Four years ago, my colleagues at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline decided to start a conversation about suicide prevention among people under the age of 25, who are considered a high-risk group for suicide attempts. To do this, we needed to make it OK to talk about suicide— and all of the topics that might make someone want to take their life. This was serious stuff—and we realized that the best people to start this conversation would be passionate young adults who knew that no matter what you are going through, you matter. Enter the You Matter Blogger Council.
Still a newbie at the Lifeline, I was overjoyed to take on the project of creating You Matter. After all, it was a young adult that inspired me to work in suicide prevention in the first place. That young adult was my brother Jay, who died by suicide at age 21. As proud as I was to work for the Lifeline, I knew there was little chance that Jay, who had been suffering from schizophrenia for three years before his death, would actually pick up the phone and call. He wasn’t the type to seek help, even when he badly needed it. However, if he had stumbled across some of the posts about other people’s struggles like the ones we have shared on You Matter, I believe he might have been more open to treatment. At the very least, he would have felt less alone in the world.
My brother will always be an influence in my work. But as I continued to edit the blogger’s brave, honest, inspiring, and sometimes tear-jerking posts, You Matter quickly became much less about my brother. Each week, I looked forward to reading every post written by the amazing young adults on the You Matter Blogger Council who, like me, were fighting to prevent suicide and make it OK to talk about mental illness, surviving suicide, coming out as gay or transgender, bullying, self-harm, grief, and pretty much any topic that can shake-up your life.
Today, as I pass the baton to my colleagues at the Lifeline, I’m filled with gratitude that we have created a little space on the Internet where everyone matters. Through the tremendous power of sharing stories, I know that You Matter has made a difference in the lives of people who are struggling. It has forever changed mine.