What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?
My dad died by suicide in Brookings, S.D., in 2017.
Following my dad’s death, I really struggled for the first few months. I tried counseling, but it didn’t go well. I didn’t have any rapport with the therapist I had met with (and I also didn’t see a way that there could ever be), and it gave me a bad impression of what therapy was. I bought a house, and the basement flooded, so we had to buy all new carpet. I had gotten engaged four days prior to my dad’s death and was trying to plan a wedding. I had an ovarian cyst rupture, and I had to have emergency surgery, which left me out of work for nearly four weeks, some unpaid, which was terrifying because Kyle, my husband, had just recently started his doctorate in nurse anesthesia program where he wasn’t earning an income. Not only was I struggling with my own grief from my dad’s death, but I was also facing major financial and medical hurdles that make it stressful for anyone enduring those situations. I remember lying in bed, sobbing uncontrollably, thinking, “How the hell is this my life right now?”
I called a friend, and she just listened. It was then that I decided I needed to do something to get help, and I reached out for counseling for the second time. I was able to get connected with a counselor from Family Services, here in Sioux Falls, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I still see that same counselor, and not only has she helped me with my grief, but she has also helped me professionally and personally, too. Counseling is such a self-reflective experience that I’ve learned SO much about myself and others.
What resources have helped you to address this challenge?
I have found counseling to be incredibly helpful, as well as finding ways to use my voice to create awareness surrounding suicide prevention and mental health education. It is important to me to find a way to use my painful experience to help others feel less alone.
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?
I think increasing education at a young age is critical. We talk about our physical health, in health class, growing up. We know that we shouldn’t eat bad foods. Some of us even “jump rope for heart” to raise awareness for heart disease. But we don’t talk about the other aspect of our health that all of us have, and that’s our mental health.
There’s this idea that we have to grow and be “strong” through adversity. Sometimes strength looks like tears. Sometimes strength looks like therapy. Sometimes strength is reaching out for help. But it starts with knowing and understanding that we need to pay attention to and understand our mental health.
What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?
The happiest people hurt, too.
You can hear more from Wendy in her conversation on the Sept. 14 episode of the Great Minds with Lost&Found podcast.