“I love you. Thank you for always being there for me.” Her text message took my breath away. Somehow I knew she was trying to say, “goodbye”.
I responded, but she didn’t reply. A mutual friend called to tell me she had taken a bunch of pills and started drinking. She was going to try to drive herself to the hospital, or at least, that was her story.
I should mention that our friend is in Texas and the rest of us are in Tennessee. This made things super challenging, because we were calling 911 or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline and it was going to our local number and they would have to figure out how to transfer us to someone in her area. We knew her home address, but she was not home and we didn’t know where she was.
We were literally on the phones for three hours straight trying to help police find her.
We set up a group chat with a few friends and took turns calling the hospitals, sitting on hold with the police and calling our sweet friend to try to keep her on the phone with someone until help could get to her. We held our breath together until we got word that she was safely at the hospital. Then, we cried, and tried to process everything.
My friend called me for a little while, and I tried to get her on the line with someone at the Suicide Prevention line. I asked her if she was alone or with somebody. She cried and said she didn’t have anybody. It broke my heart for her, because I have been there so many times before. She’s feeling isolated and hopeless about the future, and I know she’s not the only one.
The whole world is experiencing a very traumatic event right now. Anxiety and depression are to be expected. That is why we have to take good care of ourselves and the people we love.
We knew about out friend’s suicide attempt tonight because a mutual friend has been sending daily “wellness checks”. It’s just a quick text message to check in and talk about whatever is going on. Today, that brilliant little text might have saved a life. It alerted us to the problem so we could help. Without it, I don’t want to think about what might have happened.
Our friend is in the hospital, hopefully getting the help she needs. Her biggest fear when she found out she was being admitted was losing her job, which honestly, is the last thing in the world she should be worried about.
We’ve got so much work to do to end the stigma around mental health in our culture it’s not even funny.
Here’s the thing: We generally respect the need for medical care for physical pain or sickness. We don’t typically judge others for having diabetes or cancer or broken bones. But, when people who suffer with anxiety, depression and other psychiatric disorders talk about their symptoms, they are often met with judgement, fear and feeling misunderstood.
Going to a therapist for our emotional wellbeing should be as normal as going to the doctor for our physical health. Everyone suffers from stress, grief, changes and shit from our childhoods. So many people hesitate to seek treatment related to their mental health because of the stigma associated with psychiatric care.
Just as medications for our physical ailments save lives, so do antidepressants. Brain chemistry is a beautiful mystery that can be influenced to a point with lifestyle changes, but medication is the most effective treatment for chronic conditions. There is zero shame in taking medication to balance your brain chemistry — it is quite literally a lifesaving measure.
If you are struggling today, please, reach out to someone and talk about it. We don’t get a trophy for suffering in silence. It’s not negative to talk about our unpleasant emotions, and believe me, your friends would rather talk you through a crisis than lose you for good.
Today is a new day.
We know our friend is safe for now and we can breathe a collective sigh of relief. We’re grateful for the teamwork we were able to do last night to help in what felt like an impossible situation. We are grateful for the El Paso Police Department, the 911 dispatchers who helped us on the phones, and the kind people at the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Most of all, we are grateful that our dear friend was not successful in taking her life last night, and hope that she will be able to find joy again very soon.
Yes, the world is a scary place right now. We’ve never seen anything like this before, and it’s terrible and weird, and nobody knows when it will end, or what the world will look like when it’s over. But, we’re all in this together, even if from six feet apart. We are never alone, and help is always available.
I’m begging you today: Please check in with your emotional wellbeing.
How are you feeling?
Are you processing this in healthy ways?
Staying away from the constant news stream and all the fear porn on the internet?
Do you have someone you can talk to?
How’s your self-care?
What are you doing to manage stress?
How’s your mood?
How can you invite more happiness to your days?
How can you fix what needs fixing for yourself?
Feel better? Great! Now, ask someone you love the same questions.
Or, do like my friend, and start a “wellness check” group message. Drop your whole friend circle in it, and do daily check-ins. This simple text message could save another life.