Sunday, September 15, 2013

To Write Love on MY Arms

Last year I wrote this blog entry.  I spoke about my own struggles with depression and suicide.  This past week was again National Suicide Prevention Week, September 8-14.  This year my outlook on this week was very different than it was last year.  This year I still though about my own struggles, but instead I chose to look at helping others with theirs.

There's an organization that I have been following since the 2000's called To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA).  This organization focuses on mental health education, not just depression and suicide, and the hope is that by educating people the mental health stigma can be removed.  Something I very strongly feel we need to do.  They also help people find help, invest in treatment and recovery programs, and inspire and encourage people to share their own stories in order to help others.  TWLOHA has a unique beginning, and story.  If you are interested in learning more about them I encourage you to visit the TWLOHA website and read about it.

This year for National Suicide Prevention Week, and World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10) I decided to take action.  Do more than just share my own story, but talk to people.  Although I woke up on the 10th with a headache because of the impending rains here in Colorado messing with my sinuses this was important to me, and nothing was going to stop me from participating.  My aunt had purchased a World Suicide Prevention Day pack for me, a t-shirt, bracelet, and various posters and postcards to pass out and share about depression and suicide.  I put on my shirt and bracelet and took the postcards and posters with me to a local coffee shop.  Caffeine is supposed to help headaches anyways. ;-)

I ordered my coffee, asked if I could hang a poster and some postcards on the local happenings board, and sat down with my kindle to read for a while.  The barista asked me what my shirt meant, "You Cannot Be Replaced".  I explained World Suicide Prevention Day, and that suicide is the third leading cause of death among people 15-24.  I told her that because I have struggled myself, I want to help other people who are struggling and let them know that it's okay to talk about how they are feeling, and there's nothing wrong with asking for help.  I gave her one of the postcards I had held back from putting on the bulletin board that talked about TWLOHA, and World Suicide Prevention Day and she went back to work.  Although no one else asked me about my shirt, or took a postcard off the board while I was there, I wasn't silent.  I spoke to one person and who knows if that did anything, but maybe she took the information and told her friends, or maybe that information was just want she needed to hear to break her own silence.  Who knows, but I talk about wanting to break the stigma of mental health a lot, and it's time for me to walk my own talk.

It's amazing the difference a year can make for someone. Last year I was reflecting on my past, not that it was a bad thing, but my focus was on what could have been.  This year my focus changed, I chose to look at how my experiences can help break down walls and inform and help others.  I think ultimately that is the goal of many organizations such as TWLOHA, how can we look at ourselves and use those experiences to help others.  I encourage you to look at yourself, even those scary parts we all have, and see how they can help others in any way.  I guarantee you, you are not the first to have struggled with and dealt with those things, and you won't be the last.

YOU cannot be replaced!!!! I cannot be replaced!!!!  We are all important, and we all have a purpose, even if we are having a difficult time seeing it or dealing with it.  If you need to talk to someone, please don't be afraid to do so.  I'd be glad to help if I can.  And you can always find help at TWLOHA, chat live online to someone at IMAlive, or call 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433).


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