Every Day is Awareness for Survivors: It's How We Use It--Suicide Prevention Week 2017

"And the good news is I'm better for the time we spent together and the bad news is you're gone." Diamond Rio

The above lyrics tie my heart in a knot because my brother Scott pointed them out to me in August 2000 after we buried one of our most loved and treasured shared people. Our other brother's very best friend from childhood had completed a suicide, and my entire family was rocked to the core. My brother Scott made me promise I would never even think of doing such a thing as he hugged me fiercely in a too tight grip that I still recall scared me a little. He had that way about him. He loved fiercely and lived vividly.

You may notice the past tense of that statement.

In a terrible twist of our life plot, my brother completed his own suicide on December 2, 2014. It was an absolute shock to my other five siblings and parents. In retrospect, maybe we could pull some signs together here and there, but there were no glaring actions or statements that would signal to us that our annual Thanksgiving feast would be the last time we sat in the blessing of his contagious laughter, boisterous and playful manner, and fierce love.

He is pictured here with my daughters. My oldest is holding out the set of "Old Maid" she brought from home while my youngest is giggling hysterically after the latest tickle torture. 

Knowing what I know now about mental health, signs of suicide, and the connections between those who suffer loss of loved ones to suicide being more apt to attempt, it feels like we missed a large clanging of cymbals and crash of drums to announce what we should have been seeing. My brother had experienced tragic losses of close loved ones in a string. Being eleven years younger than him, there was much I did not know. Our friend Jerry was not his first loss to suicide. Jerry's sister, who was a very dear friend of Scott's, completed a suicide. So did his own best friend. I never knew. Once you learn the statistics associated with related suicide attempts when a person has lost loved ones to suicide, it adds up.

My family and I have loosely fumbled through a variety of explanations for his suicide completion. The emerging research on concussions and their impact provides some solace to my parents. After all, Scott was a hockey player in the 80's and there was a concussive episode that left him in the hospital for days, not recognizing his baby sister's name. Add to that his years on the dirtbike and stories revealed about flips, tie in demolition derby years, a car accident, and a crack to the skull as recent as the year prior to his death, and there seems to be some level of explanation. Right?

The truth is that my brother's death will never be explained. He left no note. He left a hole. One million miles wide and four beautiful daughters and their descendants deep.  Not to mention the rest of us or the hundreds of souls who braved his funeral because he had taught them to skate, make a slap shot, ride a horse, or rope a steer.  Many feel that hole.

If anyone ever tells you that grief eventually recedes, they are lying. The truth is that we hide it, cover it, mask it, and eventually learn to use it.

That is what this post is about tonight. When I should be sleeping to prepare for a full week. The need to write a bit about my brother was staking my eyelids open with the calling, and I knew I had to do it.

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week 2017. Every year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hosts a week for awareness. During this time, they cull a lot of resources, organize benefits, walks, and push out the resources. I am personally grateful to this organization for their message, dedication, and mission. Suicide deaths are preventable. I know this too. For those of us surviving (and that is what some days literally feel like), we exist in the soul splitting truth that our loved ones didn't have to go.

Three of my siblings, parents, and I at an
Out of the Darkness Walk September 2016. 
Out of the Darkness Sept. 2016

In coming months, I intend to be writing more about my own personal and painful losses due to suicide completions. Eventually, we learn to use it. In 2000, I thought the loss of my first crush (ok, obsession) would crush me. Instead, I used it. I got into education due to a decision surrounding that death, and I will never regret it. I am blessed to impact thousands of lives over my lifetime with that pain and the subsequent impact on my life.

In regard to my brother, I have been still hiding, masking, peeking out from the grief. This post is the next step to my journey in using it. While there have been myriad small, but hugely meaningful ways I have used my pain to balm others' in my line of work, there is more I am being called to do.

If you are an educator who has not experienced a brush with suicide loss or attempts or one who has painful triggers of your own, I call you to lean in and learn. There are so many resources that can assist us in engaging with our learning communities around the topic of mental health, and specifically suicide prevention. Below are a list of a few in which I have engaged to start.

In the end, that is enough for tonight. I am asking you to start.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: National Suicide Prevention Week 2017
*Consider joining the hashtag #NSPW17 this week to learn more.

Mental Health First Aid Training: Become trained as an educator on first aid for our students' mental health in addition to their physical health. I was so thankful that AWSA brought this organization in to the middle/high principal's conference a few years back. You can find more information for Mental Health First Aid Training here.

QPR Training: I was fortunate enough to have community resources team up with a school in which I worked to bring this training to all staff. This type of training would be helpful at all ages and stages. The truth is that suicide attempts and completions occur in all demographic groups, and learning more about the statistics as well as steps to take when you are concerned is empowering and life saving! You can find out more about Question. Predict. Refer. (QPR) Training here.

Writing about this personal loss is vulnerable and painful. However, if it helps one person to consider becoming more knowledgeable about suicide prevention, I know I will have used it well.


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