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Why I'm Too Scared to Stay Silent About Suicide


A friend reached out this morning for advice. A dear friend of hers died by suicide.

“What do you say when someone takes their own life?” she asked.

It could have been me.

My friend and I talked briefly about her friend. I had never met him; I didn’t know him. But at the same time when I heard about his suicide, I felt like I knew him all too well. The minute he took his own life I was connected to him in a profound way.

We’re connected because I know his demons. I believe mine are the same. I can imagine what he might have felt: like you’re body is occupied by someone else. Like you’re drowning. Like you’re swallowing water when everyone around you is breathing in air. I’ve seen the world through the same black fog and walked through the same sticky quicksand. I know. I’ve been there.

I used to think pain isolated me. That experiencing deep emotional pain made me different from you, less than you. I hid my pain because I was afraid you would think I was weak. I was afraid my darkness made me ugly. I was afraid if people knew the kind of thoughts I had, the thoughts that told me I was worthless and didn’t deserve to live, they would treat me like I didn’t deserve to live.

I didn’t talk about my pain until it was almost too late. I didn’t tell anyone I wanted to die until I almost did. But after I woke up after trying to take my own life, hope was born. Hope opened the door for me to talk about my pain. And when I started to talk about my pain, I began to see there was similar pain in others. My eyes were no longer blinded by fear. They were instead opened to people who’ve felt like me, connecting us in the most profound way.

It was never the pain that isolated me, it was my fear. Once hope entered in and gave me back my will to live, fear loosened its grip. And when I started to let go of my fear, I began to see the beauty that lives beneath the pain.

My darkness no longer isolates me. My feelings of worthlessness and shame, the thoughts that tell me I don’t deserve to live, that the world would be a better place without me, no longer make me feel alone. They don’t isolate me because I share them. I talk about them. I use them to build a bridge between myself and others who have felt the same. Our darkness allows us to connect, and that connection sparks a light within us that rids the darkness.

And whenever someone dies in such a tragic way, it’s a great reminder of why I need to continue talking about suicide and sharing my pain.

Some ask if I’m scared to open up about my past and sometimes present struggles with suicide ideation. “Aren’t you scared of what people think? Aren’t you scared they will judge?”

No. I’m not scared to talk about suicide — I’m scared to stay silent. Silence is what fuels my depression. Silence turns thoughts into obsessions and obsessions can lead to actions. Silence is the deadliest weapon of all. Silence kills. I know my silence would kill me, and I don’t want to die.

I talk about it so others who are scared to talk about it know they are not alone. We are never alone, despite how lonely we feel.

My pain doesn’t make me different from you. It doesn’t make me less than you. My darkness isn’t ugly. It’s a beautiful bridge that connects me to you. And connecting through pain is the most powerful, transformative connection I’ve ever experienced.   

Follow this journey on Feelings and Faith.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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14 Things Parents of Children With Mental Illness Want You to Know


According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 4 million children and adolescents in the United States have a serious mental disorder. And behind most of these children are parents — parents fighting stigma and misunderstanding to get their child the best care possible.

We asked our Mighty readers who are parents to a child with a mental illness what they want the world to know about their experience.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “There isn’t always an easy answer to what’s going on — we just take it one day at a time.” — Patrick Underwood

Mental health meme: "There isn't always an easy answer to what's going on -- we just take it one day at a time."

2. “If you’re out in public and see our child doing something ‘strange,’ don’t stand there and stare. If you’re curious, ask questions.” — Kendra Monn

3. “Our [mental health] system is in shambles, beyond crisis and families are drowning. We need you to pay attention to us!” — Deborah Mihalik Geesling

4. “Don’t judge what you don’t know. If you care, learn about my son. To know him is to love him.” — Amy Stuart

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5. “Just because my child has a mental illness doesn’t mean she’s going to go out and kill people. [That stereotype] makes it harder for my child to be accepted. It makes it harder for her to believe in herself and what she’s capable of accomplishing one day.” — Patricia Folz

6. “Our children should never feel ashamed of their diagnosis. I want to discuss depression (and all mental illnesses) with other parents just as they would talk about their children’s illnesses with me.” — Richelle Cobb Sons

7. “Love and laughter fill our house just as much as yours.” — Christy Vogel

Mental Health Meme: Love and Laughter fill our house just as much as yours."

8. “Just getting through a day successfully, without a crisis, can be an accomplishment.” — Cyndi Kershner

9. “Sometimes my parenting may look strange. It may look like my child is spoiled. Please respect us and know in the end my husband and I will do what’s best for my child.” — Mary Beth

10. “Be patient and educate yourselves. Just because you can’t see it all the time doesn’t mean it’s not there.” — Lorraine Mitchell

11. “Please don’t lecture me about the evils of medications. Trust we’re making the best decisions for our son. Maybe you would make other decisions, but every child is different. This plan works for us, for him.” — Tia Borkowski

Mental Health Meme: "Please don't lecture me about the evils of medications.

