Tag Archives: suicide

Violeta Parra – mental health in the Latin American arts


In this song, famous Chilean folk singer-author of the 1950-60s, Violeta Parra muses on how hard live has become for her. (The song is interpreted by her sister, Isabel Parra.) Instead of engaging in sociological or existential commentary about the pain of living, she simply describes how mother nature has, apparently, decided to withhold from her the things that she needs the most.

As we know that she eventually ended up committing suicide,the last verse in this poem  is not just kind of funny. It’s a door to her mood and consciousness, sort of an announcement of what was to come. I guess it’s all about ‘context’; the end of the poem makes sense when we learn that she was contemplating taking her own life.

She also wrote one of the most beautiful odes to life and living I have ever heard, Gracias a la Vida, just before taking her life. It was a good-bye song that moves even the rocks. I’ll upload after this one.

Thanks to Antonio Fidel for uploading and translating.

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“For families struggling with mental illness…” and How to save a life


As I was reading this interesting new article in the New York Times about lawyers for families with mental illness, this video came to my mind. Most of you know this song; it’s sad (it’s about suicide)  but there’s hope in it.  It’s called ‘How to save a life’  by The Frey. I’m pasting here the lyrics and way down some info from  wikipedia about the song. The link to the NY Times article is here.

“How To Save A Life”

Step one you say we need to talk
He walks you say sit down it’s just a talk
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
And you begin to wonder why you cameWhere did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a lifeLet him know that you know best
Cause after all you do know best
Try to slip past his defense
Without granting innocence
Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you’ve told him all along
And pray to God, he hears you
And I pray to God, he hears you

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

As he begins to raise his voice
You lower yours and grant him one last choice
Drive until you lose the road
Or break with the ones you’ve followed
He will do one of two things
He will admit to everything
Or he’ll say he’s just not the same
And you’ll begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

How to save a life

How to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
How to save a life

From wiki:

According to lead singer, pianist and songwriter Isaac Slade, the song was composed and influenced by his experience while working as a mentor at a camp for troubled teens:

One of the youngsters I was paired up with was a musician. Here I was, a protected suburbanite, and he was just 17 and had all these problems. And no one could write a manual on how to save him.

Slade claims that the song is about all of the people that tried to reach out to the boy but were unsuccessful. As Slade says in an interview, the boy’s friends and family approached him by saying, “Quit taking drugs and cutting yourself or I won’t talk to you again,” but all he needed was some support. The boy was losing friends and going through depression. He lost his best friend and could not deal with it. The verses of the song describe an attempt by an adult to confront a troubled teen. In the chorus, the singer laments that he himself was unable to save a friend because he did not know how.

While this was the original intent of the song, the band has opened the song to interpretation. They created a website where fans were welcome to submit music videos they had made for the song. This arose from the response that Slade got from the song:[3]

I got a lot of e-mails about it (…) One boy died in a car accident, and I guess it had been the last song he downloaded from his computer. They played it at his funeral, and some of his friends got Save a life tattooed on their arms. The response has been overwhelming.

From an interview with Slade by Bob Wilson in Sauce, Slade was asked, “‘How to Save a Life’, was apparently inspired by an experience you had as a mentor to a boy who had a drug problem. What’s the story behind that?” Slade answered:[4]

Well there’s a group home here in Denver called Shelterwood, and it takes in teens who’ve had a tough time; their parents don’t want to send them to jail, but they can’t keep track of them themselves… A friend of mine was actually the president for that particular school, so he asked Joe and I to come up for one of their weekend retreats… I was paired up with one boy in particular. His story was just amazing – all the relationships that he had put at risk because of the decisions he made, and eventually losing the relationships… the cost of his lifestyle and his choices, and kind of relating them to my own life and my own stories; seeing all the relationships I’ve threatened for one reason or another. It was a really inspiring weekend.