or mental health care professional.

Mental Health Spotlight is Written by Fred Terling for Pennsylvania Bridges