Written by Roxy Bischoff (pictured left, above) of Team Dan, who will be participating virtually in the 5K Run/Walk for Suicide Prevention on September 26
Dan (pictured right, above) was a kind, gentle soul. He was smart and funny and enjoyed Eastern Philosophy, his cat Brutus, and helping others. We lost Dan in April of 2019 at the age of 27 after a long battle with depression. He may not be able to help people anymore while alive, but our hope in participating in our first Samaritans 5K is that he’ll be able to help people through us and through his memory.
I attended my first Samaritans SafePlace support group meeting in late January of this year, shortly after what would have been Dan’s 28th birthday. I was anxious about going and put it off for a while. I didn’t want to cry in front of people or get too emotional (in a meeting about suicide loss, I know). I remember my therapist had likened anxiety to a faulty smoke detector—it’s going off but there’s no fire. I couldn’t help but laugh when I got to Samaritans and the fire alarm was going off in the building, though there was no fire. As I walked up the flights of stairs, I took it as a sign I didn’t need to be so anxious, this was a safe space after all. And you know what, I did cry in that first meeting. And I did get emotional. But so did others. And it didn’t matter, because we were all there to process our feelings together.
Connecting with people who have experienced something similar to you is so invaluable. I had read books and talked to people about losing Dan, but hearing others’ stories around suicide loss was a whole new level of support and validation. There are a lot of complex emotions that can come from losing someone to suicide, and we were all there to talk about those thoughts and feelings and the shame and judgment that can sometimes come along with them. We also discussed the ups and downs around holidays and anniversaries, how to help end the stigma around mental health, societal phrases that can hurt more than people realize, our own personal struggles and fears, and how grief isn’t linear and can hit you hard seemingly out of nowhere. I am so grateful to Samaritans for bringing us all together.
It is undoubtedly a hard time right now for so many people, and mental health access and awareness are more important than ever. One of the hardest things to watch through my brother’s fight with depression was the way in which our mental healthcare system failed him. It helped him a lot too—that can’t be discounted, but there were so many times he wasn’t met with the help he so desperately needed. While we felt helpless, he felt hopeless. And that’s what we’re trying to help change. Whether it’s helping support Samaritans and their lifesaving work to provide essential resources to those in need, or doing our own part in other ways to end the stigma surrounding mental illness, we know Dan lives on through our actions. There is strength in vulnerability and it is so vital to speak about these issues and lean on each other, especially in times like these.
While the 5K will be virtual this year, I know my family and I will find some place nice to be together in Dan’s memory, knowing that through us, he’s still able to do what he loved—he’s helping others. We always have, and always will be, Team Dan.