Today I am honored to share the story of fellow Overnight walker Laura Mayer. I am touched by her strength, hope and courage. I thank her for sharing this and I hope that it will touch many lives.
Every 16 minutes a person dies from suicide. They are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends, neighbors or someone you met a party once. For me, suicide first touched my life when I was in my early teens. I struggled with self-injury and depression due to trauma as a child and it was something I knew was an option but I didn’t quite understand the gravity of what it meant. I learned very quickly though in 1998 when my father made his first attempt to end his life on December 13th and then completed suicide on December 21st. My entire world completely changed at the age of 15 when death by one’s own hand was a reality.
Suicide is just a moment. It’s a moment after a long time of immense pain; some might even say emotional and mental agony. It’s sometimes impulsive and sometimes well thought out but in the moment it’s almost the same for every person; they want relief from their pain and they want to control that end. Some might say that it is a cowardly way out of life but I know for me and I know for my Dad it was a well thought out choice with the most logical end in an illogical war within the mind. My Dad lost his battle with depression not because he didn’t try, but because the stigma, shame and improper training of professional let him down. He experienced extreme isolation with his depression and there were limited resources in our community for him to have the support he needed. I know that can change.
In 2004 I was again devastated by suicide when my best friend who was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital ended her life. She was a beautiful and talented young woman with nothing but a bright future ahead of her. She had recognition around the world for her furniture design and she was in a very competitive and incredibly difficult masters program at the time. She would have been a pretty big deal once she graduated. She had the resources at her fingertips but again, a myriad of circumstances led to the ultimate let down and she felt the world was better without her. She grew up in a family and community that had very little understanding or patience for mental illness and because of that her family hindered her in her treatment instead of supporting her. Extended family as well as her parents put a lot of pressure on her to fix whatever was wrong because she was embarrassing them. She was 27 years old when she died.
These personal tragedies and my own struggle with depression led me to overcome them and become a part of a community that not only accepted mental illness but felt empowered to do something about it. This past winter I became a Crisis Counselor for a LifeLine crisis center and have found the work to be immensely rewarding…but I know that it cannot stop there. During a hotline shift I came across The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website and I remembered how a few years after my father died that they had a walk to raise money. I saw that this year it was being held in NYC and I knew I wanted to do it. I called my brother and he said he would join and then my best friend said she would too. I have never been more energized, empowered and excited to participate in an event. One night WILL make a difference and I am so blessed to be a part of it!