When I was younger, my dad and grandpa would take me fishing. Before we went out, they would look at their maps and find their “perfect mark” for the day. The “perfect mark” is based on different landmarks on a map. They had the experience of knowing where the better opportunities would be to get fish based on these identifying landmarks. By the way, don’t ask me how this is done or what they are, because I have no clue.
Once we got to our perfect fishing mark for the day, I would be instructed to be quiet. You see I really liked to talk. My dad actually gave me the nickname growing up, “jabber jaws”, because my "jaws never stopped moving". I couldn’t handle just sitting still and embracing silence. By the way, I am still like that today.
Without fail on every trip I would get bored of the silence and start going on and on, “I’m hungry”? “I’m bored”! “Why aren’t we getting fish”? “Why are we still sitting here”? “Are we done yet’? after again being told that I was scaring the fish, my response was typically, “Dad, I don’t think fish have ears”. I tried everything I could to break the silence in that boat. Eventually, after them casting out over and over all day, they would become tired, frustrated, probably pretty annoyed at me, and they would eventually give up hope.
Without having specific tools, recourses, education, a guide, the right fishing partner, or darn good luck fishing trips can be pretty hopeless. You sit in a big body of water, silent, casting out over and over, just trying to get that one good bite, until eventually, you are tired, sunburnt, frustrated, and you give up hope.
Sometimes I think that must be how it feels to someone suffering with mental health. They may feel like they are sitting in this huge body of water, alone, tired, frustrated, with no tools, recourses, or guidance to provide them any hope. With a dark shadow of stigma casting down on them.
On, March 4 of 2012 I lost my dad to suicide. It is a day that will forever be a defining factor in my life. When I look back on the days, weeks, months before that day, I now know there were multiple signs that this was going to happen. I didn’t recognize or understand the signs at that time because I didn’t educate myself on suicide because well, lets be honest, it hadn’t touched my life until that day.
All my life suicide has had a stigma attached to it. It wasn’t something you talked about, if you had thoughts of it you were just expected to overcome them. Yet, nobody talked about how you overcame it and no one talked about the warning signs.
My dad was a leader and a pilar in the community and the church and to apply this word to his death held a weight that we weren’t sure we wanted to carry. The weight of guilt, fear, uncertainty, weakness, embarrassment, all, now attached to his death. Something that society has created and placed on suicide.
After my dad’s passing, I dealt with struggles in my mental health. As I mentioned before, staying silent is not an easy task for me. It weighed heavy on my heart. I had to talk. I had to help. I had to give hope, so others wouldn’t have to have the title of now being a suicide loss survivor, like myself.
I decided to turn tragedy of loss into a passion and purpose to provide hope and create change. I vowed to join the fight to end suicide. I created an organization and began sharing my story. I spoke to our state legislators about passing a bill that provides greater access to mental health providers. I connected with my community and provided a safe place to share, get education, and have access to resources. I stopped being silent.
Suicide is very real. It is very real to me, it is very real to my family, and it is very real to the 45,011 families that lost loved ones to suicide in 2019.
The more you talk about it the more you bring it to life, the more that you make it real, the more action will take place and leads to real change. We must bring suicide to life so that lives will no longer be lost because of the silence.
Suicide is preventable! There is hope, and change is possible but, we need your help! My family didn’t get the chance to save my dads life. Will you take the chance to save someone else’s?