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February 29, 2024

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    Richard Saker/Contour by Getty Images As we end Black History Month, here is one of my favorite poets, Danez Smith, who writes on intersectionality between their Black and Queer identities. At the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference in Kansas City, MO, I had the opportunity to personally meet Smith, and they are […]
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Spring Housing Guide

1-800-273-8255: It’s not just a number

suicide hotline 11/25

In May 2018, I lost someone before I graduated from high school … it was my cousin.

I remember the call, I remember the screech of my Mom when she was told the news, I remember everybody saying “I don’t understand why,” and the pain from the funeral.

Death is not easy, but neither is the matter of suicide. Learning of a friend or a family member who took their own life … it’s not an easy subject to approach. But, I know it was not easy for them; they wanted to get rid of the pain. I know it all too well.

You’re probably wondering why I am writing this in a column, but I know the experience all too well. I’ve experienced thoughts and emotions … wanting to get rid of any pain. I will keep it at that.

Anyway, when I heard she died, I cried for one of the first times at death. There were only two to three other times in my life I’ve cried at a funeral. In my eyes, death is a natural thing to experience, so I don’t typically cry when people pass on. I am not saying it’s not okay to cry and mourn, I just don’t always do it. It’s as simple as that.

But, at their death, I cried.

Suicide is not an easy matter for me because I have been there, then to hear my cousin was gone, I was stilled. I was taken back to a time — not even two months earlier — where I was hiding my mental struggles. They were the same case — they were hiding their mental struggles and kept quiet. No one intervened on theirs, and they were given to the universe.

Despite the pain that came along with their passing, I was impassioned to be a vessel of support and love for others who were silently suffering.

It is too common in our communities to avoid the conversation of mental health and not help those who may be struggling. It’s still 2019, and it is still a taboo-like subject some people do not want to bring up, and that’s sad.

We need to talk about it. As a community, let’s talk about it. The conversation is starting to make it into our communities, but there is still work to be done when it comes to mental health. It starts with us.

For anyone who may be suffering: I can’t promise you this, but it will get better. You will get better. It may not seem like it, I surely didn’t think I’d get better. But, here I am, roughly five years later from a dark time. Not perfect, but better than I was before. I am hopeful. I have people to rely on when I need it. It is still hard for me to open up, but it has been five years of learning and growing to be better and feel better.

Have I struggled and had downfalls? Yes. Was seeing my cousin pass away easy? No. Did it remind me of where I was in the previous years? Yes. Am I doing better? Yes. Is their passing always going to be hard? Yes.

Despite the sorrow of it all, I am encouraged to help others, whether that is sharing encouraging quotes on Instagram, or just being honest and vulnerable when I am not okay. Seeing others struggle makes me sad, but providing a space where an individual can express their emotions is so important. It’s what it takes to get better.

Recently, a friend and I have been checking up on one another each week to make sure we are okay. Even in the simplest of ways, our communities can strive to make the conversation easier.

It can be as simple as saying, “Hey, how are you?” to an individual.

Overall, my cousin’s passing was not easy, it will never be. I shutter at the thought sometimes because it triggers memories with them and thoughts of the day they passed on. But, it taught me through remembrance and mourning of them, I can help others. Through my own pain and mental battles, I can help others. Encourage and listen to those who are struggling and be a gateway for support. If you don’t know how to support those around you, then simply ask, “What can I do to help?”

Please, as a person who has lost, and has almost lost loved ones, if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, reach out to the Wood County Crisis Line (419-502-4673) or The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).

I may not know you, your family or friends, but I don’t want to lose any of you. Your life is precious and you matter.

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