Today was a day that in someway serves as a landmark for me… a moment in time when I am profoundly aware of how much I have grown, evolved, and lived the last 19.5 years. Today is a day I think she would be proud of me.
When my mom killed herself 19.5 years ago, I had no clue how I would handle it, how I would go on with me life, and what life would be like without my mother. I vividly remember talking with my counselor the year after she died and me stating something about wanting something good to come from her death. My counselor even mentioned that it might mean at some point I would want to volunteer on a suicide crisis line. Since 2001 much of my education, free thinking, and in the end passion, has revolved around the idea of mental health and recently suicide prevention.
The last two days I’ve had the opportunity to talk with five different high school health science courses on mental health. At the end of each class I share with them a little bit of my history: “My mom died by suicide 19 years ago and that is why I was brought to this cause, but that is not why I care about it today. I care about it today because the rate of suicide for teens is unacceptable and most people ignore it, and for the most part, we as a society are not doing anything about it.” And I mean each word. So often when I walk, volunteer, or speak on suicide prevention, it is not for my mom… it is for the kid struggling, the person who doesn’t know what to do because their friend is struggling… it is those who feel alone and scared. No matter how much I do, it won’t bring my mom back, but it might help someone not have to struggle in the same way.
Over the last month, I had the opportunity to get to know my state representative, James Talarico… and even more I have gotten to know his policy analyst Jeff. I got connected with them when I was talking at a PTA lunch about the work being done in the district in the area of mental health and suicide prevention. They were interested in the work I did with training all our bus drivers and bus assistants in suicide prevention. This eventually led to a bill being filed by Rep. Talarico to expand suicide prevention training to not only teachers but also anyone with regular contact with students.
The bill was filed on Monday along with many more bills by Rep Talarico focused on putting students first and looking at them as whole individuals. Today was a press conference and I was invited to stand with Rep Talarico as he explained this bi-partisan plan. I was honored to be invited and as I got ready this morning I was so excited…..but then it hit me… wow… I have come a long way from the 19 year old girl who had no clue how she would find her path in a world without her mother. I sat there and thought… I think she would be proud of me. I had to hold back tears as I thought about my mother.
My mother was a kind and giving soul. She wanted to make sure everyone knew someone cared for them… she didn’t want people to feel alone. She was the essence of loving louder. I am unreasonably hard on myself and honestly always wonder if I am doing enough and thinking so much more needs to be done… but as I stood there today, I had a sense of pride I can’t explain. It wasn’t pride for being publicly acknowledged, it was more a pride of feeling like what I do might actually be making a difference… and I had to smile as I thought about my mom. I said to myself “I think she would be proud of me”… and then I corrected myself “I know she would be proud of me.” She would be proud of me trying my hardest to make a difference and more than anything making sure something positive comes from her struggle… making sure others live because she died.