Everyone Knows Someone, Hannah’s Story
In 2016, I hiked 2,189 miles along the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine to raise money and awareness for suicide prevention. My hiking partner and I proudly shared our mission with people we encountered in hopes of starting conversations about mental health. Unsurprisingly, we were frequently asked, “Why are you hiking for suicide prevention?” Our short answer was, “Everyone knows someone who is affected by suicide or depression.” Undoubtedly, someone would proceed to share a connection to depression or a story of suicide loss. Whether it be friend, neighbor, coworker, sibling, parent or his or her own experience, everyone knows someone.
I am part of the everyones who knows several someones deeply affected by depression or suicide. I may never fully understand what it feels like to be a someone affected by depression and I hope I never understand what it feels like to lose a someone to suicide, but I realize now, more than ever, the importance of the everyones.
My someone is my brother, who attempted suicide when I was a senior in college. He is the most beautifully unique individual I know- adventurousness, genius-status intelligence, and his musical giftedness are just a few of his defining attributes. My brother is one of the most important people in my life. I know he struggles with depression and has fought through some very turbulent times. I thought I understood him. I thought I was there for him. I thought he would call me if he was in crisis. I was not prepared for the phone call I got one fall morning alerting me that my little brother was in the ICU.
I felt utter devastation. My aching chest felt like it would burst while my stomach continuously dropped. I felt a heavy lead ball of dread in my core and an arm-hair-raising chill of guilt. I shatter again and again every time I think back to that moment.
When I arrived at the hospital, I witnessed my living, breathing brother, a blessing so many others are not lucky enough to experience. One of the most gut-wrenching truths was that when he woke up, his initial reaction was devastation. His reality was that he would have to continue living a life he was convinced he didn’t want to live. Though I will always feel guilty for not having done enough, the truth is, it was the neglect of a lot of everyones that allowed him to get to that unimaginably depressing place. Though he has since worked hard with professionals to reach a much better, healthier state, his battle is not over. My brother is a survivor and is my inspiration to speak out about suicide awareness.
I have a lot of guilt associated with my narrative. Guilt that my story is not worthy because I have not personally struggled with depression. Guilt that I stand by this cause so fervently yet have never experienced losing a loved one to suicide. Guilt that I didn’t do enough for my someones in crisis.
I can’t change the past, but I can do my best to educate and empower the everyones to make a difference for their someones affected by suicide or depression. “Everyone knows someone affected by suicide or depression.” Everyone is a huge group of people. We are all connected to someone affected by mental illness, yet we still fail to adequately support them. We fail to foster an environment that allows our someones to ask for help. We allow stigma to prevent us from hearing when help is being asked for. If everyone could be a lot more comfortable talking about mental health and a little more proactive and brave in reaching out to those in need, maybe we could better support or even save our someones.
Written by Hannah Chmura