Today is World Suicide Prevention Day (Sept. 10) and the start of National Suicide Prevention Week. This week means so much to me, because I get to be a part of something bigger than myself for a cause that is extremely personal.
This is the week where more people than usual are listening.
This will be my fourth year supporting To Write Love on Her Arms’ National Suicide Prevention Week campaign. This also marks my fourth year embracing the title of “mental health advocate.” Doing so is really what ushered me onto the path towards graduate school. My journey of discovering that I was made to be a social worker in the mental health field started with me accepting my story, deciding to continue living it, and sharing it with others.
Since then, I have shared my story for classrooms at CU Boulder, been on the executive board of a TWLOHA University Chapter, and met the founder of To Write Love on Her Arms, Jamie Tworkowski, twice. I’ve raised money for suicide prevention, volunteered for AFSP Out of the Darkness walks, and had a semicolon tattooed on my wrist and the word beloved tattooed on my arm. I’ve also written for the TWLOHA blog. A dream of mine is to intern for To Write Love on Her Arms at their headquarters in Melbourne, FL.
I don’t write all of that to say “Hey, look at me and all of this stuff I did.” I write all of that to say this:
I live well with Bipolar II and Borderline Personality Disorder. I battle depression and anxiety on a regular basis. I’ve abused substances and attempted to take my life more than once.
I’ve been hospitalized and put in treatment centers. I’ve been to rehab… twice.
And nothing about it has been glamorous. I’ve been in some incredibly dark places that I did not see myself getting out of. This time last year, I was in one of those dark places. I was abusing drugs/alcohol and I was incredibly depressed. It wouldn’t be until November that I would finally lean into two of my closest friends and go into treatment. It was messy and insanely difficult, but so worth it.
There is nothing shameful about what I have experienced. Shame says, “You are flawed. You are unworthy. No one will accept you. You will never belong.” But only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. -Brené Brown
Despite my story being filled with pain, loss, and addiction, I have found beauty and hope. I have learned how to be honest and how to use the passion this cause has ignited in me to encourage and empathize with others. I’ve learned how to love myself and I have found what it is I was made for.
I’m still here, because I’ve decided to stay to leave room for things to get better. It’s a decision that I have to remind myself of on the daily. Life is not easy, but I have friends and family who love me unconditionally and a bright future ahead me as long as I continue to move forward and take care of myself.
I was made for sharing my story.
I was made to be a brother and a friend.
I was made to be a social worker.
I was made to sing at the most inappropriate times and celebrate birthdays like no other.
I was made so uniquely that no one else can play my part.
I was made to advocate for the causes I believe in.
I was made to never give up.
As Jamie Tworkowski encourages,
“Stay and rest.
Stay and fight.
Stay and see things change.
Stay to love and be loved.
Stay to be surprised.
Stay to live your dreams.
Stay. Find what you were made for.”
According to the World Health Organization, 800,000 people die by suicide globally each year. That’s one person every 40 seconds.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that 121 Americans die by suicide each day, and 93 of those people are men.
Recent research tells us that the suicide rate for girls between the ages of 15 and 19 reached a 40-year high in 2015. Between 2007 and 2015, the suicide rate for these girls doubled.
We know that the rate of suicide is four times greater for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and two times greater for questioning youth compared to straight youth.
40% of transgender adults have made a suicide attempt, and 92% of those attempts occurred before the age of 25.
The Surgeon General reports people of color, both adults and children, are less likely than their white counterparts to receive needed mental health care.
20 veterans die by suicide every day in America.
Suicide affects everyone everywhere.
The stigma that waters down the issues surrounding mental health is one that encourages silence, fear, and shame. There is nothing shameful with struggling. It is okay to speak up and confide in someone you love. It is okay to say that you’re not okay. It is okay to ask for help and it doesn’t make you weak. It’s okay to reach out to someone if you see them struggling or posting things of concern on social media.
What I ask is that you share this blog post or find another way to help break the silence. The reason why movements like To Write Love on Her Arms are so effective is because they recognize the power of social media and use it to reach millions. You may be one person, but how many friends do you have on Facebook? Followers on Instagram? Twitter? Imagine if all of them shared something online to increase public awareness on mental illness and suicide? What would happen if all of their friends did the same? We would see stigma completely lose its power.
No, it is not a direct solution to suicide, but it gets a conversation started and for somebody, that conversation could be the one that gives them the courage to seek help.
It is our responsibility as humans to take care of each other. We were made to love and be loved. We can do this. Be brave. Be bold. Be magnificent. Stay.
Find help here.
You can donate to TWLOHA’s NSPW campaign here.