Adult Suicide: Let’s Talk About It

Suicide. The willful taking of one’s own life.

This happens with stunning frequency in affluent communities like ours (update: in fact, it happened again on the day this post published, when a Gold Coast man jumped to his death in a confirmed suicide). But, sadly, this is not well known because it’s almost never publicly discussed – particularly suicides by adults.

We need to talk about adult suicide as a community more for many reasons. Most important, public discussion raises awareness – the first step toward fixing a problem. But also, we need to make it easier to publicly celebrate the lives of people who commit suicide too. The press doesn’t cover them unless they are celebrities, no matter how much good they accomplished before succumbing to an unbearable pain.

Those who commit suicide aren’t bad people to be shielded from public view and condemned for the pain they cause others. They’re pained people who couldn’t find a better way to cope. Often they’ve contributed substantially to society too.

Many experts agree with me. Please see the four Ted Talks entitled “Lets End The Silence Around Suicide.”

Fortunately, there is a growing body of work and opportunities to help around teen suicides. This has been particularly prompted in recent years by teen suicide clusters in affluent communities. Lake Forest/Lake Bluff launched a brilliant program called “Text A Tip” which makes it easy and safe for someone feeling suicidal or concerned that another might be to send a text and receive immediate help from a licensed professional. Palo Alto has recently endured yet another teen suicide cluster, prompting the US Center For Disease Control to send a team to help.

So, I particularly write to encourage our community and our culture to break the adult suicide discussion taboo.

We need to more openly discuss the lives of the deceased. We need to celebrate the many gifts they likely contributed to the world, as well as the issues which led to their final fatal decision.

We need to do the same for the survivors of attempted suicide, too. Photographer, writer, survivor, suicide awareness activist Dese’Rae L. Stage hosts a compelling collection of photographs and names of suicide survivors on

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The American Association of Suicidology (No, I did not make up this name) offers a plethora of “talk about it and break the taboo” resources, including another excellent Ted Talk by comedian Frank King, a writer for Jay Leno.

I know of at least three adults who recently committed suicide. That’s horrifying. So my contribution to this “Talk About It – Adult Suicide” article is also a public celebration of the one I knew best. This person lived with a large heart, wicked wit and a special gift with children. Sounds like Robin Williams, right?

As we know, Williams suffered a depression in recent years so deep that he took his own life. My friend and Robin must have shared similar genes. (S)He was that funny and lived with a similar empathy for children too. (S)He not only raised four great kids, (s)he continually created ways to support other youth too, including unexpectedly calling parents to share a thoughtful story about their child.

This person also created two of our funniest ever Make It Better videos: spoofs on yoga class and the town of Kenilworth:

(S)he stunned family and friends by finishing a routine phone call with a long-time friend, then driving to the Kenilworth Train Station, parking, calmly walking onto the tracks, and laying down in front of a fast-approaching train.

The family asked that this person not be named though. They’re suffering extraordinarily. Unfortunately, this is the norm too. It takes great strength to publicly discuss a suicide in your family, as Marion Kahle did in this Make It Better article one year after her son killed himself and another.

This means that if we work to find ways to help/stop those considering suicide, the impact will be even broader than the numbers below, because we save families from enduring pain too.

Each year in America:

  • 8,000,000 think about committing suicide
  • 1,000,000 attempt it
  • 39,000 achieve it

Please, help reduce these numbers.

Don’t whisper about suicide or condemn those who attempt or commit it. Instead recognize and try to heal the pain that pushes people to this point. Celebrate the their strengths and contributions too. Encourage people and organizations to work together to find solutions for the adult suicide issue similar to the community response in Lake Forest/Lake Bluff that led to Text A Tip.

Talk more about it please.

Thank you.


Why I’m a Fan of The Chan Zuckerberg Gift and The Spirit Behind It

Mark Zuckerberg Priscilla Chan daughter max

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan with their daughter, Max. (Photo from Facebook)

“Our daughter and everyone in her generation should be able to live much better lives… The only way to reach our full human potential is if we are able to unlock the gifts of every person around the world… We have a basic moral responsibility to tilt our investments somewhat more to make that happen.” Mark Zuckerberg

If you haven’t yet done so, I encourage you to watch this two-minute video of Mark Zuckerberg, 31, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, 30, explaining why they launched the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (“Initiative”) with 99 percent of their Facebook stock (worth about $45 billion before last week’s market pull-back) in honor of the birth of their daughter, Max. Their goal is to “tilt investments faster” toward strategies that will ensure better education, healthcare and communities for all children in their daughter’s generation.

