By Cassie Jackson
Yesterday we celebrated a big milestone - We turned 1!
Last March we received our 501(c)3 status, were ramping up for our April launch, and were so excited to spread a message of hope to those in Montana! In this time of excitement, I received some bad news. Amy Bleuel, founder of Project Semicolon, had died by suicide. I didn't know Amy personally, but she was a big inspiration behind Suffer Out Loud. Project Semicolon is a global nonprofit dedicated to presenting hope and love for those struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury. That's what we wanted to create with Suffer Out Loud. It was difficult to hear Amy had passed and it left me feeling a little hopeless. It was a complex kind of pain to lose someone in the suicide prevention community to suicide - the amazing community that we had been working so hard to join.
This same feeling of hopelessness fell over me this week. I received an early morning text from an old friend. She told me the news that her husband had died by suicide. In a way, I felt I was to blame. Why hadn't our efforts reached him? Why are so many people in Montana still suffering so badly that they feel they have no other choice? It is truly heartbreaking to me when I hear that we have lost someone to suicide. I remember all of the emotions that I felt when I received the news that my sister had taken her life. The text from my friend left me feeling like I had failed her, her husband, and so many others.
I have spent this week reflecting on the early conversations we had when starting Suffer Out Loud and how I overcame the hopelessness I felt when I learned of Amy's death. We knew in the beginning that reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness in Montana was going to be hard and it was going to take time. We felt that if we were able to reach just ONE person and convince them that this world needed them, it would all be worth it.
I started to reflect on what we have accomplished in our first year:
We have reached THOUSANDS of people this past year through social media and our website. The most visited content on our webpage? Our blog and our resources page. People are coming to the page to see how they can get help and hear other peoples stories. That's so huge!
We have assembled a board of amazing individuals to help us continue to grow this movement and reach even more people in our second year.
We have opened up discussions around mental health and suicide within our community that otherwise would not have happened through our educational events and workshops
We have given people an opportunity to share their personal story. The messages we receive are amazing! So many people have reached out to share their story. They say we have impacted them by letting them know it's okay to talk about the struggle. They say they know we won't judge them.
We have lost so many amazing people this last year to suicide but we have saved so many as well. It just means we have more work to do. We will continue to push forward, reach more people, start more conversations and save more lives.
How can you help end the stigma and join our movement of hope?
Share your story! - You never know who your story will reach. Help those who are struggling know that they are not alone.
Purchase a shirt! - Our shirts are a silent way to show support to others and a way to start a conversation around mental illness.
Donate! - We operate 100% by the efforts of our volunteers. A small donation goes a long way.