Mental Health Advocates are at Risk for Suicide Too
I became a mental health awareness advocate due to my own struggles with severe depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. When my situation finally began to improve (with the help of a psychiatrist and proper medication), I became involved in fundraising for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). I wanted to help others and let them know they do not struggle alone. I also began advocating and fighting the stigma of mental illness via my blog and social media.
Even still, I struggle, but I feel I have more purpose by helping others in similar situations. This has not proven that I am immune to the beast that is depression. Occasionally, I think to myself that I’m only holding on for my son and that anyone else could more easily move on from my death. That is a precarious situation/thought process to have. So, I ask myself: What would I say to someone else in my situation? I wouldn’t tell them that it’s hopeless or that those left behind will be okay. However, when my depression is deep, it’s easy for me to forget to ask myself that…it escapes my mind. Thankfully, I’ve realized this and have made sure I no longer forget. I do this by putting notes to myself everywhere: on my bathroom mirror, in my jewelry box, in my purse, in my car, with my medications, etc. The note simply states: What would I say to someone else?
→More advocates (and anyone who struggles) should have this question posted for themselves because sometimes…they take their own lives, too.
Did you know Amy?
Amy Bleuel is a name you may not be familiar with, but if you are faintly familiar with advocacy programs, you may recognize the name Project Semicolon. Amy founded Project Semicolon in 2013 as a tribute to her father who took his own life in 2003. It’s a nonprofit organization that primarily functions as an anti-suicide initiative.
Project Semicolon’s aphorism is “a semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life”.
Just Google Project Semicolon and you will find an infinite number of articles, tattoo images, t-shirt and jewelry options, and more. You probably know someone with a semicolon tattoo as a reminder to themselves and/or in remembrance of someone they have lost to suicide.
Although the foundation was a tribute to her father, Amy suffered throughout her life, too. She endured physical abuse by her stepmother, spent years in child protective custody, began self-harming, was a victim of sexual abuse including rape, had a miscarriage, battled alcoholism, and had five suicidal attempts.
Ultimately, Bleuel died by suicide on March 23, 2017, aged 31.
Out of the Darkness
Every year, I participate in Out of the Darkness Walks in order to fundraise for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). In 2015, I took the challenge of raising a minimum of $1000 to participate in The Overnight. Thousands of us walked 18 miles at night throughout Dallas, TX. I met a young lady on the walk whom I ended up bonding with. She was there for herself, but also for her therapist…who had died by suicide just a few months earlier.
Baylor University student James Cotter took his own life just last month. He, too, was a suicide awareness advocate after his sister Carrie took her own life at age 17. He and his family had worked to raise awareness about suicide, creating the Carrie Cotter Foundation and Memorial Fund.
A Greater Danger
Those struggling are put in greater danger when those who are their advocates succumb to suicide. Often the thoughts are “They couldn’t avoid suicidal tendencies even though they’ve spent their lives working to prevent suicide of others. What does that mean for me? Is it really hopeless to fight it?”
So, I urge you, advocate or not, write yourself a note (or two or three) to remind yourselves what you would say to someone else currently struggling? You, too, need to hear it.
Copyright © 2019 Alicia Rust. All rights reserved.