Editor’s note: This is the final of four special posts in the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program’s Stories of Recovery series for National Suicide Prevention Week (September 10-16). TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) and find more information at tlaphelps.org.
My brother had been out of jail this time for less than five days when I saw two missed calls from my dad on my cell. Something was wrong, my dad never calls me. I called him back, it turned out he was asked by my stepfather to tell me that my brother killed himself. You see, my dad isn’t related to my brother at all. My brother was the son of my mother and stepfather. My dad also told me that they wanted me to tell my sister. I called her and told her over the phone because I was afraid I couldn’t get to her in person before a cousin or friend texted her about the news, and I wanted her to hear it from someone closer.
I immediately tried to find someone or some organization online that could help, could tell me what to do or think, and who could talk to my mother, who had descended into depths of despair so deep I was sure she would never re-emerge. I hoped to find someone who could help me talk her out of killing herself too. I started calling people to tell them what happened. I’m not sure why but I felt like everyone I knew needed to know. I even Facebook messaged ex-boyfriends and relatives of relatives to tell them the news.
How did I feel about it? I felt extremely sad that someone I loved so very much was in such a tremendous amount of pain, and I didn’t know it, and couldn’t fix it.
I learned that I needed to do something to process my grief. I started attending annual “out of the darkness” suicide prevention walks. I asked my family to be on a team with me and now we walk and raise money every year. I joined the local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and became the board chair. I was trained to teach a suicide prevention program and started teaching it as much as possible. I talk about mental health and suicide prevention very frequently on my Facebook page and to friends, co-workers, and colleagues. I post articles about what not to say to someone who has lost someone by suicide, and what warning signs and risk factors to be aware of in others.
I encourage you all to learn more about suicide and how to make yourselves available so that someone thinking about or planning a suicide would feel comfortable telling you—you can get him or her help. I encourage all of you to put the number of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-TALK) into your phones now, and call them if you have questions. Know the mental health authority in your city and know the local hotline. Go to www.afsp.org and learn about how to cope with suicide, and how to help those who are suicidal.