What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?
The beginning of the pandemic was one of the hardest things I had to go through. I know that many of my struggles were shared among the rest of society and on a collective conscious level. I work in public health, and once the pandemic started in March 2019, we were required to work remotely from home. I had 5 children at the time attending school virtually from home as well. It was very stressful trying to balance all of that.
My position was Community Engagement, but during the lockdown, I wasn’t allowed to go out into the community. At work, I volunteered to help with the efforts wherever I could. I found myself being the triage for those who think that they had been exposed or had symptoms of COVID-19. I would answer the forwarded COVID call line on my personal cell phone, which was directed from the Oyate Health Center. I would often have to hush my children or step out of the house to take the calls, but I felt needed.
Over the next six months, it began to take a toll on me. I was in a toxic relationship, and I was forced to live with him during the lockdown. I had intended to break up with him, but the pandemic did not allow for this. He worked as a bartender and didn’t believe in the pandemic, masking up, social distancing. He said it was all hype. This created an extreme amount of anxiety as a mother, as I had fears that the disease would take one of my children from me.
I suffered through depression, anxiety, and thoughts of self-harm but hid it from my children and my partner. I began lashing out in bouts of anger or tears. I had even planned out my death to every little detail. I ended the relationship, and he left my home. But I still feared myself, and that was when I knew I needed to seek help.
I found help through a variety of local resources, people I trusted, and my work circle. Most of all, I learned that I am an empath and am very sensitive to other people’s pain/emotions. I learned the importance of practicing self-care. I now work in behavioral health, guiding others to the help that they need. I wholeheartedly believe that my suffering had a purpose to help others!
What resources have helped you to address this challenge?
Indian Health Services – counseling services; Oyate Behavioral Health – counseling services and cultural interventions; Oaye Luta Okolakiciye – Cultural Services, mentoring; SPEAK Network – suicide prevention classes
Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?
You build resilience when you go through hard times and challenges. This is a part of life that is inevitable. What we should be teaching our youth and young adults are the proper coping skills/mechanisms when faced with life’s struggles. We need to teach them the importance of self-love and self-care. Once these are taught and become part of a person’s foundation of learning, this will instill confidence and they will be better able to handle hardships.
What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?
Having suicidal thoughts is a symptom of depression, and depression is treatable. I believe that this would encourage those who suffer from depression and thoughts of suicide to reach out for help.