award-winning educator, mental health advocate, social entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, author/writer, program executive, and radio host
© 2015: Beyond SPRH, LLC / Email: info (at) slyoung.com / All rights reserved
You’re not going to believe this, but tomorrow (3/11/14) your life will significantly change. By mid-morning, you’ll make a life changing choice about whether you should live or die. During a few critical hours, you'll review your life, the things you've done, your current situation, and the things you want to do in the future. Based on these considerations, you will determine that you’re a failure, no one wants anything you have to offer, and that you’ll never be any better than you are today. You’ll conclude that your life is worthless. Then, suddenly you’ll make an emotional decision that you want to die. In the next few moments, you’ll begin the initial steps to end your life.
During your preparation, you’re going to make a final call. This call will be to one of your brothers, Johnnie. This call isn’t to share your plans to end your life, but instead to ensure that he’ll take care of your mother if you couldn’t do it. Your goal will be to convey strength during the call, obtain his commitment, and terminate the call as quickly as possible. However, the call will not go as planned. You will become emotional, your brother will ask if you’re okay, and you will abruptly hang-up the phone. Then, your brother will frantically call back many times to try to reach you again.
In the next 45 minutes, you’ll continue to plan your final moments. You’ll be determined to not return your brother’s calls. At this point, you’ll have less than an hour before you end your life. Then, with reservations, you’ll listen to your brother’s messages before you reluctantly decide to return his calls. In the next few minutes, your brother will remind you that your current state is just a moment, which you need to get through to have a chance to survive. Your brother will also direct you to contact your sister (Joyce) to have a conversation.
After both conversations, your desire to end your life will not be as strong. You still haven’t decided to save your life; although, your desire to end your life isn’t as strong. Your thoughts will slowly change from desperation, defeat, and despair to a feeling that things could potentially get better.
Minute-by-minute and hour-by-hour you’ll get stronger. You still aren’t sure if you want to live, but you’ll begin to consider things beyond this moment.
In a few hours, you’ll muster the strength to get dressed. You’ll also force yourself to go to a jail to teach inmates as scheduled. Unfortunately, you’ll not be able to go inside because the jail is on lock-down. Nevertheless, by leaving the house and doing something meaningful, you’ve started to make forward-progress.
A week and a day later, you’ll give the most important presentation of your life; a presentation about “belief” at a “Healthy Living Series” event. Somehow you’ll force yourself to pretend that you're happy. At the end of this presentation, you’ll jump around and dance as if you don't have a care in the world. After this presentation, you and your cameraman will discuss that something was different about this presentation. Suddenly, you’ll realize that you were standing in front of an audience while trying to convince yourself to believe in life, yourself, and your future.
In about two months, you’ll write a book entitled “Choosing To Take A Stand: Changed me, my life, my destiny”. This book will chronicle your battle with depression and the reasons that you almost committed suicide, along with recommendations for recovery. Writing this book will allow you to process many of the issues that you never fully addressed. This writing experience will expedite your healing, self-awareness, and your determination to fight for your life.
In about five months, you’ll see a Facebook posting that will question the reason(s) that Robin Williams committed suicide. In response to this post, you’ll share your battle with depression and journey away from a near-suicide a few months prior with family and friends on Facebook. After this public disclosure, you’ll go even further to share your story to help others during an interview on the Maggie Linton Show.
In about six months, you’ll begin to write about depression and suicidal thoughts in a very meaningful and humanizing way. Shortly thereafter you’ll read an article on The Huffington Post's website soliciting individuals to share their journey with depression. You’ll use this opportunity to share your blog posts about your own mental health challenges. Then, you’ll receive a surprising offer to become a blogger on The Huffington Post.
In about eight months, you’ll begin to write more frequently about depression to raise awareness, understanding, and compassion. Around the same time, while seeking to speak to college students about depression, you’ll connect (by chance) with a local college’s Dream-Catchers’ program administrator, which will result in you becoming a mentor. You’ll then be matched with an intelligent young man with similar challenges to those in your past, which will create an immediate bond between the two of you. Furthermore, based on your experiences overcoming numerous educational challenges and involvement with Dream-Catchers, you’ll be asked to be the commencement speaker for the same school district from which you were directed to leave high school in the tenth grade after failing 6 of 7 classes and graduating in the bottom 8%.
Around the 9th month, you’ll feel reborn. At this point, you’ll not recognize the person who will want to commit suicide tomorrow.
In the 10th and the 11th months prior to the first anniversary of your “awakening after a near-suicide”, you’ll be asked to be an alumni panelist at the university that you had to take non-degree classes to prove your ability to perform college-level work before being admitted. You’ll also be asked to be the keynote speaker for a Black History Month celebration at the college that you left many years earlier due to academic performance issues --- including two semesters with a 0.00 average.
During these worst moments of your life and with minimal resources, you’ll give all of yourself to help others. You’ll learn that happiness isn’t as you had imagined and expected it to be. You’ll finally realize that your happiness comes from within and while helping others to thrive. As you work to rebuild your life, you’ll no longer navigate life by happenstance; instead you’ll design and develop your life on purpose; the way you want it to be. You’ll create a life of service that’s focused on educating, inspiring, and uplifting others.
These are the things that can happen if you choose to get past a difficult moment tomorrow. If you do, you’ll have an incredible year as an advocate for depression, suicide prevention, workplace bullying, ethics, and more. These accomplishments aren’t actions of someone who is desperate, defeated, or in despair. However, if you choose to commit suicide tomorrow, you’ll not have a voice or a chance to positively impact lives --- including your own.
Now, that you’re aware of these positive changes in your near future --- if you allow yourself to get past these difficult moments: Will you make an impulsive choice to end your life tomorrow? If you do, you’ll not have an opportunity to share your story (e.g., blogging, interviews, speaking engagements, etc.) with hundreds of individuals who might save themselves or someone else because of your decision to fight for your life. You need to understand that if you choose to save your life tomorrow, your decision will not only impact you. Your choice will also positively affect many others who will benefit from your work over the next year and beyond.
So tomorrow, please don’t make a momentary and emotional decision that will prevent you from doing all the things described herein --- while also preventing yourself from achieving your potential to do things that you can't even imagine yet. If you commit suicide, you’ll end your pain but you’ll also cause others to suffer because you needlessly forgot that you’re loved. By choosing to live, you’ll have opportunities to positively impact, inspire, and change lives.
Your brother, Johnnie, will tell you tomorrow, “Stacey, this is just a moment; you need to get past this moment”.
To my brother Johnnie, my sister Joyce, and the countless others who provided their support over the past year:
Thank you for recognizing and supporting me during my mental health crisis. Your ability to help me carefully navigate through these critical moments is very much appreciated, along with your love and support as I continue to heal, become stronger, and develop into the man I never imagined I could ever possibly be.
Anyone who needs assistance should contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org or
A collection of Mr. Young's articles and interviews about depression are available at: www.slyoung.com/depression.html
Additional information about Mr. Young’s journey to overcome his depression and near-suicide can be obtained in his book “Choosing to Take a Stand: Changed me, my life, and my destiny”.