Ending the stigma against mental illness is a big part of my blogging. It is why I share my own diagnosis and feature other people’s stories of mental illness; it is why I co-host a separate blog, Letters to the Mind, where other people can post their stories of living with mental illness.
If you’ve been following my blog for over a year you know that we suffered a great loss to suicide in August of 2015, which lead to a poem about that loss, three articles, and the #ASKFORHELP poetry challenge. One of my firm beliefs, as someone with a mental illness, and as someone who has frequently felt there was no way out other than death, I believe that Isolation Kills! And the only way I know to end the isolation is to talk, share, and educate those around us so that the fear for mental illness and those with it alleviates and we can become embraced by the rest of the world.
I am sad to report that last month we lost another young person close to us to suicide, 14-year-old Nina. It breaks my heart and indeed makes me angry that we live in a world where children are not carefree, where they have enormous stresses and not enough support systems (or fear sharing their struggles) that the only way they can end their pain is through suicide.
Suicide changes the lives of 1 in 5 people. That stat alone means this is common. There is no reason whatsoever to justify families believing that struggles with suicidal thoughts, actions, successes or failures should be taboo and kept as “dirty little secrets.”
Yesterday I participated in our community’s Out of the Darkness walk hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I didn’t like being a part of the community, but it is a truth and my need to raise awareness to the prevalence of the problem is so much more important than my own personal comfort. I cried. I wasn’t alone though. Everyone there had lost someone or made attempts themselves. We formed a team in honor of Baily and Nina and raised several hundred dollars toward raising awareness, education, and the pursuit to end the stigma.
We all wore beads representing our loss. I wore four bead strands. Three for losses of friends/relatives and one for having attempted suicide myself. Once we began walking the tears subsided and the mission began. I will definitely do the walk again.
The first Out of the Darkness walk had 4000. Now a quarter of a million people walk! If you have lost someone or struggle with mental illness, or simply want to help raise awareness, WALK. And support those who walk. Thank you!