Content Warning: This piece contains mentions of suicide.
Having real conversations saved my life, literally. To start, I am a multiple suicide attempt survivor. Struggling with chronic suicidal thoughts and not knowing what to do with them is extremely exhausting. I constantly thought that no one cared about me and that I was alone, even when I was surrounded by people. Throughout high school and college, I was obsessed with extracurricular activities and trying to be the best of the best. Most people wouldn’t see me as the stereotypical depressed girl. But for years, I struggled and still have moments of deep depression and suicidal ideation. I am a person that goes to therapy and while it does help, and we do have real conversations, there is something special when your loved ones show up for you.
In the moments where I could not get out of bed or when I had to go to the hospital, I found the support I needed. My friends, family, teachers, and everyone in between, all showed up in different ways that have impacted me to this day. Loved ones took shifts to watch over me when there was a wait, and I couldn’t go to the hospital for another week. A friend drove me to the hospital when I, myself, couldn’t because it was unsafe. A high school teacher sat with me for over an hour to see how I was really doing. My RA made a difficult phone call that I couldn’t. A friend brought Lay’s dill pickle chips during visiting hours, and we just talked and talked. I have had people sit with me and watch The Office when I was simply too tired to cry or talk anymore. At another point, a friend of mine sat with me in her kitchen and said “I can tell you’re not doing okay, what can I do? What can we do to get you help?” And now during hard weeks, I know I can always look forward to Active Minds meetings or dinner with friends. I am lucky to have my girlfriend support me every single day in my mental health journey.
There were times when I needed to talk with others but simply couldn’t due to my own shame and thoughts of feeling like a burden. As I look back on these moments and people, I hear the words, “I am here for you.” By showing up, my loved ones created an automatic ripple effect. You can too. When you say “How are you really feeling?” or “I believe you” you can end the stigma that surrounds mental health and promote help-seeking.
50% of us will experience a mental health condition in our lifetime. In May, we recognize mental health awareness but some of us think it doesn’t apply to us, but it does. Not everyone has a mental illness but we all have mental health. It’s time that we show up for ourselves and make our mental health a priority. Even if you are not struggling at this moment, someone you know likely is. We’re all fighting hidden battles. It can seem small but by providing a safe space for someone to take off their emotional mask and have real conversations we can support, empower, and lift each other up.
Many people worry about saying or doing the wrong thing, so they end up saying and doing nothing. Active Minds has an easy three-step guide to these difficult conversations called V-A-R. You don’t have to be an expert to help, you just need to be there. This tool can be used for everyday conversations and challenges to let the people in your life know that their feelings are valid, they are loved, and help is available.
Words are important, but so are actions. This month, take the Active Minds’ Here For You Pledge to let others know that you’re committed to continuing the conversation on mental health. A conversation can make someone’s day, change someone’s outlook, and save someone’s life. It saved mine.