For many years I have worked to reduce the stigma against people with mental illnesses by speaking openly about my sister’s mental illness and her resulting death when she was 21. I refer to her illness as a terminal disease. I have fought to try and eliminate the shame that surrounds families of those who have died at their own hand, in the Jewish world and in the larger world. Speaking honestly and openly about mental illness and issues of suicide prevention has been liberating to those struggling and their families.
Today I am mute. My heart breaks as another person close to me, once again, has tried to die as a result of her mental illness. She has survived many attempts. We hold our breath.
Even though I may feel there is no shame, and only heartbreak, the stigma is still with us. Her identity and story is not my information to share. I feel I must remain publicly vague.
I care, I love, I act, I respond. Alone. In whispers and shrouded texts with a small group of family and friends.
Please join me in whatever it takes to reduce the stigma of mental illness so that those who suffer, and their families, no longer need to whisper.
May all those whose lives are unraveling due to mental illness, or the mental illness of a loved one, find comfort, strength, and their voice. May we all be able to grieve and grow in full view of the sun’s healing rays.