Today, I’ll be participating in the Out of the Darkness walk for suicide awareness, prevention, and support hosted by the AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention), along with a small group of friends from my local sangha Be Here Now.
Today: I walk for my friend Sean. I walk for my friend Scott. I walk for my childhood friend Mitch. Three young men who died by suicide. I walk for all those who are struggling. I walk for those who cannot. And I will walk with love in my heart for all of them, knowing full well that we are all in this thing together.
I started getting involved in awareness and advocacy work around the topic of suicide the same way most of us get involved with anything: personal experience. Most of us don’t choose at random what topics to get more involved in, they choose us.
During the course of one summer a few years ago, I had three friends, all female and all part of our local sangha, spend time in the neurobehavioral unit here in town. Each were placed there by health care professionals, for varying lengths of time. After that, the topic of suicide started appearing more in people’s sharings during our sangha on Monday nights. The power of sharing circles at sangha never ceases to inspire me. When one person can open up and be vulnerable, it gives others permission to do the same. And once the door is open, it cannot be closed.
Backing up a bit, a few months prior to the hospitalization of three of my friends, a young man who sat with our sangha died by suicide, in 2016. And somewhere in this timeline – before or after I can’t recall – I flew out to help care for a close family member who was struggling with suicidal ideation.
Given this uprising of personal experience with suicide, I tacked on an additional evening as part of the Mindful Community Conversations series I’ve been organizing at the Open Way Mindfulness Center here in Missoula, MT for the past 4-years. I found a suicide attempt survivor who was willing to speak and offer his personal story and in February of 2018, we had a community conversation centered around suicide. By tragic happenstance, a few days before we hosted this conversation, a close childhood friend of my husband’s – and an acquaintance of mine – died by suicide. And remarkably, the father of our friend who died, attended our conversation.
In January of this past year, I served as the Movie Captain with Gathr and brought the film Suicide: The Ripple Effect here to show in Missoula at the Roxy Theater. I arranged a panel of speakers after the film and had local organizations table with info centered around suicide awareness, prevention, and support. It seemed the least I could do.
In the past two years or so, I’ve participated in a few different trainings and events organized by our local chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), in order to better educate myself. I’ve come to learn that there are a lot of myths centered around suicide and a lot of misinformation. And, of course, a lot of stigma and shame.
After the film showing this past January, I thought maybe my involvement with this subject had come to a close. Not that I would stop being active in educating myself and doing what I could to de-stigmatize this topic for others in our sangha, both of which I find important to keep doing, but that maybe I was done with leading the charge in planning and spearheading events.
Then, last month, I was stopped in my car behind a city bus at a red light a few blocks away from my house. On the back of the bus was an advertisement for an Out of the Darkness Walk sponsored by the AFSP. When I got home, I looked it up online and after a quick glance at my schedule to make sure I was free, I clicked on the button that would sign me up to captain a team for the walk. I acted on instinct. I was compelled to sign up before giving it very much thought at all. It just felt like the right thing to do.
I’m not sure how many people from our sangha will show up to join us for the walk today. I’ve heard from 3 people, so including myself there will at least be 4 of us.
My main-thread teaching comes to mind: There is no such thing as an insignificant moment. We have to start somewhere in regards to any sort of changework we involve ourselves in. And it starts with each and every one of us.
For more information: