Staying alive

Blog Published: September 10, 2022
By S. Réjane Cytacki, SCL
a man walks by himself across a dark space

Since we have a 3-digit number for physical health emergencies, why not have one for mental health emergencies? For anyone in the United States having a mental health crisis, the help number has recently been shortened from a 1-800 number to simply 988.  

For over a year, I have been a weekly volunteer counselor for the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Because September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month (SPAM -- not to be confused with the canned cooked pork), I felt this was an appropriate time to share what I do.

Why would I do this? I, myself, had suicidal thoughts in high school and have spent the last 30 years doing the inner work of healing through therapy, medication, self-care, and prayer. During the pandemic while on a 30-day retreat, I finally let go of the shameful feelings surrounding suicide and forgave myself, allowing Jesus in -- to dwell with me in my brokenness. Feeling a new sense of peace and self-awareness, I felt God calling me to give back to all those people who have helped me along the way. After my 30-day retreat, I was able to find the nearby Kansas call center and applied to be a volunteer.  

Working the lifeline can be intense, and yet I know I am truly helping someone in need. When I listen to those who find life extremely painful, lonely, and meaningless, I realize that just listening to their story -- without judgement -- allows them to realize that part of them really does want to live. Somehow, being heard gives the person the space to work through their emotions and find strength to go on living, even if it is just for one more day.

So please: never underestimate the power of listening to someone’s story, without offering advice. We all need someone to just listen to our story and validate that we matter.  

If you would like more resources on how to have a conversation with someone you think is considering suicide or having suicidal thoughts, click here:


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