Now, more than ever, I feel a calling to help people. Just days after I sent emails to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and the Suncoast Yellow Ribbon Chapter (in an effort to get involved with their depression awareness and suicide prevention programs), I had an interesting encounter. I went into Target, while wearing my ‘Love is the Movement’ t-shirt from the charity, To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA). The shirt represents a not-for-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.
On may way out of the store, I noticed a man and a woman, both about the same age as me walking ahead. Not thinking much of it, I proceeded to my car and opened the door when I heard the man yell, “nice shirt!” I looked over and saw him pointing to his chest. The man was wearing a TWLOHA shirt too.
I had never heard of TWLOHA until a few weeks ago, when I was searching online for ways to make a difference. I stumbled across the TWLOHA website and read about the organization. Inspired by the work they do, I ordered a shirt from their online store. This was the first day that I wore my TWLOHA shirt out in public, and I was genuinely surprised to see this gentleman wearing the same shirt.
I was curious to hear his story, but I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries, considering his reasons were most likely personal. I asked if he was involved with TWLOHA. He shook his head ‘no’ and explained that his mother had committed suicide last year. I told him that I lost my cousin to suicide as well. We talked for a moment about increasing awareness about depression and suicide prevention. I didn’t get the man’s name, and we only talked for a few minutes, while standing there in the parking lot. The encounter was brief but powerful.
The following night, I received a phone call in response to one of the emails I sent out. The woman on the other end of the line was the founder of the Suncoast Yellow Ribbon Chapter. I told her that I would like to volunteer my time, and help her out with the annual SYRC fund-raising event. I also shared some ideas that I have for a promotion to raise money for the organization during September, which is suicide prevention month. She was easy to talk to, and the tone of our conversation quickly turned more serious. She told me how she lost her 17-year-old son to suicide in 2002, and she was the one who discovered him. A couple weeks later, his best friend killed himself as well. I shed tears as I talked to this woman. I wanted to jump through the phone and hug her. I wanted to help her in some way. In order to heal from this, she needs time and support.
I share a common goal with the man from Target and the woman who lost her son, in that we are all working to communicate a message of hope and compassion, while increasing awareness about depression and suicide prevention. We want people to know that it’s OK to talk about these things. If you suffer, you are not alone. There are many ways to overcome this illness, and it does not have to consume you or define you.
Here is a link to the SYRC website, if you would like to learn more: http://www.suncoastyr.org/
And if you or someone you know is suffering, immediate help is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).