At times it can be discouraging being a voice, an advocate, for suicide awareness and prevention. I walk, raise money, march on capitol hill, and provide education, yet every time I hear of another life lost to suicide, my heart sinks and I question if I am, we are, making a difference. At our AFSP Leadership Conference this last January, it was mentioned while our losses are so visible our saves are not.
When I was in my graduate school capstone class on social justice one of the required readings was by Reinhold Niebuhr. While I can’t tell you much about the book, a phrase Niebuhr used throughout was the “impossible possibility.” The idea was a day when there would be complete justice is impossible, but it feels so possible one never stops fighting for that day… it is an impossible possibility. I appreciated the realistic optimism and over the last 13 years have used the phrase numerous times.
I feel like the idea of a world without suicide is an impossible possibility. It is possible because suicide is 100% preventable, but many times it feels impossible because of the growing numbers. AFSP launched a new project called Project 2025 focused on reducing the rate of suicide by 20% by 2025. The result of such an effort will be more than 20,000 lives saved.
Also the work of suicide prevention is an impossible possibility because there is always more work one can do. I can’t do it all, no one person can, but together we can make a difference. If more individuals cared about mental health and if the stigma around getting help was reduced, maybe a world without suicide wouldn’t seem so impossible. I am most discouraged with those who are apathetic to the cause. As Martin Luther King Jr. stated: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
So when my heart is heavy and I question if anything can or will make a difference, I lace up my shoes and go for a walk to get ready for the Overnight, I write my senator and representative to advocate for better mental health services, I remember the amazing group of students hosting a campus walk, and I continue to be a voice so others know there is hope.
Madeleine Albright described herself in a recent article as an optimist who worries a lot. I don’t know if there is a better phrase to describe me. Anyone close to me knows I worry all the time, yet I am an optimist. Life is an impossible possibility especially in my work with suicide prevention and so I keep fighting.