Years ago, when I began my suicide prevention advocacy and mental health activism journey, I was eager, a bit naive, and almost openly accessible to anyone who might be in need. I allowed calls, messages, DMs, emails, every form of communication to halt my day and refocus my attention on others. Oftentimes these were people I didn’t even know.
Okay, I was more than “a bit” naive. I was careless with me.
Early on, I helped create a tri-fold brochure of local mental health resources for our community. We didn’t have anyone to list for the content, so I put my personal phone number. Honestly, I only ever received a few handfuls of calls about the brochure, but the ones I answered were never easy.
I remember while making dinner one night the phone rang. I answered, and almost immediately, a woman was screaming into the phone. She was swearing at me because the brochure was too small to read. (Granted, my phone number was definitely the smallest font on the thing. 🤣)
I personally printed and hand-folded those brochures. I drove and dropped them off to local law enforcement to keep in their patrol units and local agencies to know of resources to send people. I was trying to help. But that day, I was a nameless voice who hadn’t considered the font size. She called me some pretty horrifying names that I wasn’t sure I had ever been called before, which was really saying something. I let her scream at me, and when she hung up, I blocked her number and shrunk a bit inside my skin. I decided that answering random numbers wasn’t always a good idea.
I remember doing a news segment and providing my personal cell number in case anyone had questions or needed something. Almost immediately, a friend texted me and said, “Did you just give out your phone number on television?” Yes, I hadn’t thought it through before I spoke. I mean, you barely know what to do with your hands when on tv, let alone your mouth.
I was open, someone who offered my time more than I probably needed because I wanted to help. I wanted to be accessible and do what I could for others.
Until the messages became too many, and I was on the phone more than I was present in my own life. Then there were the ones who used “a crisis” to probe into my personal life or try and see if they could ask me out. My accessibility was being taken advantage of, and somehow I was no longer seen.
Each time the door inched closer to shut because my boundaries had been nonexistent, and no one was checking on me. The Susie on the other side was not a person with responsibilities, stress, and time commitments. I was a helper, who could always be reached.
There are more of you than there are of me.
There are more in need than there are support or resources. There is more pain and hurt than connection and healing because we haven’t prioritized our wellbeing as we should. Each of us could help, but not all of us can help.
Remember, the person you ask to help has a life you may know nothing of. They also may know nothing of your situation or need. Providing context and detail and asking if they have the space to allow you room is a courtesy when reaching out to someone not acting professionally. Ask if they can carry what is weighing you down because when we share, we also impress our pain and hurt onto the hearts of those who help.
Providing context and asking if you can share is a kindness we all deserve. It is one that helps us know before we step in and it is one that shows the helpers that we are people too.
It’s always okay to ask for help, but sometimes we need to do it in a way that considers the other too.
If you or someone needs mental health or suicide-related support 24/7 from a person, you can dial 988 and speak with a trained individual. 988 is now the three-digit dialing code that routes callers to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (or 988 Lifeline). There are resources and people who are available, accessible, and dedicated to listening to you. They can help and are there when others may not be able or available.