I was honored this evening to present my story and my social media based suicide prevention program to the Swift Creek YMCA group in Chesterfield County. Before my very eyes, I saw stigma leave the building. Tosha Frye, fellow Beacon Tree board member, joined me and told her personal story and delivered her message of hope.
I met teens willing to reach out to others. Some of them spoke up and told their stories. We cried and we laughed. They are a very special and diverse group with great leadership. It’s a service club that takes their role very seriously.
It was so rewarding.
I got to remember Charles Rogers, Drew Martin, Cal Reilly and Maggie Moyler, all of whom died by suicide. And we honored Logan Neale who suffered from an eating disorder, mental illness and suicidal ideation but died in a truck crash in late summer of 2016. All of these kids grew up in Chesterfield County.
I talked about the fact that 30% of kids that go to school go every day without a single human being saying hello or acknowledging their existence, creating the isolation that leads to suicide. Bullying is an issue but so is isolation. This generation has seen more death from suicide, more death from overdose and addiction. Too much.
I want them to take charge of this program, own it and put their stamp on it. I am empowering them to run with it while I and other adults serve as support. They can single handedly wipe out stigma and promote connectedness that is so important to suicide prevention.
They’re the ones that got all of us texting within a year. They are the ones that inspired acceptance of the LGBT community and year later same sex marriage was no longer “outlawed.” Teens can influence adults and inspire change.
I am personally dragging suicide into the spotlight so no other parent is standing in the shoes I stand in now. Talking about suicide does not give someone the idea. That is a proven fact by multiple studies.
Thank you to John O’Reilly at the South Richmond Rotary for the connection, to the progressive leaders at the YMCA, Justin Guest and Claire Smith, who had the faith to let me deliver the message that scares everyone else but ultimately saves lives. And to the 25 kids who showed up tonight and listened to what I had to say and were brave enough to share their own stories.
Stay tuned. 🙂