This week’s post features two powerful voices. Leah Harris and Will Hall have been active for years in speaking up about mental health. Leah leads communications and development efforts for the National Empowerment Center, and she was part of successful efforts to get “black box” warnings put on certain psychiatric drugs with the risk of causing suicidal thoughts. Will is a therapist and hosts Madness Radio, a series of interviews “from outside mental health,” and he recently expanded his public speaking and teaching focus to include the topic of suicidal thinking.
We asked, and Grace Kim answered. Our call last week for video stories brought this:
We asked her: “What’s been the response so far? And, not an uncommon question: What does your family think?”
Grace, a restaurant owner in the Bay Area, replied by email: “I started out with a blog on Tumblr, and after I received multiple messages about how some of my readers decided not to kill themselves, because of what I was writing, I knew I had to spend all my effort trying to grow my project in order to reach as many people as possible. My family has been oddly supportive. I’m basically what they call a 50-footer in the gay community, you can tell I’m gay from 50 feet away. Everyone always knew I was gay, but I thought I kept my secret well hidden. I just made it way harder on myself than I should’ve, and that’s what most people do.”
Your video stories are welcome.
Meanwhile, the heart of this week’s post is by Christine O’Hagan, a mom, a runner and an executive with an MPA in business. “I would like to do more for depression and suicide awareness now, but it was just a matter of ‘coming out,'” she writes.
Today, we’re happy to take the step of welcoming your stories by video as well. With so many people marking World Suicide Prevention Day tomorrow, it’s excellent timing.
This first story is from Misha Kessler, who hopes to found a nonprofit dedicated to organizing the voice of attempt survivors and making our needs known. It would be the first of its kind. He’s a recent college graduate who already has collaborated with groups such as Active Minds, the American Association of Suicidology and The Jed Foundation, and it’s safe to say he could represent the next generation of attempt survivors, who believe that you can be open about this experience without it affecting your future.
Misha “came out” in his Facebook status on the two-year anniversary of his attempt. “Funny, since then, I haven’t been as scared to talk about it,” he says. “I try to be tasteful in telling people what happened. I felt if it’s not prefaced by anything, that could definitely turn people off in a way, make them uncomfortable, so to me, it’s definitely about presenting it in a calm, digestible way.”
He suggested naming this video stories project “Reject the Silence,” and we agreed that, as with the rest of this blog, the stories should reflect reality. Whether you’re finding your way through recovery or can say, “I conquered my depression,” your stories are welcome, starting now. As always, we encourage you to use your name.
Here is Misha’s video, which he originally filmed during casting for a separate project, plus a screenshot of his Facebook status:
This week’s post begins below. First:
A new and fascinating conversation: How to talk to a rising generation through social media about suicide? How to spot trouble in what someone is posting online? And how can we use the voices of people who’ve been suicidal? The suicide prevention and awareness world has started working through these issues on Twitter (#SPSM) and in blog form, with chats every Sunday evening. A common agreement is, the mental health world is far behind in social media. An encouraging comment from the latest chat: “perhaps inviting suicide attempt survivors to add their thoughts to this conversation is needed – is this a safe place to disclose?” And “Agreed – survivors are the ones whose words carry a great deal of weight – sharing their stories.”
A media request: A Los Angeles-based documentary maker and attempt survivor is looking for artists, writers, musicians, performers of all kinds who’ve had a serious attempt and would be interested in sharing their story. “Our overall goal is to examine the correlation between suicide and the creative mind and shed light on the subject of depression and suicide and hopefully create a dialogue about this subject, since it is so often shrouded in shame,” Travis says. You can reach him at artistsandsurvival (at) gmail (dot) com. (The originally posted address was incorrect.)
New resources, video: The International Association for Suicide Prevention now has a resources page for attempt survivors. And the UK-based Grassroots Suicide Prevention has this new video. “Maybe they’re afraid of talking about it because they know someone that’s been through it,” an attempt survivor says. “They’ve got their own memories and their own thoughts. But what they don’t realize is that by not talking about it, those that suffer in silence, those that think about it, it gives them the sense that they don’t matter. It heightens the anxiety and the belief that suicide is the better option because nobody really cares enough to talk about it and their own fears.”