(This was published with permission from my father and my family.)
I was administering the SAT in a classroom with 24 students when my dad was admitted to the hospital for the second time in two months. I couldn't get any updates on his condition because my cell phone had been dutifully powered off and stowed away in my purse for the exam (testing procedures). All I knew was that earlier that morning, he had been rushed to the ER where nurses said his blood pressure was a whopping 210/110.
It wasn't until I dismissed the last student and did a final count of all testing booklets and answer documents (again, testing procedures) that I was finally able to check my phone. Twenty-eight missed text messages. The doctors had decided to issue a 10-13 hold on my dad.
In police movies, when a cop yells 10-13, it means officer in distress and in need of back-up. In Georgia hospitals, it means the doctor is holding a patient for 72 hours to ensure they don't cause harm to themselves: a.k.a. Suicide Watch. The English teacher in me can't help but point out the irony in the fact that my dad's birthday just happens to be 10-13.
To be honest, people are usually pretty hush-hush when it comes to talking about suicide. There is definitely a stigma attached to the words mental illness, and most people think depression is a dirty word. Truth is, we like to keep it on the down-low because we don't want anyone to know that we are sad or in distress or in need of back-up. But, truth be told, we all need back-up from time to time. Truth be told, there is nothing shameful about sending out an S-O-S when you are in distress.
That's why I'm so proud of my dad for allowing me to tell his story.
He's an extremely private person, and I know it took a heaping amount of courage for him to be this transparent. Currently he is in the hospital yet again for shock therapy which is supposed to be helpful for older patients.
The rate of suicide deaths in the U.S. has increased 24 percent over the past 15 years. In fact, the country's rate of suicide is at its highest point since 1986, according to recent data released by the CDC. More than 34,000 people die each year from suicide- about 90 people per day. If you feel like you are in distress and need back-up, please be brave and tell someone.
You DO NOT have to walk through this alone.
Call someone. Anyone. Call ME. Depression is a monster lurking in the darkness that has to be forced out into the light of day. It's a festering wound that won't get any better if you just cover it up and hope it goes away.
You have to expose it. You have to pour on the medicine.
Even if it burns.
If you want to talk to someone anonymously, you can call The Hope Line at 1-800-394-4673. If you are having suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide Prevention Life Line at 1-800-273-8255.