Full disclosure: I was ridiculously excited when I recently got the email saying I was chosen to write articles and stories for the You Matter blog. In fact, I was so excited that I could not wipe the smile off my face. I texted friends to share the good news, and my coworkers noticed my increased excitement and asked about it. So I happily told them that I had the opportunity to write posts about a cause that was so important to me – suicide prevention. “Oh.” After the initial shock of my dropping the “s-word”, they were very supportive. But that “Oh” reminded me of all the times I have heard that in the past.
“Oh” has proceeded a lot of things that come after dropping the s-word. “Oh. Why are you pursuing a career in suicide prevention?” “Oh. Why would you choose to have an interest in that population?” “Oh. Well, I think that is a bad field to go into.” Though I think it was worse when there was a floating “Oh” with the facial expression of pure judgment, followed by that person suddenly avoiding me completely.
The absolute worst was when almost two years ago, my mother died by suicide. I never heard anyone say “Oh” when I told them, but I felt it louder than I could have ever heard it. And it hurt.
My mother was very sick and was dealing with so many things. My mother was in treatment for mental and physical health. Sometimes people can be receiving services, and though this is not the case for most, all of the services may not be enough. This is hard for those who have experienced a death like this; hindsight sets in and it can cause feelings of more guilt. Despite my painful loss, I found my way back to suicide prevention. The Lifeline’s theme for Suicide Prevention Month this year is “Everyone has a role to play in suicide prevention.” This is exactly why I came back to this field, why I have always been interested in this field, and why I am so excited to be able to write for this blog.
Everyone can do something. My experience allows me to be able to talk to people about suicide and help them find help. In my job, I can assess people for suicide risk and without sharing my past, I can effectively communicate the importance of services and help them get treatment and emergency attention. I facilitate a grief group specifically for those who have experienced someone dying by suicide to provide hope and support. I can share stories with readers so they feel less alone.
I have a role I can play, but so does everyone. It could be as simple as learning the warning signs or how to assist someone struggling with thoughts of suicide.
Please join us in using the hashtag #BeThe1To and fill in what you want to encourage others to do. #BeThe1ToSpreadAwareness