Big goals. Great goals.

In the video, Zuckerberg and Chan look and sound not like billionaires, but rather like quintessential millennials. They’re given the greatest gift of all—a child. In return, they want her and all other children in her generation to inherit a better world. Therefore, they “gift” 99 percent of their wealth in order to lift up 100 percent of the world.

Unfortunately, Zuckerberg is a target just by being his young, visible, uber-successful self. Of course, the world quickly responded with polarizing positions. The Guardian’s Michele Hanson quipped, “Could they not have given their money away without the sloppy letter to their daughter and the rest of us? Wasn’t that a bit show-offy? Isn’t $45bn rather too much for one family to have in the first place? And wasn’t it a bit measly of Facebook to pay only £4,327 UK corporation tax last year?”

Criticism also flowed off the system that allows vast wealth to vest in entrepreneurs like Zuckerberg, thereby giving them far greater power over philanthropic decisions and policy-making too. As Inside Philanthropy’s David Cameron writes, “While there are plenty of good people emerging at the highest levels of philanthropy like Zuckerberg and Chan, there are also less appealing actors. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that… it was the Koch brothers who had pledged to use their entire fortune (of $85 billion) to shape the direction of U.S. society. The picture would look a bit different, right?”

I put “gift” in parentheses because what the Chan Zuckerberg’s actually did was place their stock in an LLC, with a pledge to reinvest any profits and an implication that they eventually will gift all of it to charity. According to The New York Times, the couple chose an LLC instead of a nonprofit structure because they want the flexibility to try ideas through for-profit businesses and the freedom to lobby on behalf of the most effective policies, as well as directly fund nonprofit best practices.

Confusingly, Forbes heralded their “gift” as an example of stock ownership transfer through a charitable donation that the rest of us can and should emulate. So, experts are confused about whether this “gift” is or isn’t a charitable donation, just as pundits are divided in their assessments of the wisdom of Chan Zuckerberg’s generosity.

I’m neither a charitable gifts expert, nor a pundit. But, as Founder and Publisher of Make It Better Media, I am a bit of an expert on demographics and the behavior of a well-educated, affluent audience.

As a demographic group, millennials expect mission, meaning and social good to be embedded in their work and everyday lives. They want maximum impact with their time and dollars. The Chan Zuckerbergs are a shining example of this.

But it’s not just millennials who are inclined to do good with their everyday lives. We’ve built a successful media company on proof that most people want to and will support good values if you make it easy for them to do so.

Zuckerberg was smart and lucky enough to launch a transformation in the way our world connects and communicates. I love that he and Chan can apply those insights and their billions to finding and supporting the most effective and efficient ways to educate every child, and provide them with good healthcare and safe, diverse communities. Hopefully, their LLC will allow them to skirt many of the traditional bureaucratic roadblocks to success.

As a society, we shouldn’t be bickering about methodology, rather we should appreciate all authentic efforts to move the needle forward for humanity and facilitate collaboration among all interested parties who bring expertise or resources to the table.

I like that Zuckerberg and Chan give themselves permission to try, fail and learn as they go. “It’s hard to [change complex systems] in the short term,” Zuckerberg states. “Like doing anything well in the world, it takes practice. In the projects that we will do in education, science, health, community building, we will learn lessons over time and hopefully get better and better.” That’s the winning attitude of a successful entrepreneur. And that is the attitude that will transform our world for the better faster, too.

Everyone wants their dollars, time and lives to create impact. The Chan Zuckerberg’s are in an enviable position with respect to impact. But please, let’s not let envy or frustration with current political, social or economic dynamics get in the way of celebrating their decision and its potential impact for all children in the future. Instead, let’s please celebrate the birth of Zuckerberg and Chan’s daughter and Initiative, and rejoice that they embody the millennial spirit.

