7 Ways to Recognize Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Despite the negative connotations associated with the word “suicide,” today is all about recognizing the efforts being put toward prevention, hope, and healing, and inspiring people to bring fresh energy and ideas to suicide prevention work. This time around, I thought I’d share some ideas for how people might recognize World Suicide Prevention Day through action, education, and awareness.

  1. Learn about suicide
    Take a few minutes to read about suicide and suicide prevention on a local, national, or global scale. Familiarize yourself general information and numbers, then delve into the narratives of those affected by suicide. Learn about suicide prevention efforts and the awesome work that people of all ages, from all parts of the world are doing to prevent suicide.

    Some material to get you started:
    Suicide Statistics (from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
    Suicide Prevention (from Helpguide.org)
    Suicide (info from the National Institute of Mental Health)
    Split Image (very powerful article by Kate Fagan, ESPNW)

  2. Spread awareness
    Talk to someone you love about suicide prevention. Today gives you the perfect reason to jump into casual conversation about a topic that is often hard to bring up. Share an article. Retweet a fact. Post the number to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline on your newsfeed.

    unnamed
    Miami University/Oxford Out of the Darkness Walk, 2016
  3. Share resources
    Know the number to a local crisis hotline? Think other students could use the link to your school’s mental health resources? SHARE THEM. Passive spreading of awareness isn’t the best approach for every social cause, but it’s an effective way to reach people who may be in need of help, but are afraid to reach out. Showing your support for certain mental health resources helps eliminate the stigma around asking for help and may even cause others to recognize you as a safe person to reach out to in times of crisis or distress. I’d also suggest taking a few minutes to learn how to help someone who might be experiencing thoughts of suicide.

    Some resources:
    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255; for Spanish: 1-888-628-9454
    Crisis Text Line: Text 741741
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline: 1-800-662-4357; more geared toward people fighting substance abuse
    The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386; text and chat options also available
    You’re Not Alone: People & Organizations Supporting Minority Mental Health (blog post)
    5 Mental Health Blogs Created For People Of Color

  4. Tell your story
    If suicide or mental illness have impacted you in some way and you feel comfortable talking about it, consider sharing your story. Resources, articles, and statistics are awesome, but the impact of a personal anecdote should not be underestimated. In addition to spreading awareness, your story could bring hope and healing to others and help some feel less alone in their journeys.

    Helpful link:
    Talking and Writing About Suicide: Why It Matters, What to Say

  5. Donate
    If you have the means, consider donating to a mental health or suicide prevention related organization. Most groups will take money, but some might have a list of needed material items. A quick internet search will reveal countless organizations and initiatives, serving a wide range of populations at varying scales. All of the organizations listed under #6 accept donations.
    .
  6. Take action
    Find a way to get involved with an organization or initiative on a local or national level. If time permits, you might consider volunteering with a crisis hotline or text line. Don’t have time for long-term involvement? Search for opportunities to participate in suicide prevention events that occur on a specific day. Especially consider participating in an Out of the Darkness Walk in your area. Can’t find a way to take action? Start something yourself!

    Some organizations:
    American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
    The Trevor Project
    Trans Lifeline
    To Write Love On Her Arms
    Active Minds
    Crisis Text Line

  7. Practice self-care
    Learning and talking about a difficult topic like suicide can be a lot. Make time to care for you! Here are 134 self-care ideas.
Advertisements

To-Do

The past several weeks were hectic as I learned to balance a new job with a new city, new people, and a new school. While the balancing act isn’t quite perfect, life feels 1,000 times more together since I recently put everything on paper.

I love planners and calendars to an unhealthy extent, but it usually takes a minute for me to figure out exactly how I want to organize them each school year. Due to my own indecisiveness, I currently own four different 2017-2018 planners. After a trip to Target with $15 to spend, I finally nailed it.

unnamed-3

I found a simple weekly/monthly planner on sale in the stationary aisle and picked up some cute sticky notes, page flags, and a paperclip-shaped bookmark in the dollar section. While I’ve always envied people who bullet journal, I don’t have that kind of time or artistic skill.

Color-coded tasks and the dollar section extras add just enough flair for the planner to look fancy while requiring far less effort than bullet journaling.

unnamed

Having all class assignments, work deadlines, running goals, and appointments in one spot puts me at ease. Today consisted much less of trying to remember a million things I might forget, and much more of actually getting stuff done. Who knew a simple planner could have such a profound impact?

Hit the Ground Running

I miss being an athlete more than I can convey in words. I recently watched part of a practice at the Indianapolis Rowing Center and was overcome with nostalgia. IRC membership is a bit out of my price range, but I realized I could find the same structure and goal-focused mindset through running.

Last week, I began running again, using a training plan found in an old issue of Runner’s World. I later switched to a different plan, found online, because it was a better fit for my goals and starting ability. Having a non-work-or-school affiliated goal and a set schedule for reaching that goal helps fill the empty space that rowing used to occupy, and I love that it gives me something else to think (and talk!) about.

unnamed-2.jpg
What runners use to fuel their bodies is half the battle.

