This year I will be traveling from coast to coast in order to participate in the work of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention through the Overnight Walk. My role will be different in each city, but the heart of the work, is uniting together to help end suicide. When we look at the statistics, it is jarring to see just have lives are lost each year to suicide. And my heart breaks, because suicide is preventable. And those number represent people, like myself, who have struggled and in their despair have thought there was no other way out of the pain.
And that is why this work is so important to me. Because I want to break down the walls of stigma that do not allow a person who is in such turmoil feel as if they can open up to those around them about what they are feeling. No one who hurts so deeply should ever have to feel as if they are alone. They should never have to feel like they have to hide what is going on in their minds. They should never have to feel as if they are somehow weak because they struggle. And most importantly they should have to feel that there is no hope.
I want to be able to create a safe space within my family, my work, my community, and my city that allows those that are struggling to seek help without fear of judgement.More than 90% of people who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness at the time of their death, and it is not always recognized or treated. Together we can change this. We can change the way we talk and think about mental health issues. We can change the way we talk about and view treatment. And we can change the way we think and talk about people who struggle. The struggle does not define the person.
Society choose to see the “title”, the thing that is “wrong” and sees nothing else. I see a person who is brave, and fighting to survive each day.And if we do not change the way we are as a society and let stigma fall away , and remember that each and every single one us has different battles that we must face each and every day, then thousands will continue to live in silence and put their lives at risk because of it.
So I choose to be different. I choose to throw away stigma. I choose to shine light into someone’s darkness and say: You are not alone. It is ok to ask for help, and I will help you to find what works best for you. I will not give up on you. I believe that you can get through this. And I believe that you can live life beautifully, no matter what. And I will continue to work, until I can’t any longer…making sure that no one that I ever encounter feels hopeless.
Because.. as in the words of my favorite organization.. To Write Love on Her Arms..
HOPE IS REAL. HELP IS REAL. RESCUE IS POSSIBLE.