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Janine Francolini Headshot

'Let Us Never Give Up'

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"Let us not close our hearts. Let us not lose confidence. Let us never give up. " Pope Francis

This week, as I watched the video of the historic, sacred moment when President Obama and Pope Francis came together for the first time at the Vatican, I cried.
Tears of joy, grief, hope and promise flowed as I sat in solitude in my pajamas with my coffee in the silence of my house at 5:30 a.m.

Grief, because just last week my aunt and I had a profound conversation about the story from her recent book of one of her fellow nuns who died from suicide during the time that she was in the convent. This important conversation was a painful and hopeful reminder that it was a healing relationship with my family priest that was my lifeline when I was suicidal in high school.

Hope, because of what our nation's leader and the pope have in common: a fierce stand for social justice that is unprecedented. They both stand for human equality that has at its base a deep respect for each individual, for truly "seeing the perfection in everyone," which is our tagline at the Flawless Foundation.

As soon as I heard the news last week of L'Wren Scott's death from suicide, I reflected on Facebook: "There are no words."

Friends of the Flawless Foundation responded:

"Actually, Janine, there are words, and upon reflection you will find them and share and help us once again see these awful tragedies in the light they need and deserve."

"Gone way too soon! She was so talented, beautiful and glamorous! Please write something to make sense of it all."

I may not feel that I have the words, but as we sit in the grief of this recent high-profile death and so many other tragic suicides in this country, I lean back again on my mantra that I always write about after these shocking losses, "The gold is in the grief." We must shine light from the darkness, turn painful paralysis into action.

A stunning example of this is Pastor Rick Warren and his wife Kay, who lost their son to suicide last year. As they approach the one-year anniversary of their unspeakable loss, they are taking action and serving the world by convening three important organizations tomorrow to discuss mental health in the church: the Warrens' huge Saddleback Church, the National Alliance of Mental Illness of Orange County and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County. In a previous blog, I wrote about Rick Warren's courage and activism, along with other politicians who lost their sons to suicide and turned the grief into gold.

When it comes to mental illness being a civil rights issue, I often say that we are not even on the back of the bus; we are still under it. Let us live by the example of Pope Francis and "never give up" in this unwavering stand for social justice for all.