Today marks day one of Suicide Prevention Week 2017. Having lost my precious 16-year-old son T.J. to suicide almost 7 years ago, suicide prevention has become my life’s work. The more involved I become in mental health advocacy and suicide prevention, the more I understand the need for awareness and education.
Each year over 40,000 people die by suicide in this country. These people aren’t just numbers. They are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and friends. They are not cowards or selfish. They are people who battled an illness that robbed them of the ability to think of anything more than escaping a pain so intense it defies description. They are people whose minds are hijacked at a moment in time that sadly ends with the loss of their life here on earth.
In the aftermath, loved ones are left completely wrecked and filled with questions. The days become a series of before and after. A recent study suggested that for every suicide death as many as 115 people are impacted by the suicide.
There is a lot of information out there on the subject and the statistics are disturbing, but it can be hard to wrap your head around statistics so that is why my family and I tell our story to anyone who will listen. We want to put a face on suicide.
Our T.J. was a beautiful boy—inside and out. He brought fun, love, joy and excitement to our family. His death broke us, but through the love and kindness of friends and family we are still standing today. T.J.’s death opened our eyes to the realities of mental illness. It is often something that cannot be seen and it is certainly misunderstood.
Mental health issues impact 1 in 4 people at some point in their lives so it is imperative that we all strive to take care of our mental health and to raise awareness so when we or someone we care about begins to struggle they will know to ask for the help they need.
Suicide is preventable. I will never stop working toward a zero suicide rate. So today to kick off Suicide Prevention Week I ask you to simply open your mind and heart to the importance of caring for your mental health. Please share that message. For all those who have died by suicide and for all those who love them I send you the most powerful healing tool of all—LOVE along with many T.J. hugs.