12. “When my son was young all I wanted was for people to understand that he wasn’t a bad kid, he didn’t have a behavior problem. He was frightened and overwhelmed, and if he had another choice, trust me, he would have taken it.” — Pamela Furth

13. “Please trust that I know (and love) my child and therefore know what’s best for him. My number one priority is always to keep him safe, alive and stable — no matter what it takes.” — Kathy Stephenson

14. “I’m proud of my son. Learn to look beyond the dimples and see my 7-year-old as he truly is: precious, worthy, bipolar.” — Katrina Lott

 Meme: "I'm proud of my son. Learn to look beyond the dimples and see my 7-year-old as he truly is: precious, worthy, bipolar."

*Some answers have been edited and shortened for clarity and brevity.

18 Messages for People Who View Medicating Mental Illness as a Weakness


Going on medication for any health concern or condition is not a decision to take lightly.

Going on medication for a mental illness, however, is a decision often muddled with stigma and guilt. For those who think they can “push through” the symptoms of mental illness, taking medication might feel like giving in. And according to the Association for Psychological Science, about 40 percent of Americans with serious mental illness don’t receive any type of care.

Medication certainly doesn’t need to be a part to everyone’s mental illness recovery, but when making important decisions like how to best manage your mental illness, shame and stigma shouldn’t be a factor.

To better understand the issue, we asked our Mighty readers what they would say to someone who’s hesitant to take medication for mental health. Keep in mind, the below is based on each person’s personal experience. If you are considering going on or off a medication, please consult a professional.

Here’s what they had to say:  

1. “Having a mental illness is like walking through knee-deep snow. You can get where you’re going with enough effort, but it’s slow going and exhausting. Medication is like wearing snowshoes. It alone won’t get you where you’re going, but at least will put you on top of the snow where you can walk with much more ease.” — Jenalyn Cloward Barton

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2. “It’s a scary decision. A big decision. A decision I’m glad I made, for myself and for my son. We are different people now thanks to medication. For us, it was worth the risk.” — A Legion for Liam

3. “Medication is only one part of symptom management, but sometimes it’s an essential part.”– Michelle Caldwell

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4. “Medicine is there to help you. The stigma against it may be scary, but you deserve all the help you can get. Don’t be afraid to accept help.” — Emma Wozny

5. “If you wouldn’t hesitate to take medication for a heart condition or an infection, why hesitate to take medication for mental illness? You don’t have to suffer, so why should you?” — Mirella Joy

6. “Depending on your specific mental health issue, medication can mean the difference between life and death, day and night, rest and no rest.” — Peter M. Jansen

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7. “I wouldn’t be alive today without meds. The first time I started antidepressants, it took about four weeks, but I woke up one day and it was like the sun had risen in my mind after years of night. I could make decisions, advocate for myself and I was still, in every way, me.” — Genevieve Oliveira

8. “You should always be hesitant before trying a new medication, but this is with all medications for all illnesses. You need to ask if the risks outweigh the benefits.” — Carrie Reinboldt

9. “Taking medication for a mental illness does not mean you’re weak, broken or crazy. It could be the best step to start a happier life.” — Stephanie Holloway

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10. “Medication can level the playing field so you can get in the game of life. Then therapy gives you the tools to play!” — Lesley Nord

11. “I was on medication after medication, one after another, for many years, but I’ve been medication-free for about 10 years now. But what do they have to lose by giving the medication a chance? Whether you choose to take medication or be medication free, without saying yes that first time it’s hard to make an informed decision.” — Kristin Cottrill

12. “Medication can help you get through the fog.” — Sheila Carter

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13. “The worst side effects you might experience or the most hate-filled judgment you might be subjected could be nothing compared to feeling helpless, hopeless and tortured for the rest of your life — or even worse, losing your life before it’s your time.” — Mariann Noonan Wilson

14. “You will probably need to work through your issues with a counselor, but sometimes medication can get you to the point where walking through the door and opening your mouth is possible. It gives you the foothold to take that first step to get back on solid ground.” — Tristen Wuori

15. “You can’t treat the body from the neck down.” — Shelby Golden

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16. “It may take a while to find the right medicine, the right doses, the right combinations, but the process is worth it once you find stability.” — Jennifer Lauren Welch

17. “You don’t break an ankle and keep walking on it; you use a crutch so it can heal. Medicine can be a crutch until you’re strong enough to heal on your own.” — Savanna Smith

18. “Without medication, mental illness can be like fighting a long battle without a weapon.” — Deanna Yourgans

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*Some answers have been edited and shortened

Editor’s note: These answers are based on personal experience and shouldn’t be taken as professional advice. Talk to your doctor before starting on any medication.

7 Inspiring Quotes From Athletes Who Live With Mental Illness


If you think you have nothing in common with professional athletes, think again. Mental illness can affect anyone, even our athletic heroes who go for the gold. But mental illness can be especially hard for athletes to talk about because they’re not supposed to show signs of “weakness.”

But some athletes have openly discussed their mental health issues, proving strength and mental illness can go hand-in-hand.

