#ProjectSemicolon

I am a survivor of suicide. I’m sure most people who read that will assume that I survived a suicide attempt, however survivors of suicide are people who were close with someone who died by suicide. My uncle died by suicide when I was in the sixth grade. I had never seen his struggle, I believe in part because he was at his happiest when he was surrounded by his nieces and nephews. As a sixth grader, I didn’t understand the stigma of mental health, and I shared my story without hesitation. When friends struggled with a similar loss, I was a safe resource for them, because I understood one simple thing: grieving a suicide loss is unlike grieving other losses. Genetically, my family tree has anxiety and depression running through many of the branches. Yes, I said genetically. In the mental health field, it is accepted that mental illness is not something you can “snap out of” or “be cured of” and yet this seems to be the overwhelming assumption of people outside of the field. During my junior year of college, I followed in my younger sister’s footsteps and began an intensive training to work for the crisis telephone line in Oakland County. The 90-hour training, taking place over two months, taught me how to intervene when someone calls in crisis. In my trainings I learned about issues like self harm, homelessness, suicide, domestic violence, substance abuse, and bullying. People on the outside may assume I work on the crisis line because it is a “resume builder,” but truthfully, I did this because I felt helpless. Helpless to help the people in my own family, and unable to understand their struggle. Right now, I am inspired by #projectsemicolon, because of the outpouring of stories that people are sharing. These are stories that need to be told. My story does not include my personal battle with depression or any other mental illness, but it does include my struggle in feeling helpless to help those who do struggle. As an English major, I appreciate the poetry in this project, and the idea that we have control over our lives, and choosing a semicolon is choosing to continue our stories. To all the people who have chosen a semicolon, the strength you have shown inspires me to be better every single day. The crisis line and @common_ground have changed my life. As an educator, who will interact with thousands of students throughout my career, and as a human being, I am better because of my experiences with the mental health community. In the past, I felt like I didn’t have the right to share my story, because I felt like it wasn’t my story to tell, but I do believe that even the survivors or the caretakers should start sharing their stories. This is how things change. It starts with a blog post, or a twitter campaign, and it turns into real change. Thank you Nicholas Provenzano and Joe Mazza for sharing your stories and encouraging teachers to enter the discussion with #semicolonEDU. If you want to get involved in a shorter, but valuable training, look into Mental Health First Aid in your area. This is an internationally recognized training program designed to non-mental health professionals with tools to recognize and respond to people who may be in a mental health crisis, and connect them to the appropriate care. If you know someone who could use a hand, encourage them to call 1-800-231-1127 to talk.

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