As Chan says, “We need to ensure that the future is better than today.” This is our basic human yearning. Let’s please hold these idealistic new parents up as examples for all to follow.




Shop For Good Is Good Business

Shop For Good at Make It Better

Most people want to be connected to a community they trust help and to help others as much as possible.  Just like you – right?

Unfortunately though, most people also are busier than ever, making it harder than ever to connect and help.

Happily, these facts presented Make It Better with a good opportunity to further our mission to be the most trusted, easiest to use community resource that helps you make your life and the lives of others better. So we created the ultimate online shopping virtuous circle – connecting our valuable audience to trusted community businesses and paying it forward to carefully vetted nonprofits.Shop for Good at Make it
Shop For Good.

Best of all, Shop For Good links to our trusted online editorial. In other words, with only a few clicks, you learn up to the minute tips, trends and recommendations, act on them while supporting an outstanding community businesses and help others through the most impactful nonprofits.

Win for you, win for your community, win for the world. Between now and December 31st, the 8 nonprofits which just won our 2014 Philanthropy Awards will receive the 10% donation from Shop For Good proceeds. They are:crushers club

Crushers Club

Phelan Leadership Academies

Refugee One

Refugee One


Skin of Steel

Sit Stay ReadSolidarity Bridge

Trees That Feed

Also, we proudly announce that the following businesses are participating in our Shop For Good launch:

Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa Services

Silver Gemstone Chakra Bracelet by Full Bloomed Lotus

Signature Suede Cape by Mountain Hides

Holiday Candle & Gift by Juniper Boutique

Your Life in Books by Books of Life

Teddie Kossof Bonus Gift by Teddie Kossof Salon Spa

Brighton Pocket Mirror by Mattie M

Shop for Good at Make it Better.netPlease note that we take our mission so seriously that Shop For Good items can include photos of the people who own or run the businesses and other information that will help you feel more connected to and enthusiastic about the business.

You learn that capes are a wearable trend in our article “6 Wearable Fall Trends”

Shop for Good at Make it





Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Windfall Benefits All

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is receiving a windfall $3.3 billion – that’s right, $3.3 billion – on its investment of $150 million with a small biotechnology company about 15 years ago to entice the firm to research and develop drugs to help patients of this horrible inherited orphan disease.

That windfall is great news for Cystic Fibrosis patients, their families and the Foundation. Not only has the life expectancy of CF patients now doubled – from 20 to 40 years old – there is greater hope for the future, because the $3.3 billion will be reinvested to accelerate additional help for patients. Perhaps it will eventually help eradicate the disease.Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Unfortunately though, as covered by the New York Times recently, controversy and complaints swirl around the Foundation.  Some complain that it should have done more to encourage a lower cost for the drug.  Others claim that disease nonprofits never should be investors in research, but rather just donate money for academic research. But really, this type of venture philanthropy seems the most expeditious route to helping cure patients.

National Multiple Sclerosis Society Everyone should celebrate this success and encourage creation of additional “virtuous circles” that connect the people most knowledgeable about a disease and passionate to find a cure with those who can help the fastest. Experts agree. “If we want to get therapies to patients faster, we need to be partnering with the industry that actually brings those drugs to patients,” said Louis J. DeGennaro, chief executive of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Other organizations pursuing similar venture philanthropy strategies include JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), the the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and other groups involved in muscular dystrophy.

Juvenile Diabetes Research FoundationPlease stop the bickering and focus on the fastest routes forward to find cures.  Instead, please pause and be grateful to the CF Foundation for leading the way by example 15 years ago and join the families of CF patients celebrating with their loved ones.



Part 3; Best Annual MIB Supported Ladies Luncheons Fundraisers

Lynn Sage Cancer Research FoundationMoving along in our listing of MIB‘s Best Annual Fundraisers, we’re moving into our favorite pics for Ladies Luncheons. Help us support these fabulous events with dates listed. All links will take you to the site where you can register for the upcoming luncheons.


1.  Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation Fall Benefit Luncheon (10/14/14)

We covered this wonderful Cancer research organization in MIB a short while back and support their mission. Learn more about this luncheon, as well.

