Mental health advocate – the emotional labor of fundraising for suicide prevention

I generally am pretty open about my brother’s death. I openly share that he died ten years ago, and that he died from suicide. Well, I kind of have to be open if I am fundraising for an organization called the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and I say that I fundraise in memory and honor of my big brother. There’s really no way to get around that, is there?

I’ve been very fortunate and privileged in all these years fundraising. Family, friends, colleagues, ex-colleagues, acquaintances, even totally random strangers who have never met me in real life have donated money to my fundraising drive because they’ve been touched by Ed’s story and my desire to share it. Many of the people who have donated have donated year after year, since year 1. They don’t have to do it, but they do. But part of the reason I know so many people donate is because of how much detail and information I share regarding how Ed died and how he suffered. And so with all that detail means that people do have a sense of what I went through, and they then feel like they can openly share their own struggles, whether it’s with themselves or their loved ones, with me. And while I feel privileged that they feel they can come to me to share their most personal, vulnerable stories… it’s honestly a lot of emotional labor and burden for me. I’m then associated with mental health and suicide prevention in their minds, and so I’m someone they they feel comfortable sharing with when no one else “gets it.” I “get it,” right, because I lost Ed through suicide. So I’ll “get it” with my colleagues.

So I sat there and listened to a few stories of struggles of friends, family members, and children over the last couple of days at SSKO. And while it was touching to be remembered and thought of, it was also… tiring. It was already tiring to be around 400 of my colleagues nonstop for two days since I work from home, but then to add this additional layer of emotional labor just left me feeling beat. I like it when people come up to me to share what new food they’ve tried or made because they were inspired by me; that gives me energy. Having these conversations around mental health and suicide attempts, while I hope they are helpful… they drain me. I want to help, it feels good to help. But it’s definitely exhausting. Everything has its price.

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