One morning in 1993, I came downstairs to see my mother frantically pleading over the phone. I asked her who it was and she said it was my sister. She was suicidal and threatening harm in front of her 4-year-old son. This caused me to immediately flash back to my childhood when I used to observe the same type of behavior from her when our parents would leave us home alone. Something snapped in me. “Not this time”, I said to myself. I grabbed my keys, hopped in my car and sped down the road.
As I pulled into the driveway of my grandparent’s home, I was terrified and hoping that I got there fast enough to prevent a tragedy. I ran in the house asking for the phone. My grandfather asked why and I explained the situation. To my surprise, he told me I could not use the phone to call 911 on my sister. “We don’t do that”, he said. “We don’t put our business out in the street.”
I couldn’t believe it! Did he even hear what I said? My sister was threatening bodily harm in front of her son. Rather than stand there and argue, I hopped back in my car, drove to a local store and used the payphone to call 911. The police arrived, diffused the situation and told my sister she either had to go to jail or go get help. She chose help and was taken to a local mental institution that day. That started her down the path of being able to ultimately getting the proper diagnosis and treatment for her condition.
That night was a horrible night because no one in my family supported my decision. I was labeled a trouble maker and scolded for doing what I knew was right. In hindsight, I wouldn’t change a thing because my sister is still here with me and to me that is the most important thing.
I share this story because I have lived through mental health crisis as a family member. I share this because I know the positive that can happen when you say something if you see something is off. Sadly, we all know what happens when you don’t say something if you see something. It’s all over the news and continues to make headlines more often than not.
It’s not okay to look away when someone is struggling. It’s not okay to make it someone else’s problem. It’s not okay to hush people for fear of what others will say. Who cares if your family business is on the street because you choose to get your loved one help? You have ability to choose the headline. If you don’t circumstance might just choose it for you.
Educate yourself. Please visit the Campaign to Change Direction to learn 5 signs that someone you know and love may be suffering from emotional distress.