It’s been more than twenty years since my younger sister, Beverly, died by suicide. It was 1993, I was 20 years old and my life was going well. I lived in an apartment with a best friend and I was doing well in college. I used to go to sleep with a smile on my face. That all changed when my sister killed herself on January 9, 1993. It is still the most difficult thing I’ve had to deal with in my life. It took me years to accept the death, and years to be able to talk about it without crying.
At the time of her death, there was no “National Suicide Prevention Week” or an “Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention.” We didn’t talk about it at school, or have lessons on how to help our friends or ourselves. No one wanted to talk about it. I didn’t want to tell anyone about it. I remember struggling with what to tell people about my family; do I mention I have a sister who died or do I leave her out? If I say she died, they will ask how and then I have to say she killed herself and then comes the judgement and awkwardness. Something must have been wrong with her or our family. Someone must have done something wrong. Weren’t there any signs? Why did she do that? Suicide only happens to other people.
Unfortunately, suicide can affect anyone. But now, perceptions of mental health are changing. Research shows that our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Talking about mental health and suicide is encouraged and helpful. Helping others has showed me what hope feels like. Helping others to know that it really is ok to not be okay. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or to help someone else. I started talking about it to somehow honor my sister, but I remain dedicated to it for everyone else. There is hope.