Every year I try to participate in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Walk. The walk is a way for me to give back to the community that has given hope to so many people. My only wish is that these types of events were more common 18+ years ago. I hope that you will take the time to read my story and consider making a donation. The foundation’s mission is so incredibly important to me. But for you to fully understand why I walk for suicide each year, you’ll have to know a little bit more about me.
This may end up being one of the most difficult and personal stories I ever share with you. I’m sure you’ve realized by now that mental health is something I take seriously, and something that I spend a lot of time on. But do you really know why I am so passionate about mental health and mental illness? The most important reason this topic is so important to me is suicide prevention. You may be wondering why I’m so concerned about suicide prevention. If you know me personally, this will not be a question running through your mind. But for the rest of you, I am going to tell you exactly why.
A Little Background
As I know I’ve mentioned before, my childhood wasn’t always filled with laughter and love. While I was very loved by everyone around me, the same didn’t always go for others in my life. I come from a home filled with alcoholism, mental illness, and domestic violence. I have seen things that I would wish on no one. Things that no child should ever have to see. I have heard things that I know I will never forget. But you see, the source of all of the pain started with mental illness.
While I am not a licensed professional, I can guarantee you that my father had, at the very least, a severe form of depression. Fueled by the alcoholism, his condition only worsened. You see, 18 years ago mental health care was almost non-existent. People didn’t go for alcohol counseling, nor did they speak of their bad habits and dreadful mental states. Suicide prevention wasn’t much of a “thing” like it is today. Oh, how I wish it had been. Why hadn’t anyone cared enough back then? And while I can say that we have come a long way since then, it just isn’t far enough.
I love my father, I always have and I always will. Unfortunately, his illnesses got the best of him. After a terrible split between my parents, my father’s condition worsened. He sunk into what I can only imagine as a black abyss of depression.
At the age of 35 years old, my father decided that he no longer wanted to deal with the pain. My father made the decision to end his life. Just a week past my 8th birthday, I lost my father to mental illness. A man who had never shown an ounce of anger towards me, a man who always did everything he could physically and mentally to care for me, was gone.
Anger & Sadness
At the age of 8, after your parents have split and you’ve only seen your mother for 2 months, when someone tells you your father is gone you pretty much think, “Yeah, I know. He’s been gone, where have you been?”
It took me an entire week to realize how gone they truly meant. Death isn’t something many 8-year-olds understand, nor do I feel that they should have to.
And as I’m writing this, I’m realizing that I was only a couple months older than my son the last time I had seen my father. This hurts, it truly does.
I was sad for most of the remaining years of what should’ve been my childhood. I would no longer go to a hockey game with my father, he would no longer walk in the door with a claw machine stuffed animal, but I would also no longer had to see my mother in so much pain. It’s a tough middle to be in, to be honest. On one hand, you’re glad that one of your parents is in a little better place (physically anyway), but on the other, you’ve lost a piece of yourself.
It wasn’t until around the age of 12 that I learned how my father had passed away. From that point forward, my life was a hurricane of anger and sadness. I had struggled quite a bit up until this point, but it wasn’t until now that I really began to see what a shadow mental illness can be. Shadow may be putting it lightly, but I won’t dig into that right now.
I could write you a novel about the rollercoaster that my life was between the ages of 12 and 16. Yes, I realize that is only four years, but a lot can happen in four years time. But for now, I’m going to stop here because my ride with mental illness doesn’t pertain to my mission for suicide prevention.
Why I Walk for Suicide Prevention
I choose to walk and for suicide prevention so that other children don’t have to live through the suffering that I lived through. No child should lose a parent at all, and definitely not to mental illness. Mental illness is treatable, and there is help available. I choose to walk so that no one has to learn that their loved one chose to no longer fight mental illness. So that no one has to learn that their loved one felt so alone and unloved that they didn’t want to live.
My only hope is that I can be a part of the movement to end the stigma. I want everyone who feels like they’re at the end of their rope to know that it’s okay to feel that way. And I want each and every person who is struggling to no longer feel alone. I know exactly what it is like to be surrounded by people who love you, but still feel so completely alone because they just don’t understand what you’re going through. No one should have to go through mental illness alone. And no one should have to feel like ending their life is their only choice.
I walk for suicide prevention so that everyone knows that I am willing to help. I
am willing want to listen, I WANT to help you. Please reach out for help. While you may feel as though no one cares and no one will miss you, I promise you there is at least one person who will.
If you or a loved one are suffering from mental illness or suicidal thoughts or actions…
If you or a loved one is suffering and needs immediate attention, please go to Now Matters Now to find the appropriate crisis number for your country. They even list text lines if you do not want to make the call.
American Psychological Association – Supporting a Family Member with Serious Illness
Psych Central – Symptoms & Treatments of Mental Disorders