I’ve been fundraising for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) each year since my brother passed away, and this year will be my sixth year walking in their New York City Out of the Darkness walk to raise awareness. Given that I have been actively sharing my story through the fundraiser and via social media to spread the word, what this has also meant is that many people over the years have also reached out to me in need of help and guidance. I’ve been happy to be that shoulder and support for them, and if anything, I’ve felt really appreciated that they would remember me and my brother and how I’ve tried to increase awareness about suicide and mental health.
While in town in San Francisco this week, a former colleague who had left my company about two years ago reached out randomly on Facebook. She was always someone I respected a lot; she’s extremely intelligent and had a way of working with colleagues that I’d never quite seen before. I remember sending her note before she left, suggesting we stay in touch. We did that, but just over Facebook to date. In her private message, she said that her good friend’s son had attempted suicide and was currently under close watch at a psychiatric ward, and they were all terrified and had no idea what to do and how to help, and the first thought she had was of me. In her life, she said, she’d never met anyone who had talked about depression, mental illness, or suicide, except me, and she’s over 40 years old, and found this fact embarrassing when she shared this with me. She asked if there was a way for us to connect, and so I met her at a local coffee shop near my office here. We talked for over an hour about the situation, navigating through different options, and advising her on things they absolutely needed to do (and not to do).
It was a gut-wrenching situation, and while I do not wish this situation upon anyone, it just goes to show exactly how prevalent mental health is ignored and how suicide ideation and attempts are so much more frequent that we could possibly fathom. She just kept expressing how helpless and alone they all felt. This friend was like a sister to her, and her son was like her own nephew in terms of how close they were. I kept prefacing everything by saying that I wasn’t an expert, that I certainly did not know everything there is to know, but she insisted that just having this conversation openly and without needing to think before she spoke was what calmed her down so much after this horribly intense week. I told her I’d follow up with some resources that might help her and the family, and that I’d be in touch.
If I could help save just one person’s life in my efforts of being open about my own experience through Ed with mental illness, that would be enough for me to know that everything I have done in the last six years has been worthwhile.