Share a Story. Know the Signs. Save a Life.  | Shalom Austin

Share a Story. Know the Signs. Save a Life. 

The Jewish Outlook

Jan 10, 2024

By Alyssa Gilden

To start with the good news, research shows over and over again that wellness and recovery from mental illness are possible through connection, support and treatment. To move to the more staggering news, millions of people in the United States and around the world are affected by depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses each year. 54% of Americans have been affected by suicide in some way, and it is estimated that 90% of those who died by suicide had underlying untreated mental illness. As far as we have come in society acknowledging mental illness, too many people still struggle to ask for help or let others know they are struggling.  

Research shows that sharing individual stories and perspectives related to mental illness can itself be life changing. Through sharing personal stories of struggle, loss, resilience and recovery, people can achieve connection and show one another that they are not alone. When the conversations take place – through plays like Stan Zimmerman’s “Right Before I Go,” through reaching out to others personally, through participating in programs or groups at Shalom Austin Jewish Family Service – healing can begin to occur. Starting the conversation – asking “Hi, how are you?” and really listening to the answer – can make a big difference. Talking about suicide can dispel myths and stereotypes, reduce negative stigma and barriers to treatment, and increase education; in short, talking about suicide can save lives. 

If someone is talking about suicide, displaying sudden change in behavior or mood, feeling hopeless, worthless, or trapped, call or text 988. If you are concerned about those around you, consider the following action steps: 

  • Let the person know about your concern, and ask if they are ok.  
  • Ask the person if they are having thoughts of suicide.  
  • Listen actively, attentively, and without judgment. 
  • Let the person know you care about them and support them.  
  • Offer to help connect them with professional help. 

In the depths of winter when days are shortest, we celebrate holidays about joy, light, and renewal. We set resolutions as the secular New Year begins for the people we want to be and the things we want to accomplish in the year ahead. As we begin this new year, let us look to appreciate the light in our lives and recognize where we can find and bring more light into the lives of others. Know the signs. Share your story and listen to others’ stories. Know that you can make a difference and save a life. 

JFS Right Before I Go event
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