What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

My name is Corey Kennedy, and 21 years ago my brother died by suicide. I was 25 at the time, and he was 16. I was very close with Josh and felt that he was someone I had to protect. His death was very, very difficult for me to process as I really didn’t know that there was anything wrong or that there were these feelings of anxiety or depression, especially to this magnitude. I also had to deal with the repercussions of my family falling apart. I had just recently married, and we both really struggled to come back from this loss.

I really wish that I could go back in time and change things and take another opportunity to keep him from being in that situation or give him a place to land and allow him solace to survive that situation. At that time, it was really challenging. This was in the early 2000s, and guys talking about feelings and emotions and things that were beyond just normal processes didn’t happen very much. What I learned was that I had to find a way to communicate, a way to process and find people to talk to. I was fortunate that my friends were supportive and understanding and helped me realize I had to find support. I learned that I can see a counselor and talk about what is happening, and I can try to learn how to follow what I needed to get better, and I learned that I can ask for help—that it is OK to do those things.

I also learned about my own depression and anxiety and my feelings of self-harm and when I get to those points. My life past the loss of Josh has been difficult, and it still creeps up on me sometimes. The feelings that surface sometimes surprise me. I have had dark days, and I have lost a sense of direction for myself, and in this I certainly understand why Josh got to where he got and did what he did, but I also have those resources in place to help me process those things now. I make sure that when I am feeling that way that I let somebody know, and I make sure that I’m not in a place where I’m dealing with that by myself.

In this world, things are always going to create difficult situations for us, but learning how to talk about it and learning how to deal with it and having a network of people in place to help you when you need help is critical. Now that I have learned these things, I am taking the opportunity to learn how to share these things with other people and how to do better by making sure that other people have access to these things, because I couldn’t do that for Josh back then. I hope that he sees that he’s a part of it, and I hope that he is helping me through this journey.

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Counseling, suicide prevention organizations, pastors, teachers, coaches, mentors, friends and family. I have a thirst for individual exploration and did a lot of reading self-help books. I also like to write and draw my emotions so I journal and write songs, poems, and books. I also paint, draw, and create art.

 

Based on your experience, how can we work to build resilience in ourselves, our loved ones, and in our communities to better face life’s challenges?

For me, learning that my feelings are not a mistake or wrong, and that we all feel the same feelings and that we can, if we choose to, talk about them with others. Share the experience and learn from each other’s individual journeys to expand our own journey. This often requires help from counselors, mentors, teachers, coaches and other people who have training and experience in talking and offering resources. Commit to wanting change and put in the resources you need to accomplish the change and let it happen.

 

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

We all have these feelings. Your feelings are not wrong. The idea that you cannot talk about certain things is ridiculous. Find a way to express what is inside that is causing you pain and set it free.