It was absolutely sobering to see almost 1,000 people joining together to walk for the cause, in the rain no less. Wonderful to see so many people out there, but also heartbreaking that such a large number of people just in the Seattle area have been touched by suicide. And truly 1,000 is just a drop in the bucket.
The AFSP estimates over 34,000 people die by suicide in the U.S. alone. The number is estimated at 1 million worldwide.
After the walk, I was asked by someone “What is suicide prevention anyway?” and when I talked about the AFSP creating awareness and educational campaigns, this person said, “Do you really think that helps a person who’s suicidal?”
These questions kind of hit me in the gut. I was feeling “hungover” anyway, after months and months of fundraising and effort directed toward this one walk that is now over.
I spent the weekend offline thinking about what I’m doing. Thinking about my personal approach to mental health advocacy. And wondering what is the best way to help those struggling. Because truly that is what I want to do.
My conclusions are a work in progress, but I can say this:
My work for the AFSP is important. Raising funds for this organization is good for those struggling. They are political advocates for change in mental health policy at the local, state and national level. They’ve funded the creation of interactive mental health screening programs for college students that are getting more kids who are in need into counseling and other treatment. They educate the media on appropriate (and more helpful) ways to report suicides. They fund suicide prevention research and suicide prevention education programs. And much more.
Is raising awareness helping those struggling?
I speak openly about mental illness, postpartum depression and suicide because I want to help remove the stigmas. There is NO SHAME in having a REAL disease. And mental illness is just as real as any other.
If we can speak openly about such topics, bring them out of the shadows and out of the darkness, more people will seek help. More people will not be afraid to ask for treatment. They will feel less alone.
An organization like the AFSP is doing just that with their advocacy and actions. I have been empowered as a survivor of suicide loss by the work that they do. And because of them have learned about other ways to help those with mental illness, including myself.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for example: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a 24-hr/7-day hotline where anyone can call for help and speak to someone trained in suicide prevention.
- Befrienders.org, a worldwide directory of suicide prevention hotlines and resources.
Enabling and encouraging those struggling to reach out is key. We not only do this by giving out hotline numbers and web sites.
- We also do this by speaking openly about our struggles.
- Walking openly in public with 1,000 others for a cause.
- Asking a friend “How are you really?” and not letting an “I’m fine” be the answer.
- Blogging about it.
- Participating in Tweet Chats like #PPDChat and #MHSM.
- Taking part in the PPD SpeakEasy mental health phone chat.
- Reading and commenting on blog posts from Band Back Together or checking out this group blog’s amazing resource pages.
- Reading posts and Daily Hope emails from Postpartum Progress and other wonderful mental health focused blogs.
- Sharing your love and support with those who are openly sharing their stories.
- Not being ashamed to type a Facebook status that says “I’m having a bad day.”
There are so many ways to reach out to others and truly make an impact, even if we don’t know we are helping.
Team Purposeful Practices/Motherhood Unadorned raised over $2300 for the AFSP, but we did so much more.
Am I feeling a walk hangover? Yes.
But I’m also ready to put one foot in front of the other and keep advocating, helping others and showing you I am not ashamed of my mental illness.
On days like today when I’m feeling sad and “hungover” it’s good to reach out. To write. To chat. To lean on community.
I am not alone, and neither are you.