2. Field Museum Women’s Board Women in Science Luncheon (5/2015)

Find out all the information you need to participate right here. This year’s theme; Caribbean Rhythms!Field Museum Women's Board Gala

3. Adler Planetarium Women in Space Science Award Luncheon (5/2015)

The Women’s Board does an amazing event at this Women in Space Award Luncheon. 

4. Young Women’s Leadership Charter High School of Chicago Girl Power Luncheon (4/2015) Chicago Women In Philanthropy Annual Luncheon (3/2015)

Next Spring, the YWLCS hosts this marvelous luncheon. Get all the details here.

5. The Women’s Board of Rush University Medical Center Spring Luncheon (5/2015)

The 2014 event was quite something, held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel with keynote speaker Cokie Roberts. No doubt the 2015 event will also be amazing.

6. UNICEF Message Of Hope Luncheons (4/17/15)

UNICEF's Message of Hope EventThis year’s event was held at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, bringing together over 370 guests and raised a record breaking $1.19 million for UNICEF’s work through The Eliminate Project!

Please join me in congratulating these fabulous organizations, the work they do and the amazing events they hold to bring all of us together.

Please also take a look at the earlier posts in this series;

Part 2; Best Annual MIB Supported Fundraisers

Welcome back to Part 2 of my posting of top MIB Supported Fundraisers.

Today, we’ll look at top NFP Gala’s in the area of Service and Schools.

1. City Year Ripples of Hope Gala (4/2015) This year’s Gala was a huge success; it took place on April 9, 2014 and raised a total of $903,685 in support of our service to the students of Chicago. View photos from the evening on City Year’s Flickr Page. Thanks were given out to ;

Mayor Rahm Emanuel
City of Chicago

Mark Furlong
CEO, BMO Harris Bank

Read and subscribe to the City Year Blog, as well.

2. Posse Foundation Chicago Golf Outing and Cocktail + Dinner Reception, (9/2015)

Their website says it all; “Posse is one of the most comprehensive and renowned college access and youth leadership development programs in the United States. In fact, President Barack Obama said in an interview in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “One of this year’s MacArthur awardees—the ‘genius’ awards—is an innovator named Deborah Bial. She proposed a model to identify promising students from…urban backgrounds using an alternative set of qualities as predictors of success in college. …The students that are selected form a ‘Posse’ and are provided with extra supports, and end up graduating from selective colleges with a very high success rate.”

3. After School Matters Annual Gala (9/2015)

There’s still time to attend the 2014 After School Matters Annual Gala or simply plan for 2015.

After School Matters organization

After School Matters® is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago high school teens innovative out-of-school activities.

4. Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund 25th Anniversary (10/25/14)

Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund

This event is just around the corner so find out more and buy tickets here.

5. Invest For Kids Conference (11/6/14)

Invest For Kids is a unique forum that brings together portfolio managers, family offices, private investors and analysts to learn about strategies and specific investment ideas from a leading group of investment managers.  Their Sixth Annual Event is coming up in a little over a month at Harris Theater. You can register now.

6. A Better Chicago Project Impact Awards (11/13/14)

Watch a video overview of the Project Impact, which is fascinating. Project Impact is a competition that harnesses the power of innovation to move the needle for those in need. Nonprofits across the country can use this prize to launch or grow their presence in the Chicago metropolitan area. We support this initiative and hope you will too. See who gets awarded this year on 11/13/2014.
7. KIPP Chicago Schools KIPP Talk (Spring 2015 )          KIPP Chicago

MIB has been a big supporter of KIPP for some time. We appreciate their mission;  To create a network of schools that empower students with the character and academic skills necessary to succeed in top-quality high schools and universities, to be happy in the competitive world, and to have a positive impact on their communities.

8. Chicago High School for the Arts Kerfuffle (5/2015)

Kerfuffle! is ChiArts’ annual fundraising event featuring performances and exhibitions by Scholar-Artists from the Dance, Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts conservatories at ChiArts . The evening will feature four “Arts Partner All-Stars” representing some of the 72 Chicago arts institutions that partner with ChiArts as well as a reception with a strolling Cabaret Dinner.

Please also take a look at the first in this series; Part 1; MIB 2013 Philanthropy Award Winners. 

