I have been in the field of counseling in some form or fashion for 16 years… 17 if you count the first class I took as a graduate student. Most of my adult life has centered around being a voice for mental health, behavior health, mental illness… whatever you want to call it. I never viewed my journey as one of courage. I viewed my journey as one I was compelled to walk. Not one person said this should be my journey. I picked it and although I was encouraged along the way, this has always been my decision, my mission, my passion.
This last Saturday was our Austin Out of the Darkness Walk. I was really looking forward to a fantastic event. Not even a cold leaving me with a raspy voice would stop me from being part of the opening ceremony. I was thankful Rep. James Talarico had agreed to speak during the opening ceremony about the importance of advocacy and his initiative on the whole child. I had the pleasure to work with Rep. Talarico during the legislative session and knew his words would be impactful.
When Rep. Talarico started talking, he mentioned about why he was looking forward to coming to the walk. He discussed how when he works with most people at the capitol, they are working out of fear (fear of reelection, fear of not being liked…), but he knew coming to the walk he would be surrounded by people working out of courage not fear.
His words really hit me. Here were 1700+ people walking for suicide prevention. They didn’t care about the stigma around suicide and mental health. They didn’t care it is a topic often held in the dark. Instead you had a group of people acting out of courage because of the pain they had experienced. You had a group of people knowing when we act out of fear we are too late and the only way to address issues like suicide is to act out of courage.
I have never once viewed my career, mission, in the field of counseling and mental health to be one of courage… I also have not done it out of fear. I guess those of us who have experienced such a profound loss know the pain, shame, guilt. We act not thinking we are courageous, but we act because we know a deep pain and will do anything for others to not experience it. We will do anything… walk miles, raise money, educate, advocate. Maybe it is us doing it out of courage… I do know it is not out of fear.
It seems so much of life in our society is reactionary at this time and often times everyone seems paralyzed in fear. In the area of mental health it really will take being courageous for us to start being preventive instead of reactive… and that will take courage… if we wait for fear to drive us we will continue to lose too many.