I also realized that in being an athlete, I had to start eating like an athlete again. I made a trip to Trader Joe’s in pursuit of some healthy, but not-overpriced food and left with a week’s worth of nutritious ingredients for what I normally spend on weekly grocery trips. I hope that along with the endorphins, eating better will also cause me to feel better.

unnamed-1

While my end-goal is to run a 10K, I haven’t yet signed up for a race. Still, I’m excited to see where the next two months take me, both physically and mentally.

Seeking Freedom

This post is the first I’ve published in a long time. The past several weeks have been busy and I went through a period of doubt re: the continuation of this blog. I love this blog and the stories that it holds, but it feels so negative. A lot of the things I post are deep and pessimistic. I think about the kinds of blogs that showcase recipes and adventures, and part of me wants this site to become one of those.

On the other hand, absolute optimism feels disingenuous, which is not what I’m going for. If anything, my posts have been honest and I’d like to preserve that quality. However, I feel like this blog gives an incomplete picture of who I am because my mindset isn’t all doom and gloom. I use this site as a platform to speak up about injustices and significant personal experiences, but it does’t always have to be that deep. I don’t know where to start, so this post is about to take an emotional turn as well.

I’ve spent the past few days listening to Kesha’s “Learn to Let Go” on repeat because every single word fits perfectly into my brain like a puzzle piece. A few posts back, I talked about forgiveness and my tendency to hold onto everything without ever really moving past it. Kesha’s song is all about doing the opposite.

As a mental health advocate, I talk about overcoming, but as a human, I dwell like no other and I drag others down with me. Reaching out for help when I’m struggling is perfectly okay, but constantly inundating people with my woes and life troubles is just tiresome…for them and for me. I’m exhausted from talking about the hard stuff. Sometimes it’s necessary to talk about, but I bring it up to an extent that prevents me from focusing on all of the good in the world.

I’m trying hard to let go of everything that holds me down, whether it be mistakes that I made or ways in which other people harmed me. We all mess up; we all cause others hurt without meaning to. It’s part of being human. We’re also capable of moving past those things, but in a society that preaches drama and grudge-holding, it takes a lot of work to do so.

The university where I work is focusing on the value of reconciliation during this academic year. For work, I watched a video of a nun talking about the importance reconciliation. She separated it from forgiveness, explaining that both are necessary, but that forgiveness is a conscious decision, while reconciliation is the idea of truly and completely letting go. In other words, letting go to the point where no hard feelings come with the memories of people or situations that knocked us down.

I want to get better at this. I want to let go – truly and completely – of the stuff I carry on my shoulders. It has no use there. All it does is add negative energy to my life and to the world, especially when I project those things to other people. Do I want to stop telling my story? No, of course not. But do I want to stop dwelling on the hurt and the struggle? Absolutely.

It’s a work in progress. I’m trying to figure out how to reframe past difficulties and move forward from them, whether that means using them as springboards to launch ahead or tossing them over my shoulder and leaving them behind. It’s complicated and nuanced, and I’m not going to do it perfectly, but I’m really going to try.

As the lyrics go: “I think it’s time to practice what I preach / Exercise the demons inside me / Whoa, gotta learn to let it go.”

Micropost: Radical Kindness

I spent the past week with the letters “rk” penned on my hand in black ink, a constant reminder to practice what I call “radical kindness.” To me, being radically kind means seeing the light in everyone, expecting the best of them, reconciling, forgiving, and expressing genuine care, always. Some aspects come more easily for me than others, which is why I need the reminder to pause and think before I say or act.

Radical kindness does not mean ignoring pain, anger, or disappointment; it does not mean letting others do hurtful things without being held accountable. It means acknowledging those things, but not holding onto them. It means showing just as much care and compassion for people who are hard to love as we do for those we love easily. That’s what makes it radical.

Radical kindness is an active and deliberate choice to put more love into the world, especially when it’s the most challenging to do so.

What I Didn’t Expect to Learn in My First Weeks as a Resident Director

It’s been too long since my last post and even though tons of stuff has happened over the past few weeks, I’ve struggled to pinpoint a new topic to write about. I began working as a Resident Director (RD) in the middle of last month and just finished up my first week training RAs. I’ve learned an incredible amount – both things I expected and things I did not – since starting this new job.

Below are some of the lessons and realizations I encountered unexpectedly these first few weeks.

1. Being older doesn’t necessarily make transition easier.
My transition from high school to college was rough. Even with the rowing team as a source of instant friendship, it took until my second semester of freshman year before I felt 100% comfortable. Going into this new chapter of my life in Indianapolis, I thought the transition would be easier; I was used to living away from home and had already started to familiarize myself with the area and with the people here. However, about three days after moving in, I became shockingly homesick.

springst_cropped
Morning in Oxford, Ohio

I didn’t long for my childhood house in the same way that I did at the start of undergrad; instead I desperately wanted to be back in Oxford, which had become synonymous with “home” over the previous four years. At first, I felt embarrassed for being homesick at 22, but I’ve come to reason that there are huge changes happening and I have every right to miss what I left behind.

