IF YOU ARE FEELING SUICIDAL OR NEED TO TALK CALL THE NATIONAL LIFELINE
I met Jessica in Washington, at the AFSP conference in March where we happened to sit next to each other.
With my friend Elizabeth, Meredith Henning of the NY AFSP, Jessica and I made presentations to NY Senators, Schumer and Gillibrand, lobbying for support of legislation such as Mental Health Parity, the Garret Lee Smith Memorial Act and for the appropriation of funds to support Suicide Prevention Initiatives. (For the full account please read: Introductions)
As part of the Share Your Story Initiative, here is Jessica’s story.
Today, May 5, my cousin Krista should be celebrating her 22nd birthday. And in a few weeks, she should be graduating from college, a lifetime full of opportunities awaiting her. But instead, her family and friends are mourning her death by suicide and are grasping for a way to keep living without her.
On Sunday, February 9, 2009, just before the sun broke through the darkness of night, my phone rang. I knew immediately something unthinkable had happened. I could barely make out my baby sister’s words through her screams and sobs. My heart pounded in my chest and my stomach fell to the floor. “Krista killed herself,” my sister managed through gasps of breath. Tears burned as they floated down my cheeks and stained my sheets.
Bewilderment. Anger. Sadness. Hopelessness.
I somehow found my way outside and stood in the silence of dawn as the bright sun rose over the Washington Monument. It was as if the world had stopped. It was surreal. It was the only stillness I’d experience in the months to come.
The next couple of days were a blur as marches of family, friends and neighbors poured through the halls of my aunt’s home. Everyone had a story to share about Krista. My goodness she was so beloved!
Krista had an ability to light up a room with her presence. A gift to make people laugh. A talent to make people—strangers, feel welcome. A heart so big, so caring and so kind. And what an athlete! She was a star on the basketball court and the lacrosse field—a compassionate team player, never hesitating to stretch out her hand to help an opponent up from a fall.
She was admired, looked up to, respected.
She was a daughter, a sister, a grandchild, a cousin, a friend, a teammate, a leader.
So WHY? Why did she take her own life? We make ourselves dizzy with questions we’ll never get the answers to. We can say there were no warning signs, that it was a complete shock, but what if there were signs and we missed them? What if she needed us and we weren’t there?!
In the year and three months since Krista’s death, I’ve come to learn a lot about suicide. I’ve met others with similar stories of loss—people who harbor the same emotions of guilt, anger and sadness.
But I’ve also met people with hope, people who’ve dedicated their lives to understanding suicide and are fighting to prevent it.
This past March, I had the opportunity to participate in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Legislative Conference. It was a two day event full of survivor stories, facts, statistics, prevention and awareness programs.
Armed with the knowledge about how we can help stop suicide, I met with my local Congressman and Senators to ask them to fund campus outreach programs.
What if Krista’s college had a program to prevent suicide on her campus? Would she be celebrating her birthday today?
We’ll never know. But there’s one thing I do know. I, you, we can all do our part to raise awareness about suicide and find ways to prevent it from happening to another life with so much potential.
Did You Know?
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students and the third leading cause of death among all youth 15–24 years old. In the U.S., only accidents and homicides claim more young lives.*
SAMHSA’s Campus Suicide Prevention Grant Program
Just as one suicide affects hosts of people, suicide prevention needs to involve more than two people sitting behind a closed office door. That’s a guiding principle behind SAMHSA’s Campus Suicide Prevention Grant program, according to Rosalyn Blogier, LCSW-C, a public health advisor in the Suicide Prevention Branch in SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS).
The University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) is 1 of 49 SAMHSA-funded campuses around the Nation working to reach students in crisis. Ms. Blogier is the Project Officer for UNK and for more than 20 Campus Suicide Prevention program grantees. (See SAMHSA News online, November/December 2007, to read about grantees at Syracuse University and the University of California–Irvine.)
“This grant program assists colleges and universities in their efforts to prevent suicide attempts and completions,” said Richard McKeon, Ph.D., M.P.H., Public Health Advisor for Suicide Prevention at CMHS. “It also helps to enhance services for students with mental and behavioral health problems, such as depression and substance abuse, which put them at risk for suicide.”
The program funded the first cohort in 2005. Funds were made possible through the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act.
“We are trying to encourage greater partnership across campus organizations so that the college community understands that mental health promotion and suicide prevention are everyone’s responsibility,” said Ms. Blogier.
The grantees form an interlocking network across the country.
“Colleges and universities use SAMHSA funds to perform myriad activities that all aim to raise awareness among students, professors, and campus leadership to get help to those who need it,” said Maria Dinger, R.N., Suicide Prevention Branch Chief at CMHS.
Activities can include creating networks of student services to identify behavioral health problems, promoting stress reduction and help-seeking behaviors, and preparing materials that address warning signs of suicide and identify actions to take with students in crisis.
Find out more about SAMHSA’s Campus Suicide Prevention Grant program.
In Memory of Krista Lorraine Turnbull
May 5, 1988
February 8, 2009
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Your cousin Jessica