It is easy to go to therapy ans say that you are making a difference in the world of bipolar disorder. Maybe you go home and curl up with a memoir of someone with bipolar. While these are things that may be helpful to you, this is not “advocating.” Don’t get me wrong, those are great things. But those are great things for you. They are not outwardly affecting others.
Thursday I had the great opportunity to be invited to advocate at North Carolina’s Capitol Building. There was a group of us. I was part of the afternoon group which consisted of about 15 dressed up people who were there with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. At first it was a bit confusing trying to find where I was supposed to be. Imagine all the people, and trying to recognize faces I didn’t know!
Finally, I found my place and after a short period of time, we were briefed on our mission. We were to try to get in to see a delegate – especially one from our district – and share, briefly, our agenda. Our agenda was to pass out folders with information, most with just information, facts and figures, and some with letters from constituents that we passed on in the folder.
We were specifically supposed to try and speak with our Senator or House Rep. I was lucky enough to meet my very charismatic Senator. He welcomed me and my teammate with open arms telling us that his office was our office. We told him how we were trying to get a law passed that would require training for teachers so they would better be able to catch the eye of and to help suicidal children. In the state of North Carolina suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among youth age 10-18. That is unacceptable. He was very interested in what we had to say and when I mentioned and showed him my book, he bought it! Weird.
The idea behind the law is that besides their parents, teachers are the adults youth see most often, thus, they are more likely to notice any warning signs (and we all know that sometimes there just aren’t any) more apparently. As such, they need training to deal with these youth. Right now our state is relying on school nurses and counselors. Kind of like “he isn’t my problem. You handle him.” Taking any stress or responsibility off of themselves. We need to empower them with the skills to help.
I felt a sense of empowerment, like I was making a real difference in suicide prevention. I mean, how often do you come into contact with so many important lawmakers and supports and get to talk to them?
There was a really bad part of the day for me. My partner and I had one office to go and suddenly, it seemed, there was a large committee meeting. I could feel the panic attack coming on like watching a tidal wave coming to shore. I grabbed my chest and started to tighten up. I told her I just needed to go back to our station downstairs to get away from the noise and the people, but I didn’t make it that far. I sat on a couch and, like most panic attacks, began to cry. My partner tried to help me relax and slow my breathing, I left soon after because I needed to get out of the building and the noise and all the people.
I don’t know if or when the bill will pass, but I do think it is important. And I hope I made a difference.