What would you say to someone who is currently experiencing suicidal thoughts?
Please communicate. It can be with anyone, really. Communication is the most essential and vital thing you could ever do when thinking about suicide. It can be your teacher, mentor, coach, friend, sibling, or parent. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you trust them. That you feel safe with them. Because I know safety doesn’t always look like family. A lot of times, it’s not. But find your person because that’s the first step to your life getting better. And you don’t have to talk to communicate; it can be a text, a letter, even an art piece if it makes it any easier. I know you might think it’s better to shut everyone and everything out, but let the light in. Let people in. Let people get to know how radiant you are – and you are! So don’t extinguish your light because others’ can’t handle it. Burn brighter and ignite the world before you because you have so much to do and so many lives yet to touch.
What would you say to someone who has survived a suicide attempt?
If someone survived a suicide attempt, I would tell them that they are resilient. The most powerful thing you can do is survive; and they did. That in itself has power.
Why is spotlighting Suicide Prevention Awareness Month important? What are messages about mental health that you feel people need to hear? What about messages specifically surrounding suicidal thoughts or actions?
Spotlighting Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is important because it’s a hard subject to talk about. This is why I believe as an individual, as a community, we should pledge to be uncomfortable. It’s 2019 and we need to get involved. Spotlighting Suicide Prevention Awareness Month allows us as individuals to honor the lives that we lost and be mindful that others, some even being the ones closest to us, maybe contemplating suicide at this very moment. Starting the conversation, continuing it, allowing it to thrive in our community won’t harm us; it only helps in aiding towards the development of suicide prevention measures.
Have you been able to be open with friends, family, and/or colleagues about your mental health? What have people done or said that were helpful? What have people done or said that wasn’t helpful?
Yes, I have been able to open up with others about my mental health. However, opening up can be a double-edged sword as not everyone will understand your experiences; and not everyone’s experiences will look the same. Looking back on the people I’ve confided to, many didn’t understand what I was going through. But that’s the thing, it only takes one person to help you get what you need. For me, that person was my sister. Aside from being one of my biggest pillars of support, she has also been the most helpful in my wellness journey. As I struggled financially and the thought of getting better seemed like mission impossible, my sister urged me to get help from a professional. Not only did she formulate a list of professionals who specialized in what I was going through, but she also made sure they all accepted my insurance plan. This act of both kindness and service made it less overwhelming and challenging for me to get the help I needed.
What my sister did for me is undoubtedly the most helpful thing anyone has ever done for me throughout my wellness journey and I highly encourage others to do this as well. This is because the best thing you can do for someone who is affected by mental health issues is to act as a pillar of support and help them get the help that they need because you can never be the savior (which is often a role others try to take).
What role does the stigma surrounding suicide play in your wellness journey?
The stigmas around suicide has had damaging effects on my wellness journey. It’s caused me to feel more isolated and alone – like no one actually cares about whether or not I’d be gone. I strongly believe that this is because suicide is such a touchy subject for people that they don’t even want to touch it. Like the old saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.”
What is your history and relationship with DBSA?
Although my history and relationship with DBSA is newly curated, I do believe the labor they perform is necessary in dismantling a culture and has been thriving off of generations of community silence. The scope of mental health is so vast and untouched that these conversations are just the tip of the iceberg. Despite this, DBSA, and other organizations who not only emphasize the importance, but also prioritize the wellbeing of others ultimately contribute to making positive changes in other’s lives and create a domino effect that creates culture change.
What do you feel that you have gotten out of being part of the DBSA community?
Being apart of the DBSA community, I feel like I’ve gotten a chance in life. A chance to tell my story. A chance to be listened to. A chance for representation to happen for those who hold the same identities as myself. It’s a chance to make a difference in someone’s life. And down the line, the chance I was given will hopefully be passed down to someone else and create a domino effect that reaches every person affected by mental health.
What are your biggest mental health-related accomplishments so far? What are you proudest to have contributed to?
Sometimes the absence of the archive is the archive. As a first-generation, Asian American, I grew up with my family avoiding important topics like mental health. The reasons similar to most people of color, were cultural. Growing up with a lack of vernacular to voice out my feelings I chose to opt out of getting help from others. This was because I feared bringing shame to my family. I mean, my parents sacrificed so much to be here with only a bag full of dreams in the hopes of gaining a better life. So why would I want to bring shame to them?
At least, this is what I thought before seeking out help. About a year and a half ago, I decided to get help from a professional and was diagnosed with clinical depression, anxiety, and generalized PTSD. Before this, I used to be ashamed that I sought out help. I used to be ashamed of my diagnosis. I used to be ashamed of who I am because I thought my diagnosis meant I wasn’t able to give my parent’s the “better life” that they always dreamed of. However, today, I am the first in my family to break the intergenerational silence. Today, I am the first in my family to commit to unlearning all of the things learned in order to learn who we are at our most authentic selves. Today, I am the first in my family to be an advocate for mental health and finally take that first step in breaking the cycle. That is the better life that my parents dreamed of.
What would you like to see, in the short- or long-term, change in the mental health space? What impact would you like to have?
As I walk through life, I am constantly navigating spaces built for someone that does not look like me. This is why I would like to see there be more safe spaces for conversations about mental health to proliferate in. Whether it’s the fear of being seen as inferior or less than, mental health was and still is a taboo subject that silences and isolates others. Although resources do exist, people, and increasingly so, people of color, and other marginalized communities are going to suffer without getting the help that is both available and necessary if there are no safe spaces for these conversations to happen in. The stigmas surrounding mental health create a toxic culture that only alienates others. This sense of exclusion creates a culture of silence that we’ve seen within the last decades. By creating space for others, by starting the conversation, by engaging others, it helps raise awareness and allows discussions about mental health become normalized within our homes and communities. This creates an agent of change where we’ll be able to find healing in our collective strength and voices.