I lost my brother, Brian to suicide on November 10, 1988. I was a junior at UMD and it was the day before my 21st birthday. The next few days are still a blur, but I remember sitting on an airplane with one of Brian's best friends heading home to Cleveland to bury my brother. I remember standing at the cemetery and hearing weeping and cries of utter sadness while I stood there feeling numb. I remember people coming up to me to offer their condolences and I remember the devastation of my family. Unfortunately, I also remember the embarrassment that my brother took his life. I didn't want to talk to anyone about it and assumed that everyone blamed my family. The stigma around mental health was unbearable for those who were struggling or had lost a loved one to suicide. We didn't talk about it, we didn't seek therapy and we brushed it under the rug. However, none of that changed the fact that we had lost a wonderful human being to a mental health disorder.
I managed to graduate from UMD and went on to work at the Discovery Channel for 11 years. During that time, I struggled with my own mental health issues. After getting the help that I needed and realizing that mental and physical health are one and the same, I went back to school to get my Master's in counseling and have now been practicing for about 15 years. I'm the president of the Maryland chapter of AFSP and I'm on the National Loss and Healing Counsel. My mission is to educate as many people as I can on suicide prevention, signs and symptoms and what to do. I also want to scream from the rooftops, that if you have a brain, you can have mental health issues...just like if you have a heart, you can have cardio issues. It's nothing to be ashamed of and you don't have to struggle in silence. If I can help to save even one life, I have done what I'm here to do.