What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?
In 2005, my aunt (also my godmother) died by suicide less than a week after Thanksgiving and two weeks before my grandpa passed away from brain cancer. And in 2020 my great uncle died by suicide.
My family was not completely upfront with me about how both my great uncle and my aunt passed away. When I was younger, I learned from my friends on the playground that my aunt had died by suicide and it was not until after directly asking that I was told he had died by suicide. This shame and silence around both of these deaths shaped the way that I thought about death, loss, and suicide.
What resources have helped you to address this challenge?
It has been a continuous process for me that has included lots of talking with friends and therapy. At the time my aunt passed, I was only 9 years old, so it was more difficult for me to process these emotions. Now that I am older, I have begun the process of understanding and allowing myself to feel sad. I studied psychology and graduate school and having this education and background has also allowed me to find the “facts” in suicidal ideations and events, something that was not addressed in my family. I have also gotten really involved in fundraising and advocating for suicide awareness. This has really helped me share parts of my story and find peace in knowing that it impacts so many.
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?
Building resilience is a process. It is not something that is done overnight, for both individuals and communities. Resilience takes practice and endless support from those you are surrounded with. I would say finding a network of people that you can talk to is huge. I think healing and resilience takes time. Talking to people and taking the time to process is a huge part of helping yourself comprehend the magnitude of what you have gone through as a survivor of loss. Conversations have helped me learn to think in new ways about my aunt and others who have died by suicide. These conversations need to happen not only on an individual level but also as a community.
What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?
Mental health is not a weakness, and suicide should be talked about because it is something very real and not processing the emotions surrounding suicide and loss can be so hurtful to other relationships.