Are you StigmaFree?

Her name was Marie, and she was the happiest person I knew. She was also the most caring, loving, and endearing friend that I have had the privilege of having in my life. We lived and worked in Washington, DC, where we stormed Capitol Hill, carrying our message about a ‘no-nonsense” defense budget. It was a message that prioritized current needs over outdated cold war era relics. Marie was the original “defense chick” (an honorary title given to women who worked on national defense issues on the Hill), and she made me an honorary member of this special group as well. In her mid-50’s, she struggled to find a 9-5 job. She didn’t need the money, she needed the purpose.

On September 29, 2014, Marie decided that this world was better off without her. So not true. She had so much more to offer the world, so much love to share, and so much more wisdom to impart. Yet, she was convinced that her depression, along with her multiple sclerosis, (which she kept secret from most of her friends), left her with no other option, and she did not want to be a burden to her friends and family. I did not know there were two prior failed attempts, I learned this after she went missing when her family called me. I was hoping and praying that she would show up at her condo in DC where I’d greet her with hug. That did not happen. Marie was found three days later with a handwritten note — “It’s not you, it’s me, you do not need to worry about me anymore”.

Marie didn’t want anyone to know she was so sad. She was embarrassed. And you know, I didn’t want to tell anyone that she took her life into her own hands. My issue with the stigma of suicide did get the better of me. But that changed. We NEED to talk about mental illness. We HAVE to discuss with our community what makes us uncomfortable. WE MUST NOT SWEEP SUICIDE, DEPRESSION AND MENTAL ILLNESS UNDER THE RUG. This conversation must change. We must not be embarrassed. One in five adults live with a mental illness. Most of them successfully. We must stand up, support, and bring forth the open dialogue that recovery and treatment is possible.

Please join me, as I honor my friend Marie at the NAMI-Wood River Valley Swing Fore Recovery 5B Open at the golf tournament. Should you choose to play or join us for dinner, you will see Marie’s name on the course in honor of her struggle and to remind us that this must stop. Together, we can bring this to the forefront of our community and extend a hand to those that are too scared to talk about what is going on.

Please also consider signing onto the NAMI-WRV StigmaFree Pledge at nami-wrv.com/stigmafree.

Christina