Part 1; Best Annual MIB Supported Chicago Fundraisers

2013 MIB Philanthropy Awards

North Shore philanthropists use their love of big ideas, unique experiences, family fun, great home design, fashion, drop-dead glamour and ladies lunches to support a plethora of excellent causes. Over the next eight days, I’ll give you a sneak peak at Make It Better’s list of top annual fundraisers supported by our audience.  Of course, we’re starting with the annual events for the nonprofits who won our 2013 Philanthropy Awards.

See the full list of winners here. Please click on each organization to view their fantastic work and see the video we awarded each organization, within each links;

(Watch our Video of the 2013 MIB Philanthropy Awards Here)

If you are looking for a special experience tied to a good cause to support, we recommend any of them to you too. Stay tuned over for the next seven posts to cover fabulous NFP organizations in the following categories;

Service & Schools

Ladies Luncheons

Top25 Galas Supported by the North Shore

For Fashionistas

For Families

Art, Antiques & Home Decor

Fabulous Experience Auctions

Please subscribe to the blog to be sure you don’t miss this series. Thanks!

Safe, valued, worthy too – thanks to Designs 4 Dignity

Design 4 Dignity Ride for FidgnityFortunately, you and I inherently feel safe, valued, worthy. And we know that we matter.  But not everyone is as fortunate. Thanks to Designs 4 Dignity many who are struggling in life now find help in places that let them feel safe, valued, worthy and as though they matter too.

Enjoy a great day out and learn more at the first ever Ride with Dignity (north shore) bus tour.

Board the Designs for Dignity bus at the Wilmette train station onThursday, September 18 at 11 a.m. for this wonderful opportunity to see some completed Designs 4 Dignity projects first-hand.

Please click on the link below to order tickets (via the Events tab) and register by September 15.  I can’t wait to see you there!

Board President Diane Falanaga and her family Blake, Bianca & Mark

Board President Diane Falanaga and her family Blake, Bianca & Mark

Diane Falanaga, D4D President explains “We exist to provide positive and transformative environments to non-profits in need.  Our hope is that the people served in these spaces grow, thrive and feel inspired.  See for yourself that healing design communicates:  “You are safe, valued, worthy.  You matter.” Take a look at the before and after pictures below.

Design 4 dignity Before Pictures of warming houseDesign 4 dignity After Pictures of warming house

Betsy Storm Lights up Chicago

 Betsy Storm's new book Bright Lights of the Second City

Author Betsy Storm profiles fifty  Prominent people that live with passion and purpose. She did an insightful job and I’d like to share this information.  She profiles inspiring individuals and nonprofits that we at Make It Better Magazine have also featured, such as Gale Gand and the Holocaust Museum. Listen here as she explain the mission of her new book, Bright Lights of the Second City on  WGN radio last week.


Six of the people profiled in Bright Lights of the Second City live and/or work on the North Shore, including: Capt. James Lovell, Apollo 13 astronaut and Lake Forest Restauranteur; Gale Gand, award-winning pastry chef (lives in Riverwoods);  Jim Kenneyco-founder and executive director, Common Ground (works in Deerfield and lives in Lake Forest); T. Gunny Harboepreservation architect (lives in Northfield); Fritzie Fritzshall, Holocaust survivor and President, Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center (Skokie); and Ed Shurna, executive director, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (lives in Evanston).


The book holds one-on-one in depth interviews that describe the life’s,  journeys and insights of these prominent Chicagoans. The interesting question that Betsy aims to answer is; Is it possibly to identify the motivations that “enliven these movers and shakers, these midnight-oil burners who pursue their dreams with true grit and then often make their accomplishments look easy?” She doesn’t pose this as a rhetorical question rather gives a resounding “yes” answer. Look to her clever and concise writing to find the answers and glean insights that may change your perspective. 


It’s always a good day to be inspired by people in your community.  Storm’s book makes it easy for all of us.

You can buy if now, too, to get your own inspiration.


Private party – You’re invited – Gorgeous shoes – Ovarian cancer fight

Only 40 spots left for our private party at Stuart Weitzman in Northbrook Court to benefit the Julie Wine Schaffner Memorial Fund at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital on Wednesday, April 16.

Please join us in the fight against ovarian cancer. Click here to learn more, and send your RSVP to