Sometimes openness is necessary to promote awareness and hope for others. Sometimes your journey is meant not to be hidden and kept secret out of fear of judgement, but instead be shared. I admit it’s uncomfortable and a bit frightening, but I have a great passion for erasing the stigma that surrounds mental illness and suicide, and I am not ashamed of my journey. If judgement arises, I am confident enough to know it is ignorance or lack of knowledge and understanding that on another’s part, and not me. My journey is not one I wish to remain silent about because of the stigma, but one I wish to share throughout my lifetime in hopes that it may inspire and bring hope to other sufferers similar to myself.

With that being said, today marks the start of National Suicide Prevention week. On the way home from class tonight, I was flooded with images and thoughts about my journey thus far and what I wanted to convey. I am eternally grateful for all the people in my life, even those no longer part of my journey, who have been by my side during the lowest times. For the times they have talked and listened to me, and the times no words were necessary – just the act of being there was enough. I am thankful for the countless times they have held the hope for me when I had so little of my own. I am thankful for the times they have literally saved me from succumbing to my illness. I am thankful for the tools they have given me, the love (albeit sometimes tough love), and the few who have never left my side or given up on me. Not only have you saved me throughout the years, but you empowered me to want to save myself, which is huge.

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The journey continues, and with that, the struggle continues; the struggle to find hope in perhaps even the smallest things…a laugh, kind word, hug, song…something that will sustain me until I have the strength to get up and continue on. As far as I have to go, I am happy and proud of myself for how far I have come. It’s been a long, vastly painful journey, but what I have learned from the pain is priceless. It has moulded me into the person I am, the person I am coming to love more and more. There’s a reason we’re all here, and I am determined to keep fighting and hoping so I can find my purpose.

So with that, I want to thank those who have shared in my journey and will continue to share in it. You all are the biggest blessings I have. In a world of immense pain, you have helped me see there is also immense joy and hope. Thank you.

I challenge those of you who see suicide as a mere selfish act to really reach out and get to know someone with mental illness. You will soon realize  there is more behind the stigma that is so pervasive in our society. There is great pain, but also a yearning for hope, understanding, and acceptance. Reach out and be the face of hope to someone who might be thinking of ending their life.

Just listen. Don’t judge.

Jennifer Scinto, Conditional Publications

Contributor to Check Mates: A Collection of Fiction, Poetry and Artwork about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, by People with OCD

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