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How One Viral Letter About Suicide Changed My Life

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On a particularly dark night in 2016, my suicidal thoughts were prevalent enough to change into plans and actions. In one last, desperate attempt to stay alive, I reached out to the local suicide hotline. The call lasted about 15 minutes before I hung up in pure frustration. For everything I said, there was a scripted answer. Empathy and compassion were non-existent. I didn’t feel safe and had to guard my words. The last thing I needed was cops pounding on the door.

I was distraught, suicidal, alone, and scared. As I sat on my bed pondering my next move, I became angrier about how crisis lines handle suicidal people. They are trained to ask open-ended questions to encourage conversation, but the replies I heard felt scripted. During this particular call, there wasn’t a drop of sympathy, validation, or compassion. I knew the words I wished to hear, and what would have helped me at the time, so I decided to write them down.

The result was an open letter to anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts or actions. I wanted people to know they’re not alone and left my email in case anyone wished to contact me. The next day I decided to send it to The Mighty, and they published it. I didn’t expect much to come from it,  I was happy to finally be published somewhere.

Little did I know it would go viral.

What followed was surreal. Within the first day of being on The Mighty, emails started to flow in sporadically. Within a month I was answering at least six people a day. People were thanking me for being raw and open with my words, and telling me I saved their lives for at least one more night. Some shared their traumas with me, only needing to be heard and validated.

It’s been six years since I put the letter out there, and in many ways, the letter and all the replies have saved my life on numerous occasions. When I feel purposeless and useless, I reread some of the messages. They remind me I have to stay strong, which reinforces that I’ve still got many people I need to support. I have received thousands of messages and have replied to every single one. To date my letter has roughly two million hits, is translated into multiple languages, and the emails from across the world still come in daily. It saddens me that the numbers keep growing, but I’m astonished and honored that so many people have found comfort and safety in my words.

I want to say thank you to all the people I will never meet who have shared their stories with me, as well as those I’ve been lucky enough to chat with. You’ve all helped me become a stronger, more resilient, and more confident person. The gratitude expressed has touched my heart. Don’t get me wrong, my life is still a daily struggle with suicidal thoughts and depression, but you all keep me fighting. I no longer fight alone, and I try to make sure you don’t either.

So, if you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, please don’t be afraid to reach out. Call or message a friend, family member, a crisis line, or even me. Your track record of surviving your worst days is 100%. Give yourself a pat on the back for that magnificent achievement. You are strong, you are brave, and not alone with your thoughts and feelings. I am proud of you for staying, as I know how hard that can be. You are all beautiful survivors.

Originally published: July 29, 2022
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