What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?
I lost my biological father to suicide.
Growing up, I did not see my biological father all the time, especially because my maternal grandparents had adopted me when I was younger. However, I was still building a relationship with him throughout the years. I usually saw him on holidays when I was home, because otherwise, he was out working these big construction jobs and a lot of times was out of state. He was still there for me.
The day that I found out, I had just finished working on my homework and was taking a nap. I woke up to my sister calling me, and my heart dropped instantly because she usually asks if she can call before she does. I immediately picked up the phone and asked her what was wrong because she was crying. She told me that she didn’t know if anyone had told me but that Dad was found dead. Instantly I broke down crying and texted one of my friends begging him to call my cousin who lives in my dorm building and send her my way. I couldn’t move, all I could do was bawl and try not to scream. Seven days earlier, I had gotten numerous texts from Dad saying how proud of me he was, that he loved me, and that he was sorry for everything that he did wrong in life. I remember getting teary over those messages because my own mental health was already rough, and it just so happened to make me cry because I needed to hear it. However, I did not realize that this was a warning sign that something was going to happen. I did take screenshots and sent them to my same sister asking her if he was sending her similar things, so I guess in a way deep down I knew that there was something wrong, I just did not know what to do with it. In the following days, I made it home and prepared to say my goodbyes. Saying goodbye to a parent is not easy, especially when you lose them in a traumatic way.
What resources have helped you to address this challenge?
Resources that helped me address this challenge were my therapist, my psychiatrist, and Lost&Found. I was already seeing my therapist every two weeks, and for the following therapy sessions, I was going once every week. My anxiety and depression had spiked dramatically. My psychiatrist upped my meds and put me on an anxiety med full time instead of as needed because of daily panic attacks. Lost&Found was a great resource for me because I was already in the Lost&Found Advocates Program, I was about two sessions into training, so I was able to check in with my cohort leaders at each meeting about how I was feeling.
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?
Mental health needs to be talked about more but not in such a negative, stigmatized way. Yes, mental health is on the rise, but stigmatizing it is not going to make it any better. I firmly believe that if mental health was talked about more, especially in men, and people were more supportive and listened, male statistics related to suicide especially could be different. In my father’s household and the way he was raised, mental health was not talked about. Mental health did not become something to talk about until my siblings and I, even aunts and uncles, started opening up about it. No one should ever be brought down because they are struggling, or made feel like they cannot talk about what is bothering them. I feel like if mental health help is advocated for more, our communities may start building resilience and address mental health more. Some locations in South Dakota have multiple support programs, but Sturgis does not.
What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?
Grieving from a suicide loss is one of the hardest things to go through because it is something you can never prepare for, unlike death by natural causes. Reaching out to someone when you are struggling with your mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness. Having mental health struggles does not make you weak. Also, a warning sign can be something so little and something that could be easily overlooked – if it makes you worried in any sense, please offer support. You could be the person that the person trusts to reach out to for help.