I survived an attempt at 19 years old. After taking some time to heal, I learned to speak about it. I shared the depression I had felt: in classrooms, at charity walks, and to friends. Talking about it helped me cope. It meant I owned what had happened to me, instead of the other way around.
It’s not lost on me that there are a few reasons I’m fortunate I am to be able to talk about this part of my past.
It’s that third reason that gets me thinking about my work at Crisis Text Line. While the period of depression I went through was awful, I was never alone. Every day, Crisis Text Line hears from hundreds of texters who feel they have nowhere else to turn.
Crisis Text Line is the first nationwide, free, 24/7 text messaging service for people in crisis. Since 97% of people use their SMS app every day, Crisis Text Line is literally at your fingertips. It’s a medium with a 100% open rate… a statistic you shouldn’t think about while waiting for a crush to message you back.
The service is remarkable because it connects people to each other — a person in crisis is connected to someone who’s been trained to help. And “help” doesn’t mean solving a person’s problems, or even offering advice. Like I’ve told Crisis-Counselors-in-training, “For all we know, everyone in this person’s life is giving them advice, telling them how to be happy, and trying to ‘fix’ them. You’re going to be the one who actually listens, and that will mean the world to them.”
As much as my work at Crisis Text Line has been informed by personal experience, I’ve also learned a lot. The texters I’ve talked to are stronger than I could ever imagine myself being. The Crisis Counselors I’ve worked with come from beautifully diverse backgrounds and have an array of reasons for doing this work. The same can be said of our staff.
Crisis intervention is what we do, and our mission is to reach and support as many people in crisis as possible. I think there’s a positive side effect to this: in making it easier to seek help, I think we’re also making it more acceptable. Texting about your feelings isn’t a baby-step to talking about them — it is talking about them. Each texter who receives a Crisis Counselor’s encouraging words for reaching out for help could be one less person who’s afraid to speak up when they need to.
This is why we need to talk about suicide: to normalize it for people who need to know they’re not alone. To let them know that they are absolutely not the only person in the world living with this weight, and that it’s possible to let someone else carry a bit of the weight for a moment every now and then.
Silence about suicide is what creates the shame that surrounds it. And breaking through that silence is hard: feelings of guilt, anger, fear, blame, and grief get in the way of our words.
So how do we talk about suicide? The truth is we’ve all been affected by it in some way, and to tell our stories is a powerful place to start.
So is letting people in your life know that it’s okay for them to talk, too. Be that nonjudgmental presence that makes it okay for someone to say they’re not okay.
Crisis Text Line means so much to me because I wish it had existed when I was 19. I think about that moment when I felt like I had no one, and what it would have meant to me to be supported by a kind stranger at the other end of a text.
More than that, though, I’m grateful that I lived to provide that support to others.
In crisis? Text HELLO to 741741.
Interested in what we do? Learn more about becoming a Crisis Counselor at crisistextline.org/volunteer.
Originally published at medium.com