Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. I have done what little I can when I can with local organizations, and sharing available resources I know about whenever I can. In particular, youth and veteran suicides hit me hard because they are such tragedies - a failure to get the right help to people who need it, or a failure to connect with a support network of family and friends in some way. Our community lost five high schoolers to suicide in the last school year, and a local veteran and gifted singer/songwriter in just the past couple of weeks.
I share this anecdote today because it illustrates one of the most important aspects of suicide prevention. We often never know what impact a little kindness, or some other little thing we do, might have on someone in dire crisis.
Many years ago, I came home late one night from a less-than-stellar tour with a long and draining drive home. I was single at the time, so I came home to my little house with my dog and cat, poured a drink, and sat down to unwind by reading some piled-up email. As I scrolled on through, one email made me sit bolt upright in my chair, titled "Just a Note of Thanks":
Three and a half years ago now I was in a car accident. I was stopped and the other car hit me at around 50 mph. I was training for the Olympic trials in the marathon that year. After the accident I have not been able to run due to injuries. I get very severe headaches when I walk/run for longer then a couple minutes.
Needless to say I have been going through a very severe depression since this accident. At one point I wanted to not be on this earth any longer. I had a plan to carry this act out and I wasn't going to let anyone know. Believe it or not while trying to go through with this plan one of the first thoughts in my head was that if I did go through with this.....I would never be able to listen to "Shenandoah Moon" or "Atchafalaya" ever again. I started crying, crying (I thought I would never stop).
The thought of not being able to hear that music made me realize that there are so many wonderful gifts this world has to offer. It made me realize that being alive on this earth is a gift and a blessing. Since then I have been on a journey of healing. I sought professional help and I'm well on my way to recovery. With support...not only will I be rid of this depression, but on the road running again. Thank you Mr. McKnight for your healing music...It has meant more to me than you will ever know.
In the years since I have been privileged to become friends with this remarkable and brave woman from California. She texted me a few days ago, marveling that her oldest daughter is now 12. And yes, she has run marathons again too. She's an everyday hero to me.
And I am grateful for the reminder that we often will never know what impact we might have on someone else's life, for good or for ill. On this night, I am comforted to know that my words and music do occasionally matter, and once in awhile I'm lucky enough to find out about it.
I'm glad to share a few articles here too.
- Suzie Bartel is an amazing force of nature who lost her son in 2014, and her Ryan Bartel Foundation is doing some amazing work here in our high schools - read more here, and check out the powerful short documentary they made embedded below called "We're All Human". One of the four very brave teens in this film is a friend of our family.
- A startling piece on NPR's All Things Considered about how even infants can show signs of mental illness, and by the time they reach a screening in kindergarten is already very late.
- As part of the same series on NPR/ATC, "6 Myths About Suicide that Every Educator and Parent Should Know"
- Finally, my friend Sally Spencer-Thomas lost her brother to suicide in 2003, and founded the Carson J. Spencer Foundation that is doing some incredible work with high-stress blue collar workers, including firefighters and police.
#WSPD #youarenotalone #suicideprevention #itaintweaktospeak #goodthingsmatter #everydayheroes