How will you help prevent suicide?
Do you remember where you were when you heard Kate Spade had committed suicide? What about Anthony Bourdain? How about Robin Williams? I remember all three. In fact, I remember them very well because it takes me back to the moment I learned my father had committed suicide.
It was a warm sunny day in Northern California, March 12, 2003. I was wearing a lavender v-neck sweater, black skirt, and black wedges. It was still early in the day and I had settled into work. While enjoying my morning coffee I decided to call my sister, who was also at work, to see if she had talked to dad. A few days had passed since we’d heard from him. My sister thought for sure he’d be calling any day now to check in. That was the routine. We had no idea in a few more minutes our lives would be forever changed when a call came in that was anything but routine.
When my sister’s work phone rang and she put her cellphone down but not on mute. What I heard first was her usual phone greeting. The next thing I heard was my sister screaming. The pain of such suddenly shocking news had ripped through her body and that is what came out. Screams, accompanied by tears because her heart had shattered.
Immediately I knew what the screaming meant. I stayed on the line as if with each scream she was telling me something more. Then, after what seemed like an eternity, she got on the phone and told me what I already knew, “Dad is dead!” The only response I had was, “I’m on my way.”
While I can recall the details of that day perfectly, down to the fly on the dashboard in my car that didn’t move no matter how loud my own cry got, the next two weeks are a blur. As me and my sister do, we split the duties of who was going to tell whom. Besides getting a hold of our mother (my dad’s ex-wife) and my brother, both on the opposite coast, we had to tell his remaining living siblings, all 12 of them. Sadly, or maybe for the best, the only real memories I have are the reactions of my family members as I shared the news over and over again.
My father was only 50 when he died. I keep getting older and yet he never ages. This past, August 9, 2018, I celebrated what would have been his 66th birthday.
September is National Suicide Awareness Month. A month that has a lot of meaning for me. Not only do both my children celebrate birthdays in September, it’s also the month I became a double suicide survivor. On September 26, 2012 I became the lonely member of another exclusive “club”. I’m a suicide survivor of both my father and my husband.
It’s a strange thing to have in common with my children. I’ve never met anyone else like me and I hope I never do. Being a suicide survivor connects you with people in a very different way. The bond is immediate but not always something talked about because suicide can feel very shameful to talk about whether you are the person contemplating suicide or the survivor.
As a survivor that’s not how I want to be identified. I don’t want to be viewed as the person whose father and husband committed suicide. True, it’s a fact. However, I’m more than that. Suicide is not merely a mental illness. It’s simply an illness. An illness that can be treated and even prevented much like many other illnesses. Yet, you don’t get the same responses or reactions when you mention the word suicide instead of something like cancer. Another reason for why it can be shameful.
While I wasn’t necessarily ashamed of the way my father and husband died it wasn’t something I broadcasted. In the days after suicide there is a lot of talk and chatter. Awareness is brought up. Phone numbers to call are shared. Then, after the dust settles, the natural course of life is to move on. How many posts do you still see about Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, or Robin Williams? I don’t want to be reminded every day although I could never possibly forget. Still, what do you do when suicide is on the rise?
We are bombarded by cliches and quotes that are magically supposed to make things all better. Some would argue we live in the greatest country in the world and question why anyone could possibly be when compared to those who have so little.
Given the celebrities who have taken their own lives you should know it’s not about money, fame, followers, lifestyle. When someone, anyone, is in mental pain none of those things matter. Suicide doesn’t care if you are poor or rich. If you have many friends and admirers or none. Nor can you look at someone and know if they are at risk. So what do you do? You acknowledge, talk about it in the open to continually educate yourself and others, and you bring happy back.
Going through two suicides my life felt like a huge storm. After the storm and rain ended I saw the sun and even a rainbow. I have never met my rainbow and yet our bond is strong. You see, we share something in common. We both had incredibly loving and amazing fathers who committed suicide.
I moved on as I should have and do what I can to help prevent suicide. I looked for the sun after the storm. Tonya Farrens, well, she became my rainbow. She’s the rainbow of Bringing Happy Back for everyone.
While Tonya and I are excited to be friends and have one another. The goal is not to have others join our “club”. Instead, we want to help PREVENT the suffering of others. Tonya is hitting the road to help prevent suicide in September during National Suicide Prevention Month. She’s visiting college campuses in Nevada, Oregon, California, Washington, Utah, and Colorado to promote and encourage participation with the Bringing Happy Back campaign. Additionally, on January 31, 2019, the day Tonya’s father would have been 73 there will be a one of a kind event in Las Vegas to “Raise Vibes. Save Lives.” The concert will be streamed to over 200 campuses nationwide.
What will you do for Suicide Prevention Month? You could do a lot! Whether it is sponsoring or partnering with the Bringing Happy Back Experience or sharing this opportunity with others you could help prevent suicide. Instead of sharing a post about a loved one or admirer you’ll miss forever, share something happy. Help Tonya with the Bringing Happy Back Experience and know you’re helping to prevent suicide not only in September but year round!
For more information on how you can help prevent suicide with the Bringing Happy Back Experience, have Tonya come to your campus, and take part in the live event January, 31, 2019 contact Tonya at via her website or view the opportunities still available here.