YouthZone column: Mental illness isn’t something you need to face alone
In May 2013, I was sitting on the couch of my college apartment with the lights off staring at the wall on a beautiful spring day. From the other room I heard my phone’s ringer, but in my haze couldn’t be bothered to answer the call, despite it being from a good friend. This had become a bit of a trend during those years. Hear phone, look at caller ID and ignore. It didn’t matter who it was. It could’ve been my parents, or a friend I hadn’t talked to in six months. I wasn’t going to pick up, because deep depression has a way of putting up blinders to the world. Everything, including simple phone calls, becomes too much to handle.
Two months later my friend committed suicide. The floor instantly gave out. My stomach clenched at the thought of never seeing him again. Never hearing his laugh again. Never getting to tell him how much he mattered to me. It all began to feel very far away. The person on the other end of the phone started to sound like an echo of an echo. Was this even real? This couldn’t be real, but five years on I still can’t help but wonder if he’d be here had I picked up the phone and gone to lunch with him.
Although this is an incredibly personal story, it unfortunately isn’t unique. Between 2016 and 2017, according to the Office of Suicide Prevention, 1,156 Coloradans took their own lives. This number accounts for the 79 percent increase in our state’s suicide rate since the year 2000. In other words, roughly three people commit suicide every day in Colorado, which doesn’t even account for attempts made.
We must remember that these aren’t just statistics. These are our friends, our children, our parents and our neighbors that continue to pass away from treatable emotional conditions. At YouthZone, we encourage everyone to rethink what mental illness means to you. We believe it isn’t something that makes us weak. It isn’t something that makes us bad parents, family members or friends. Most importantly, we believe it isn’t something you need to face alone. Mental illness shouldn’t be terminal, so please reach out and tell your friends and family you love them today. You just might be that glimmer of hope that saves their life one day, and if you’re the one struggling know that I love you.
If you, or someone you know, are in crisis please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Alexander Williard is an AmeriCorps Vista Volunteer.