Here are seven inspiring things athletes have said about mental health: 

1. “It took putting one foot in front of the other every single day to get through it to the point where I made it back on the team and won a gold medal in 2008. You’re always going to survive the pain of loss.” — Hope Solo, USA, soccer, on depression

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2. “I know talking about mental health problems is a difficult subject matter to many people, but I hope me being honest about my illness offers others some support and helps people realize they are not alone. I have made a full recovery now, but felt a break from the pressures of competing professionally was necessary for my mental health.” — Jack Green, Great Britain, track and field, on depression

3.I remember looking at myself in the mirror and wondering where the Olympic Athlete went. She was still there, but I had to find her. I had to learn how to appreciate all aspects of myself — including accepting myself as someone who lives with a mental illness. Bipolar disorder is not all of who I am, but learning to live with it has impacted who I have become.” — Amy Gamble, USA, hand ball, on bipolar disorder

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4.A lot of people have to accept that psychological and physical injuries are at the same level of intensity. They can do the same level of damage to somebody’s self confidence and their ability to perform.” — Oliver Bone, Canada, sailing, on depression

5. “Mental health is not a very easy thing to talk about in sports. It’s not perceived as very masculine. We’re so trained to be “mentally tough,” in sports. To show weakness, we’re told, in so many words, is to deserve shame. But I am here to show weakness. And I am not ashamed.” — Mardy Fish, USA, tennis player, on anxiety

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6. “Today, guys, I take my medicine every day, and I try to inspire others to do the same. Because I finally listened,” Charles Haley, football, on bipolar disorder

7.Nobody wants to feel dependent on something. Nobody wants to think she can’t be in control, especially an athlete. But we can’t control everything.” — Wendy Williams, USA, diving, on depression

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Artist Who Lives With Anxiety Reimagines Mental Illnesses as Monsters


Instead of living in fear of his anxiety, U.K.-based artist Toby Allen decided to draw it out, as if it were a monster. He found the act helpful in dealing with his mental health issues, so he embarked on a project to draw other mental illnesses as well.

The project originated from imagining my own anxieties as monsters and finding it to be a cathartic and healing process to draw them,” Allen told The Huffington Post. “It made them feel weaker and I was able to look at my own anxiety in a comical way. I wanted to expand upon this idea and draw other representations of mental illnesses that could help people in the same way it helped me.”

Allen called his project “Real Monsters.”

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Courtesy of Toby Allen

“Real Monsters” features illustrations of how Allen imagines well-known mental illnesses like depression and schizophrenia, as well as lesser known conditions like body dysmorphic disorder and selective mutism. The images also come with descriptions.

The artwork is not at all intended to make light of these conditions but instead is intended to give these intangible mental illnesses some substance, raise awareness and make them appear more manageable as physical entities,” Allen wrote on his site.

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Courtesy of Toby Allen

Allen hopes people who live with mental illness can relate to the work and that it can help them see their mental illness in a new, potentially more manageable light, HuffPost reported. Allen told the outlet that since he first started posting these drawings on Tumblr in 2013, he’s received hundreds of messages of thanks from people who have found the project helpful.

See more of Allen’s “Real Monsters” below:

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Courtesy of Toby Allen
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Courtesy of Toby Allen
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Courtesy of Toby Allen
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You can buy prints of “Real Monsters” here.

h/t Bored Panda

What Your Child's Therapist Wants You To Know


Dear Parents,

I just met you today. We spent an hour together discussing your child, your parenting, your life and your struggles. We came up with a plan for how to help your child, and maybe we made another appointment. An hour isn’t long enough.

This is what I wish you knew:

I wish you knew that I’m a parent too. I wish you knew my kids aren’t perfect, and neither am I. I wish you knew I’m not judging you for any of your parenting choices, and I don’t think you’ve ruined your kid. I wish you knew the extent of poor parenting I’ve seen, and how I think you’re doing just fine.

I wish you knew that I trust you. I know I’m an expert in my field, but you’re the expert of your child. I will never know him as well as you. I may see her for 50 minutes a week, but you’re parenting her the other 10,030 minutes. I trust you when you tell me what she needs. I trust you when you say a strategy won’t work for her, and I want to hear more about why. 

I wish you knew if I think your child may have a diagnosis, I really think about how to talk to you about it. I know that information is powerful and can be helpful, but also harmful. I am intentional with my language in an effort to be sensitive. I try to think about how I would want to hear this.

I wish you knew I want your family to see success. My job is more than just a paycheck to me. I spend time outside of session reading, researching, planning and preparing for you and your child. My job is challenging and at times draining, but coming to work fills me with hopeful energy. I love the work I do and the people I work with. I genuinely hope things improve for you, and I want to work with you.

There’s a saying in the mental health world, “If you think you’ve ruined your child, you probably have. If you think you haven’t, you definitely have.” I wish you knew I think that’s true for all of us. The only parents I worry about are the ones who think they have it all together.

We’re in this together.

Signed,

Your Child’s Therapist

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