Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax: Suicide prevention worker needs an answer

 

Dear Carolyn: I volunteer in suicide prevention. I love the work and it’s deeply meaningful for me. But when people ask me why I’m so passionate about suicide prevention, I’m not sure how to answer.

The truth? A bipolar depressive episode spiraled downwards into a hellish year that including a psych hospitalization and an impressively researched suicide plan. I didn’t get the help I needed, but now I can help other people who are in the same pain I was in.

But that seems like an awful lot of information to hand to my co-workers or my boyfriend’s friends. “I just really enjoy it” seems creepy and morbid, and part of me is ashamed of myself for not speaking up when I know the stigma of mental illness can make it so hard to treat.

On the other hand, I really don’t need the mean guy two cubes down announcing I must be having a bipolar moment every time I forget to turn off the office coffeemaker. So – any ideas?

Anonymous

“I nearly lost someone I love.” True, right? And concise, and sympathetic. When someone nosy asks who it is: “That’s private.”

All causes are populated by people who have had a brush with whatever the cause is trying to prevent. None of these people is obligated to explain more of that connection than is comfortable for them – stigma or no.

Thanks for doing the work you do.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.

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