Using the broken
If you know me at all, you'll know I've been on a mission for the past few years to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health following my sister's suicide. To bring forth conversation, and to let people know it's okay to talk about their problems -- about their own depression or struggles.
So when a friend of mine called the other day to discuss homelessness and mental illness, it was a welcomed call, and we touched briefly on tragedies we've faced in our families. And how, through those tragedies, we can build others up.
That no matter the pain, we can help.
About how we serve a God that provides a path for us to do so. We hesitantly called it a silver lining in the midst of tragedy and heartache. About how we are provided a platform to help others.
About how the broken are used.
In another world, I would know nothing about mental illness. Mental health. Suicide. In another world, I wouldn't be active with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I wouldn't speak at suicide walks or promote them on television. In a different world -- in my past world -- I hadn't educated myself on any of this. My sister's suicide educated me, though. And that still takes my breath away.
I was fortunate, though, to work at a newspaper that virtually gave me free reign to cover mental health after she died. And once I started writing, I couldn't stop. Once I noticed the impact our coverage was making, I knew I needed to do more. It was to educate myself as much as it was the community. It was to educate the public on the stigma attached to mental health and mental illness.
It was to educate the public about suicide -- and the stigma attached to that. I never took for granted the freedom provided to write these stories.
Like this one, and this one. And this one.
I just wish I never had to write them in the first place. Because it means my sister would be alive. Because it would mean problems with mental health and mental illness wouldn't exist. But she's gone, and these problems are rampant.
My friend asked me if I felt mental health problems are worse now than they were 10 years ago. Worse or not, I answered that I thought more people are talking about it now than they were 10 years ago. While my knowledge only goes back less than five years ago -- my sister died in October 2015 -- I have noticed in that time that we have turned a slight corner. Maybe it just comes from the people I associate with now -- NAMI, others who have lost to suicide -- that I see the work being done to help others.
The Alabama Daily News wrote this.
The Chicago Tribune, this.
While at my former paper, I did my best. I worked with the best sources in the state who helped me mold together stories that impacted others and brought change in people's lives.
I am broken. And I allowed God to use me in a way that at times hurt. Because grief hurts.
But if you don't allow God to use you, then to what purpose do you serve? I was provided a platform at the newspaper to give back to my community -- it's one I sometimes miss, but one I'm grateful I even had.
I don't share stories just to share. I share knowing there is a difference to be made. That there is work to be done. That there are numbers in suicide to decrease. And I'll keep sharing. I'll keep working hard to glorify God and to keep making a difference if I can.