* Capitol Day - Press Talk

Back on February 24, 2016, I had the honor & privilege to join other advocates from the 3 AFSP chapters, covering Missouri, to be present on Capitol Day & advocate for a few bills being presented on both sides of The Hill concerning suicide prevention, as well as suicide awareness & mental health/illness awareness.

The main reason we were there was to use our voices to speak to law makers & make them aware the reason these bills were incredibly important to get passed. Mainly, 3 of the 6 bills had to do with getting legislation passed to get all the school districts in the state to find a program to use that would educate our teachers & administrators on the signs of mental health crises that could lead to suicide, and another with carrying that out into higher education.

At the time, we were to have a few of our state representatives and senators speak to the press about the issues, and our team was looking for one of our advocates to share their story that pertained to the main bills we were there to advocate for.

As someone who has been very close to believing that if teachers knew what I was going through, I might have been directed to help before my attempt at suicide. So I eventually spoke up that if they still needed someone, I had a nudge (I believe from God) to maybe speak. And they quickly agreed.

I put together a brief talk of my experience & why these bills were so important. However, ZERO press showed up. So we heard our scheduled law makers talk to us as to why they were supporting us, but it left no reason for me to speak to the room.

So, I have decided to bring to you my story as it pertains to why these bills are so important in Missouri. 

** NOTE:  We broke up into teams & spoke to many lawmakers through the day. As of April 6, 2016, the Senate Bill to recommend training for educators passed! Just need it to pass the House now.


Hello, everyone. I’m Erica Williams, an active advocate  & board member for my local chapter of the AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention), serving Jackson County. As a survivor of my own suicide attempt, and I would like to share a bit of my story with you, today.

At the time, I was in high school, and about 17 years old.

Growing up, my family had been a staple in my Missouri hometown for as far back as I can remember: besides me, there was my mom & dad, and my younger brother. I grew up in a Kansas City suburb with my mom being a long-time teacher and my dad a long-time mail carrier as well as a veteran of the United States Navy. I took dance while my brother played soccer, and we went to church every weekend. We had 2 dogs & a fenced yard. We appeared to be the epitome of the picture-perfect middle class family living the American dream.

However, something was amiss as I was discovering I was quite different from my seemingly-picture-perfect family, and usually didn’t see eye-to-eye with them too often.

In high school, I was co-captain of the high school dance team, in select women’s AND mixed choirs along with select vocal ensembles; also involved in theater, plus the school’s speech and debate team; I was a member of the school’s track team & a statistician for the school’s soccer teams.

I was president of my church’s youth group after a couple of years of being secretary; I was a leader in a competition dance troop, helped teach dance, plus I volunteered in my church’s nursery, as well as being involved in a traveling non-denominational Christian youth choir. 

Being incredibly involved, I really didn’t know how to handle all of these things together. 

Even being a part of all of these activities, I wasn’t popular, but I knew everyone & everyone knew me. I seemed to be a lovable presence who could make friends easily, even in my awkwardness. I always seemed bubbly & always appeared to have a smile on my face.

Though I could make a friend in a hurry, my awkwardness only kept a close circle of friends, while others talked about me behind my back, and even sometimes in front of my back. All I wanted to do was fit in. I didn’t do the greatest in school because, by that point, I simply didn’t care anymore.
As a teenager, I was secretly obsessed with death. I was usually tired, feeling empty & overwhelmed. I didn’t know how to feel anything else, but knew I was supposed to be happy - whatever that was.

So, I knew something had to be wrong, but didn’t know what. I felt like a burden to everyone around me, and certainly not adequate enough in all the activities I was a part of. 

I didn’t know what else to do, so I did what I felt I needed to do & remove myself from the equation in all my years of dark pain catching up: so, one spring afternoon, I prepared to take my life.

Because I hated gore, I took a less violent route, and hoped to just go to sleep one last time…
…but I woke up. I woke up very ill for the next 2 days. I allowed my parents, as well as everyone else, to believe I caught some kind of stomach bug. And no one questioned it.

I lived. I was angry. And I had to go face another day.

So, I continued to live day-by-day. Mostly miserably & in the same manner as before, and I didn’t believe I could talk to anyone about it.

At that time, mental health, mental illness, even suicide, were taboo subjects. It was actually talked down upon, talked about as if it was all in the head, considered attention seeking, a sin & an act of selfishness - so I didn’t speak of it.

Life continued on. And it took me nearly 13 years after my failed attempt to finally get diagnosed with depression.

We are in an amazing time, right now, where suicide awareness is at an all time high, and the stigma of mental health & illnesses are greatly lowered. However the stigma is not gone. 
As long as there is stigma attached to mental illness & those struggling with thoughts of worthlessness, self harm & even suicide, numbers of those we may lose will not go away.

Think about this: educators are fully integrated into a student’s everyday life. If they are given the right training & knowledge, much like receiving CPR & first aid training, imagine how that could help a student who is struggling. I firmly believe that, if this training existed when I was in school, my teachers may have been able to detect signs I was unaware I may have been exhibiting, found a way to talk to me, then maybe direct me to the help I probably needed at the time.

Students spend a large part of their lives at school, as well as participating in after school activities, usually run by educators in charge. These educators should be equipped to see when something may be not right with any student.

Even better, this kind of training can be used outside of the schools & in everyday application. This means it would be another layer of necessary suicide prevention, which is so desperately needed.

Because of stories like mine, and stories of students who we have already lost, I hope to see training being implemented for educators as an added layer of suicide prevention. 

Because it is my hope that no student would ever have to go through what I went through. And because losing even one life, is one too many.

Thank you for your time.

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