Sometimes the bravest thing you’ll ever do is ask for help. May 4, 2017, my mom knocked on my door to break the news that my friend was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. It was just one day before his birthday - May 5.

I was devastated. Just the night before, I’d almost stopped by his house to say hello. I drove by his street and almost pulled into his driveway to see if he was home. I had hoped he’d be my date to a wedding the next night. A girl needed her dancing partner.  I kept driving, thinking I’d just text him when I got home instead. I was tired. It was late, and I never sent him that text. I ignored the pull to listen to my gut.

And the next morning, it was too late.

He didn’t come with me to the wedding that night. And, I never got to dance with him again.

The other night, my nephew did something Geoff never did. He asked for help.

The first time my nephew said he wanted to harm himself was last summer. And, my sister cried out for help. She was ignored, dismissed or overlooked by anyone she told, even by me.

He continued to talk about wanting to hurt himself. And my sister continued to ask for help but was never quite certain where to turn. Everyone she reached out to brushed it off, saying he was just being a kid and he didn’t mean it.

My nephew is 7. How would he know about suicide? How would he know about these things?

On Wednesday, I was headed home from a late yoga session when something told me to swing by my sister’s house. It was late. I was tired. I’d taught 3 classes that day and just wanted to find my bed. I had every excuse in my head of why I should just go home. But this time I listened to God’s call. This time, I followed the nudge in my heart and the feeling in my gut.

This time, when my sister spoke, I listened.

That night, my nephew had again said he was going to harm himself. And not only did he say it, he then took his hands around his neck showing her exactly how he’d do it.

As I helped her put him to bed that night, he told us things he’d never told anyone else. He felt safe, secure and loved. He began to open up the line of communication, saying things he hadn’t even told his counselor.

With some amazing guidance from Mental Health Association Oklahoma, we visited the hospital where this sweet, scared little boy underwent an assessment to finally get him the help he needs. The nurses and doctors peppered him with questions which he answered so honestly.

Yes, my nephew is most definitely the bravest person I know.

And so is my sister. When no one would listen, she kept crying for help. She kept reaching out even when people and organizations dismissed her.

Suicide is an epidemic that is sweeping the nation. It is real. It is scary. And it hits way too close to home. I thought I was immune to it. It turns out, no one really is.

Even as we sought help last night, we were shown over and over again how easy it is for people to fall through the cracks and cases to be dismissed as nothing more than “being a kid.”

And I can’t bring myself to think what would have happened had my nephew not had the courage to ask for help one more time.

As a community, my hometown of Piedmont has suffered from too many suicides and attempts. One is too many. To change this, we need to stand together in awareness and prevention education. You matter. I matter. Our community matters.

And together, we can help. We can educate ourselves. We can learn to listen for the cry for help from a child or adult. We can arm ourselves with the questions to ask and the resources to provide. We can help open doors and lines of communication to talk about things that are hard or scary.

We can speak out. We can have a dialogue regarding the reality of mental illness. We can stop shaming those who struggle with it. We can provide resources and be an advocate for those in need. We can assume less. Judge less. Show kindness and compassion. We can listen.

Some dear friends of mine are stepping up to the plate to tackle this taboo topic. They’ve partnered with Mental Health Association Oklahoma to host a FREE community-wide training where you will learn three simple steps anyone can use to help save a life from suicide.

This QPR training teaches us to recognize the warning signs and how to "question, persuade and refer" someone to help.

If you live in or near Piedmont, OK, I invite you to join this movement. We are just one small town in a big state and a bigger nation. More needs to be done. But change starts with one small step. This step takes place May 6 at 7 p.m. at the Piedmont United Methodist Church. All are welcome.

Published with permission.

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