Editor's Note: This story contains information about suicide that readers may find triggering. Reader discretion is advised.
Today I ran 12 miles for the 12% of college students who report having suicidal thoughts. On my runs, I reflect a lot on mental health and the role it has played in my life. I have this continuous list of reflections in the Notes app on my phone that I’ve always hoped to turn into something bigger, but with this extra time in an uncertain time, I decided to start sharing today.
I lost a cousin or friend to suicide every year from seventh grade to 11th grade. Just recently, my Duke community was also affected, and I am inspired by the efforts that the University and its students have made for mental health awareness.
It was not until I went on a retreat in college and had to share a timeline of my life that I truly realized how impacted my life has been by suicide. I realized that after being exposed to suicide at an early age, I had many underlying fears. I began to fear that if anyone was ever upset, they could be gone the next day. I began to fear that something I would say or do would lead someone to suicide. After the death of Raj just last week, I broke down to my sister and feared that suicide was following me because there was no way that it was this prevalent in other peoples’ lives. But that’s the thing—suicide is extremely prevalent in our community and mental health issues even moreso. I am learning that I will never be the reason for suicide—mental health issues will be. So why have I spent so much time talking about me, and so little about mental health?
After every suicide, I see not only the enormous impact it has on family and friends of the loved one, but also the tears that come from memories of past loved ones who committed suicide. Each act of suicide reopens wounds and reopens mental illness conversations. I want these wounds to heal. I want these conversations not to need reopening—they should already be open.
I am inspired daily by mental health advocates. HereForYou Duke, which challenged me with the 12 Challenge. My uncle who began “Stigma Enigma” in Windsor, Ontario and has done so much for the progress of mental health awareness. My entire family who is never afraid of tough conversations about mental health and have hurt together. Therapists, counselors and psychology experts who have devoted their lives to the health of others. My sisters who openly stress the importance of therapy. Anyone who has posted on their Instagram story, shared on social media, or just told someone in person that they are always open to talk.
It is easy for me to sit down and write now when mental health is being so widely discussed in the news and my community, when I don’t have the distractions of school, when I am surrounded by loving and supporting family. However, I am challenging myself to be a mental health advocate every day, whether it is for my personal mental health or that of others.
Today I commit myself to fighting for Sophie, Geoff, Will, Sarah, Kevin, Grey, Raj and all those affected by mental illness. To not hiding my fears about mental health in the Notes of my phone. To being a constant advocate for mental health awareness. I challenge you to do the same.
Natalie Kubicki is a Trinity sophomore.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text “START” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.
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