Each year there is a day set apart to bring awareness to mental health. Today, is World Mental Health Day and the focus is suicide prevention. To be honest, it is a sensitive subject for a lot of people. But it is also one that needs attention and for the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide to become a thing of the past.
I wanted to share something more personal today on the blog. If you have been around here at all, you know I share a lot about my life. Many of you have read my own struggle with the loss of my Mama the last 6 months. There are days I have cried for hours. I have had moments where I wanted to just ignore everything and feel sorry for myself. Somedays I still feel that way; and I know the next few months won’t be easy. But today, I want to share something else that is personal. And it involves my daughter, Morgan. (Don’t worry, I asked her permission to share her story.)
My daughter, Morgan is 23 years old. And for at least the last 8 years, she has struggled with anxiety, depression, self esteem and at times thoughts of suicide. I have always been very close to her and able to see the struggle, sometimes even more than she can see it herself. Morgan is technically my step-daughter, but I helped raise her from the age of 5. I am not sure why, but around the age of 16 or 17, maybe a little before, I could see a change in her. I thought at first it was a typical teenager, but soon realized I was wrong.
Without going into a ton of details, when Morgan was 19 and working 2nd shift, she called me and was sobbing. She told me she felt worthless and that she did not have any reason to live. She repeatedly told me that she did not deserve to live and that life would be better without her. As a mother, you can imagine my own despair at her words. I immediately told her I was coming to pick her up and take her to the ER. As difficult as it was to see her in the psych unit at the hospital, I could not play Russian Roulette with her life and take the chance that she would kill herself.
Morgan spent several days in the hospital and then came home. I wish that I could say that was the last time she has struggled with the darkness that sometimes seems to take control. But it isn’t. If I am being honest, one of my biggest fears is waking up to discover that she had a bad day/night and did something to herself. I am not an expert in mental illness. Not even close. And I think each person is different. But there are a few things I have learned that I would like to share with you that might help you or someone you know that is struggling.
Do Not Be Judgmental
There is nothing worse than a person telling someone struggling that they are seeking attention. Or that they need to pray more. I have heard all kinds of comments that people have made about others dealing with mental illness. And I can tell you, these negative and hateful words do not help. Those with mental illness already think they are not good enough and when others begin to list things like this, it just makes it worse. And having a mental illness doesn’t mean they have a reason to be ashamed. No one tries to tell someone with blood pressure problems not to take their medicine or that it is all in their head. Mental illness should not be different.
Reach Out To Them
A lot of times those with mental illness will pull away from others and put themselves in a bubble. If I don’t hear from Morgan for a day or two, I try to reach out to her. Sometimes people are busy, but in her case, I have mother’s intuition that kicks in and tells me that something is wrong. She will probably tell me that things are fine, but I always push to see her or force a conversation. And I try to encourage her to talk to others, a counselor or friend if she doesn’t want to talk to me.
Just Be Kind
This may sound like ridiculous advice. But it is a mantra I try to live by every day. I was talking to my sister last week about high school. And one thing we both agree on and said was this: Good or bad, you will never forget the way people make you feel. None of us are perfect, but I do try to make a conscious effort to treat others in a way that I would want to be treated. I think a large part of mental health problems stem from people just being mean to others.
In the world we live in today, so many people hide behind a computer screen or a cell phone/text and spout out mean and toxic things they would never say to your face. Or others say horrible things to others for a reaction. It is my hope, that I would never do that to others. I will never understand that mentality, and I wish that everyone would just be kind. I think it could heal and solve a lot of problems.
Encourage Them To Get Help
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please know that there is help available. Every 40 seconds someone commits suicide. That is a staggering statistic. My dad has always said that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. And that is so true. But those that are considering it, don’t always view it that way. Please take a look at these resources to get help for you or a loved one. And lastly, please know, even if I don’t know you personally, I know that you are loved and that suicide is not the answer. Please reach out to me if you need anything.