On preparing remarks to open our Suicide Prevention Town Hall event this week…
As I reflect on the momentous gravity of our upcoming Suicide Prevention Town Hall, I am flooded with feelings and memories. My world has been impacted by many beautiful and sensitive souls who have struggled to find peace in this world. Some have turned to drugs, some to seclusion from others, and even some to suicide attempts. My grandfather told me once, when I was bemoaning my inability to do more for one of these precious people in my life, “all you can do is love them, Sarah. Just let therm know you are there and love them.”
Those words brought me comfort at the time. None of us can be “fixed” or made to feel as others would have us feel. We each live in our own internal worlds and in our shared external world.
I do believe now, however, more than love is needed, even more than presence. We must be aware and watchful and empowered by both love and knowledge. As I prepare my remarks I am in awe of all of the knowledge and resources out there to support me as I interact with those I love and as I work as an advocate in my school district for meeting the needs of all of our youth. This includes suicide prevention, community mental health resources, and a community who cares enough to come together to share our love, concern, and knowledge to protect and empower those in our lives.
Yes, love is not enough, but it is a start. It will take more than love to prevent suicide, to empower a community to face the difficult realities of mental illness, depression, anxiety, and our own limitations. But love is a start. That love inspires us to action and to learning tonight.
There is a Chinese proverb that has always resonated with me: “a flower cannot blossom without sunshine, nor a garden without love.” I think of this often as an educator, a mom, and a member of this community. This is our garden. And sometime our garden needs extra attention. We have to compensate for insufficient light or sandy soil. The time and effort needed for most gardens takes more than love–it takes commitment. And each of you is here because you love someone, someone matters to you, and you are committed to making sure that they are able to live the kind of life that brings them joy. We know that there will be challenges and sorrow–and you have chosen to be here tonight because you want them to know that you will be there with them through it all, no matter what.
We are honored tonight with experts and with those who will teach us to be aware and to be empowered to act if we see signs that someone in our lives is struggling.
Although I am not one of those experts, but am here to learn as you are, I do know that what we are here for tonight is important. My life has been touched by loved ones who suffer with depression and anxiety. People close to me have attempted suicide. I have had friends and family directly impacted by suicide and loss. I am thankful that I can be here tonight to do my part to ensure I can be an ally for them now and in the future.
This is scary stuff and we are all worried we won’t do the right thing. We all know that we cannot control how someone else is feeling. We can control how we respond though. We can also control the knowledge we gain. It’s my hope that, after tonight, we will each be a little more comfortable asking for help–talking to our school counselors, the social workers in our schools and community, the case managers in our buildings, our principals, and each of those advocates who have chosen to give their time to be here. Look around. None of us is alone in this.
With that in mind, thank you for joining us. A special thanks to our experts, our volunteers, and all in our community who have made this night possible.