I am so grateful to have a community partner like McShin Foundation and I’m honored to have been invited to present at the Care Talks event focused on solutions for addiction.
I am still quite hoarse from gamma knife radiation (voice slowly improving) in this video and struggling at times to get sentences out above a whisper. But I got it done! Thank you Tim Alexander and team for shooting the videos.
See other inspirational Care Talks here.
I had hoped to be standing before you today telling you about my success story, Charles.
But 2 years ago, that dream, along with all the other hopes and dreams I had for my struggling youngest child ended when we got the news that he killed himself.
My 20-year-old son Charles was the funniest most popular kid in school. He was an up and coming rap artist and a creative genius. He’d become addicted to heroin in the last 6 months of his life, reaching for something to make him feel better and killed himself while going through withdrawal.
After his death, no one talked about him. What’s more, no one talks about the connection between addiction, mental illness and suicide—often treating them separately when they need to be treated together.
I was tired of the silence and tired of the implied shame. I decided it was time to get rid of that sorry tradition so I wrote an article in the Times dispatch, ‘Honoring my son who died by suicide is not the end of my story’ which was the #1 article for 2016.
And in February of 2016, I started a blog to help me work through the most devastating loss of my life called Emotionally Naked. I write and talk about all the things everyone else was ashamed to talk about: Addiction, mental illness, suicide, grief.
To date that little blog has had over a quarter million visitors in less than 18 months. Over 100 thousand people have shared those stories on their social media pages. If you would have told me that people would be sharing posts about suicide addiction, grief and mental illness on their facebook pages, I would have told you were crazy. But they do and it’s working in ways I could have never imagined.
In May of 2016 I wrote a blog called the final 48 hours. In that blog I detailed the last two days before my son’s death and how I felt. When I wrote it, I felt ashamed of revealing all of my ugly naked momma grief. I wondered why I wrote it and why people were reading it. Until I got a message from a young lady named Lauren.
She told me she had been thinking about killing herself and what she had read in that story had inspired her to reach out for help. She is a success story today and I feel like somehow like I am part of that.
If not for the sharing of that story, it would not have reached her. That’s when it hit me. A village of sharing really can save lives. I had inspiration to keep writing and sharing. And now sharing your stories, too.
A few months after writing that post, it struck me that my son probably googled the phrase “how to hang yourself.” So, I wrote a post with that title for the express purpose of ranking on the first page of google. Since I am a digital marketing and social media expert, I had an idea how to make that happen. And I have succeeded in reaching page 1 most days in multiple countries around the world.
I was right. A lot people google that phrase. Most log in and leave since it does not have directions on how to do what it says. 445 people have gone to that page in the last 30 days. 90% leave right away and 10% stay.
A few stay. They stop and read. Some for minutes. Some for hours even days. From all over the world.
On that page, I have the suicide hotline, crisis text line and a link to suicide hotlines from all over the world. And put videos on that page by my son. Videos that others have told me helped them.
In my statistics I can see that people from other countries have clicked the link to suicide hotlines in other countries.
I also get comments and messages. I will tell you about one of from Matt.
“I’ve been reading this blog since last Sunday when I came across it googling the exact same thing as the heading of this post.
I watched this video of him and it gave me goosebumps. The posts here made me cry for 4 hours straight reading. I can tell you are honored to be his mother, and you should be.
I personally struggle with anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and addiction. I have been off heroin since December 2014
I have 2 young kids that help– but sometimes…I’m ashamed to say, not even they can keep the darkness from haunting me.
Today I’m ok enough to want to try and fight another day, to comment here and let you know that you made an impact on someone.
I think this place is special. Like your boy.”
Oh my God he has two kids. He didn’t kill himself. Because of what he read. I cried when I saw that message. And my husband did too although he might not want me to tell you that.
What I have realized is this—your stories and mine are saving lives. They are giving people permission to talk about mental illness, suicide, addiction and the village is growing.
To tame this addiction epidemic, it will take more than programs.
More than money.
It will take a community of love, compassion and understanding. One that you have helped me cultivate on Emotionally Naked in memory of my son, Charles.