When my mom died by suicide in 1998 American Foundation for Suicide Prevention was a very new organization in New York City and primarily focused on research. The first AFSP walk took place in 2002… four year after my mom died. I didn’t get involved until 17 years after she died when I did my first Overnight Walk in Dallas.
That first walk was about me walking for my mom, for me, for my family. It was the first way we publicly grieved and shared in a big way how our mom died by suicide. My sister and I were determined to LOVE LOUDER. While I walked for her in that first walk, it is not why I am involved in such a big way today.
My mom is dead. No amount of money raised or miles walked will bring her back. I am involved today because I hope my efforts, our efforts can help others not have to experience what I did when my mom died by suicide. More people are dying by suicide today than they were in 1998 when my mom died. This is unacceptable and our government has funded research at such a low level it is taking an organization like AFSP to even make a dent in what needs to be done.
It will take all of us to see changes. I realize many don’t know what they can do to help out. While donations and walking are one way, they are not the only way.
- Stop being part of the problem by continuing the stigma associated with mental health and treatment. Every joke you make about people being crazy is part of the problem. Every time you are critical about others needing medication just because you don’t, you are part of the problem. When you tell men to toughen up and be a man, you are part of the problem… Men die by suicide 3.53 times more often than women. Depression and anxiety don’t happen because someone is weak and messaging suggesting such a lie prevents people from getting the help they need.
- Be willing to talk to your friends. AFSP with the Ad Council recently released a PSA called Seize the Awkward. The entire campaign is to help young people know how to talk to their friends. I think all of us can benefit from learning how to bring up hard topics to those who we love the most. AFSP also has resources on how to talk to a friend in need.
- Look at mental health the same way you view physical health. Our health is our health and until we stop disconnecting the two we will continue to struggle with stigma.
- Mental illness is real. Just because you have never experienced depression or anxiety, doesn’t mean it does not exist. I don’t have diabetes or epilepsy, but I would never say it is not real. Show compassion to those who struggle. By trying to understand and giving support, those in need will more likely be able to get the treatment they need.
You don’t have to do anything big to help with the issue of suicide. It takes everyday individuals like you and me to make a difference.