Monday, July 11, 2011

It is hope...that keeps me working

I am an advocate for suicide awareness and prevention.   My husband, Bill Popp, and I have worked for many years to help educate the general public about the signs of an impending suicide, plus ensure that support is offered to survivors of suicide.
Teri E. Popp
President of the Minnesota Military Family Tribute
 Limited Partner in the Minnesota Timberwolves
National Action Alliance Executive Committee Member

Eighteen years ago, I was diagnosed with a major depressive episode.  Interestingly, I did not have a trigger for this episode.  In some ways, that made my diagnosis easier.  However, I can say, without a doubt, that I would not have been diagnosed, at least not at that time, without the strong support of my husband and family.  In fact, I might not have made it to a diagnosis at all. 

When I was diagnosed, depression was not spoken about.  It was classified as a mental illness, and mental illnesses were not discussed.  In addition, I grew up in a military family, being the child of a career Air Force officer.  As a result, you didn’t, generally, speak about failings.  And depression and mental illness were certainly seen as failings. 

But I have a husband who is remarkable.  And he got me the aid I needed. He did not view my depression as a failing, but instead, viewed it as a treatable disease, like diabetes.  Because of his support and enlightened thoughts about depression, I now speak openly and honestly about my depression and the possible ramifications.  We understand that deadly consequences can occur with untreated depression.  We also understand the genetics involved within families.  We hope to help other families, as well as our own, in correctly identifying depression and having it treated to avoid the long-term pain and suffering that can ensue from a lack of diagnosis.

We have learned that peer-to-peer counseling and open dialogue and communication are some of the more effective methods of working to curb suicide rates.  My husband and I are lucky to have Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) nearby, and we are strong proponents of SAVE’s work.  We would like to see that great work continued and expanded from a regional to a national level.

Recently, I was privileged to attend the SAVE Fashion Show to help raise funds for suicide prevention on the regional level.  One of the women there came up and thanked me for my involvement and support.  She asked me if I was being helped in collecting my auction items.  I said, “Yes, the young lady behind the counter is helping me.”  The woman responded:  “That is my daughter, Angel.  And she truly is my angel.  I had two teenage sons who committed suicide and, through the work of [suicide prevention agencies], I see hope for my angel.”  It is hope, such as this mother’s, that keeps me working to see that suicide prevention is addressed on a national level.

In closing, I would like to say that one of the most intriguing aspects of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention is that it is a private, as well as public, initiative.  The NAASP offers a golden opportunity for the private sector to work directly with government agencies.  This is not a problem that can be solved by the government or by individuals alone—we all must work together, in partnership, to eradicate suicide.  I am honored to be a small part of this monumental endeavor.