“Who did you lose to suicide? Oh, nobody. Well are you an attempt survivor? No? Hmm. Well why are you here?”
This was asked to me by one of my fellow suicide prevention advocates when I first began to get involved. I honestly didn’t know how to respond. My first instinct was to apologize. I am not sure why I felt the need to apologize. Then I got a little frustrated because I felt as if my passion and desire to help and educate others to prevent suicide was being questioned. Luckily, I can still answer no to those questions. THAT is why I am here.
I have not always been passionate about suicide prevention. It was not until my dear friend Rick opened up to me and shared that he was an attempt survivor that I became passionate about suicide prevention. Until that point, I was like most other people in the mental health field; I knew that suicide was something that happened yet I still had blinders on to the impact that suicide has on our society as a whole. Rick’s story inspired me and changed the way that I viewed suicide forever. I immediately learned that ANYONE can experience suicidal thoughts and that ANYONE can attempt. This was a massive eye opener for me and I wanted to do more. THAT is why I am here.
That conversation changed the course of my life. I have since become a Mental Health First Aid Instructor, am on the board of the Eastern Missouri Chapter of the AFSP, created #SEMOSecrets, a campaign on my college campus to get students talking about their own mental health secrets, and have attended and volunteered at numerous Out of the Darkness Walks. I have very open and honest conversations with my children, friends, and family about mental health and suicide. Yet, I still don’t feel as if I “fit” into the suicide prevention community. THAT is why I am here.
I have struggled a lot over the last few months with how and where I fit into the community if I have not lost someone to suicide and if I am not an attempt survivor. I do not know the pain that losing someone to suicide brings nor do I know what it feels like to live in so much emotional pain that I see death as a welcomed alternative. But, I could. I am not immune and my friends and family are not immune. Although I have not felt pain associated with suicide, I have felt emotional pain. I have learned how to use my pain to connect with others. I have been able to use this, coupled with the education I have learned about suicide prevention, to help others share about their thoughts of suicide. The truth is that I NEVER want to feel the pain of a suicide loss and that drives me. THAT is why I am here.
I may not have experienced the pain of losing someone to suicide but I have experienced the pain of having a friend tell me that they were thinking of ending their life. I have experienced the pain of hearing a friend tell me about their son/daughter/spouse die by suicide and what they wished they would have known. I may not have experienced the pain of their situations, but I do experience the pain of those conversations and that pain is what drives me to educate, advocate, and yell a little louder. THAT is why I am here.
My hope is that everyone is educated in suicide prevention. My hope is that teachers, mailmen, grocery store clerks, neighbors, friends, carpenters, bankers, EVERYONE is educated in suicide prevention. Our goal is to prevent suicide. How better to prevent suicide than to talk about it, become passionate about it, educate others about it before someone dies by suicide? THAT is why I am here.