Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Let the story continue;

A few weeks ago, I was browsing a social media network when I stumbled across something a friend had shared. It was an article about Project Semicolon. I read it and immediately shared it. A few days later, I saw another article. Then another. In the meantime, I had already scheduled my appointment.

My tiny but mighty semicolon is small enough to hide, but present enough for me to remember it is there and share it with folks when and where and how I choose. Mostly, it's just one of those things I felt I needed to do. For me. So, I did. (More on this in a moment.)

In the days following, Project Semicolon gained even more momentum on social media. It spread like wildfire. People started sharing their own stories. Then, it came up in education circles on Twitter. I was pleasantly surprised.

I have always been excited to work in education. I have done many different things in my career as an educator, only getting my multi-subject teaching credential about three years ago. I have been proud to come from a family of educators. I have been proud of my students. I have been excited to learn from and share experiences with other educators and the best thing I have done is started using Twitter to connect with other educators. Today, though, I am proud to be a part of a group of educators that are helping to bring more awareness to mental health issues. I am honored to count them among my peers.

#semicolonEDU is going strong right now. Today. At this very moment. Seriously, read the stream associated with the hashtag. It's amazing. Some are sharing tattoos. Some are drawing Sharpie semicolons on themselves. Whatever and however they do it, they are coming together in the education circle for something that needs our attention.

As educators, we will work with peers struggling with various forms of mental health issues, some of whom battle behind closed doors, others who will at least try to share bits of their stories, and still others who are choosing to share their stories completely and openly and honestly. We will work with students who suffer with various forms of mental health issues. Some as "simple" as anxiety. Some far more severe. We will have conferences with parents who have their struggles. We engage the world on a daily basis and there has often been a stigma attached to mental health issues no matter how big or small. The current statistic is that about 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Every day. These could be former students, parents or grandparents of current students. They could be our friends or family. And that statistic is just for veterans. Suicide has been reported to be the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the United States. These two statistics alone should lead to a very open discussion.

Ten years ago this October, my cousin chose to end his own life. This was not a distant cousin. This was a cousin who was like a brother to me. In fact, he had lived with us for a few years in high school. I saw a post recently:
Suicide doesn't take away the pain, but it gives it to someone else.
In fact, in some ways it increases the pain because it passes it on to so many. For ten years, not a day goes by that I don't think about my cousin and the decision he made. He chose to end his story.

Later a person very close to me threatened suicide on more than one occasion. I am thankful that his story continues, but it definitely had to go in the direction of a new chapter.

A parent battles PTSD.

A child struggles with anxiety.

I experience anxiety, in part related to Fibromyalgia.

A little over three years ago, a local high student ended her story. An active, involved, high-achieving student. But, as has become painfully obvious since Robin Williams' suicide, all the successes in the world don't necessarily bring health and happiness.

So, let's use our semicolons to keep the story going. There is so much more to write, so much more to share, so much more to do. We can make a huge difference. We can also stop and listen. Last fall, my son and I participated in a local Out of the Darkness walk. So, this semicolon trend is good and I hope will keep going, but we can show our support in other ways, too. Check here to see if there is a walk near you.

I have a life preserver magnet that I keep in my classroom. It is associated with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. You can learn more about them here.

I am incredibly thankful that @thenerdyteacher helped get the dialog more open and the momentum for Project Semicolon going even stronger. I am proud to stand with you and others. I love seeing educators joining together and discussing real issues such as this. Let's keep this going.

Share your story. Listen to others. Be open. Be real;

July 14, 2015

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