I received a call last week that left me deeply upset and incredibly connected to the work I am doing. An entire workplace was in shock and devestation in the sudden loss of their own colleague. One ordinarly evening she left work, went home, and took her own life. In all the hours prior her peers did not recognize any suicidal signs or symptoms making it even more devastating for them. On the surface she appeared to be just fine. She was even seen laughing with her co-workers just hours earlier.
This story upset me. It is so hard to comprehend the tragic loss of such a beautiful young 27-year-old woman who had her entire life ahead of her. I am even more connected to what is really at stake and why I care. More than ever, I am deeply committed to causing more compassionate workplaces with open dialogue around mental health and wellbeing. Bottom line, I never want another workplace to suddenly lose one of their own coworkers like this again. Suicide does not have to happen!
Too often we put on a mask when we come to work. We feel forced to pretend that we are bullet proof. We don’t dare show that we may be struggling and risk people seeing us as weak or perceived as incapable. This needs to change. I envision a world where the peers that we work side by side with look after and care for each other just as we care for our own families. For many of us, our peers become our families. So why aren’t there more accepting work environments that embrace invisible disabilities compassionately? Why don’t environments foster a new kind of conversation around mental health? The workplace provides the greatest opportunity to eradicate the mental health stigma.
In honor of that young woman, I am even more committed to helping to cause the change necessary for everyone. I want us all to feel safe talking about our wellbeing and reaching out and getting the support we need before it is too late.
I invite you to join me on this journey. Ask me how you can bring change to your organization and create a more compassionate culture at work for yourself and your peers. Together we can eradicate the stigma preventing so many from the care they deserve.
In honor of September being Suicide Prevention Month, I leave you with a link shared by our own Caring Contact Helpline that highlights the five action steps for communicating with someone who may be suicidal.