2. Human connection is critical.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have Nora, my friend and former roommate from Miami, living in the area. I can’t fathom moving to a place without knowing anyone and it’s been great to spend time with someone with whom I already have an established friendship. I was also lucky that my first and second weeks brought visits from my friends, Ingrid and Katie, who provided some familiarity amidst the change.

Still, it’s been tough not having a large group of friends…..or even people who I can spend a couple hours with for coffee…around. I know I’ll find my people once classes begin later this month, but in the meantime, I’m dealing with a severe hug shortage.

3. Support systems are vital.
This relates closely to the previous point on human connection, but is worth its own subheading because it entails a step further than simply connecting. Know who you can rely on to be there for you when you need it most. Include people you work with (it’s nice to be able to talk to someone without having to re-explain your job), but branch beyond that. Friends from work can be great, but sometimes it’s nice to have outside perspectives.

I’m beyond thankful for the support I’ve received from college friends, mentors, student affairs professionals, former supervisors/professors/colleagues, people I met during grad school interviews, and family as I work to orient myself, find connection, and understand my new role.

4. Mistakes are not tattoos.
The mindset that mistakes are permanent marks against us is something I’ve struggled with for a very long time. I rarely believe another person’s mistakes tarnish them permanently, but I often tell myself that my mistakes are there to stay. I once explained this to my therapist, saying I imagined my mistakes and wrongdoings like little black tally marks that appeared on my skin and could not be removed.

But mistakes are not black marks on the skin; they’re not the first things people see when they look at one another. And they’re not permanent. I’ve made hella mistakes during my first three weeks here and there are many more to come, but I’m blown away by the power of forgiveness. People are okay with (and actually prefer) me being a human. The biggest slip-up I had was trying to be anything but.

5. It’s okay to say what’s on your mind.
This is another big one for me because I was raised in a family that doesn’t spend much time talking about feelings. The correct answer to “How are you?” is almost always “Good” or some variation thereof. It’s taken a lot of conscious thought to get into a headspace where I share exactly what I’m thinking and feeling with colleagues and other supportive people who are genuinely interested in knowing those things, but I’m getting better at it.

6. God is there and He listens.
This is not unsolicited religious advice; it’s simply relevant to my journey and my experience. Some parts of these past few weeks have been amazing and some parts have been rocky, but God has been there through all of it. He has provided love, guidance, and patience beyond measure. He’s been with me at my loneliest and has forgiven me when I’ve messed up. Despite all of the changes happening within me and around me, God remains constant.

Will I Come Out to My RAs?

I’m going to begin working as a Resident Director (RD) at a Catholic university in Indiana this summer; my start date is 15 days from now. As I prepare for the move and for the many weeks of training and adjustment to follow, I keep wondering if – and how – I’ll tell my RAs about my queer/trans identities.

Some RAs have already asked about my pronouns and have speculated that I might be queer, but I haven’t confirmed those suspicions. I don’t know if I want to.

At the start of my grad school journey, I decided to enter the next two years as my authentic self. That meant wearing neckties to interviews, asking that interviewers use they/them pronouns, and explaining how my identities influenced my background and my desire to go into student affairs.

My co-grads and other students in the program know I’m queer, but sharing that information among colleagues is different from disclosing to my supervisees. Telling my RAs comes with the risk of compromising our staff dynamic and respect for me as a supervisor. These same risks exist with regards to classmates and co-workers, but maturity and professionalism are expected among us at a caliber that some RAs may not be able to achieve, simply because of where they stand in their development as humans.

However, I also know how important it could be to RAs – and other students – to know of an openly queer staff member on campus. Much of my identity development stemmed from conversations I had as an RA with one of my supervisors, who was also queer. Aside from teaching me about queer culture, encouraging me to think about intersectionality, and helping me explore my own experiences and identities, this supervisor provided one of the first opportunities I had to interact with another queer person in a professional setting. Most importantly, I knew they had my back.

I so badly want to be all of the things that my supervisor was for my own students, but I need to be careful in this new environment, among new people. At the moment, I really don’t know much about what the university climate is like for queer students and employees – that’s something I’ll have to experience for myself – but I plan on approaching it in the same way I do most new situations: cautiously.

While I don’t plan to tell my RAs upfront that I’m gay and non-binary, I won’t compromise living my truth among them. I’ll continue to sport menswear on the daily and I have my “I’m An Ally!” button and my miniature rainbow flag packed and ready to display in my office. That way, when somebody needs to talk, I’ll be ready for that conversation and prepared to say, “Me too.”