It was a seemingly perfect day. The sky was blue, the sun shone brightly and a cool breeze filled the air. I woke up to breakfast in bed and then headed out on a day trip to one of my favorite places, a small town in New Jersey. At the end of a fun-filled day, I returned home to my newly purchased home and spent the evening relaxing.
Then, in a blink of an eye everything changed.
I awoke to the phone ringing.
My dad was on the other end. Slowly and softly he spoke, his voice shaking. “We’ve lost your sister.”
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Five years later, the day remains crystal clear. Every word, every smell, every sight, every detail. Trauma has a way of etching the moment in your mind and changing you forever.
What appeared like a perfect day for me was just the opposite for my sister, Jana. She couldn’t see the bright blue sky or feel the refreshing breeze. Instead, she was surrounded by darkness, unable to see her way through. Jana was desperate, feeling alone, isolated and in a state of mental and emotional pain. She temporarily had lost hope.
As we approach September, Suicide Prevention Month, I urge you to connect with those around you, to reach out and let people know that they matter and that you care about them. Be vigilant, and if a loved one seems to be having problems, ask them about it.
Most suicides are preventable, and prevention starts with recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously. According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, warning signs include:
▪ Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
▪ Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
▪ Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
▪ Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
▪ Talking about being a burden to others
▪ Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
▪ Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
▪ Sleeping too little or too much
▪ Withdrawing or feeling isolated
▪ Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
▪ Displaying extreme mood swings
If you think someone is considering suicide, trust your instincts that the person may be in trouble. Have an open and honest conversation with them about your concerns and make sure you listen without being judgmental. Most importantly, reach out for professional help. Don’t be afraid to call the National Suicide Prevention hotline, 800-273-TALK (8255), where a trained counselor can assist.
Threats of suicide should never be taken lightly. A threat is a way to voice feelings of hopelessness and a desire to escape. Respond to all threats with urgency. Never leave the person alone.
There is help. There is hope. By learning the signs and stepping up for mental wellness, you can help save a life.
Marisa Vicere is the president and founder of the Jana Marie Foundation.