“Why I Choose to Help,” Ensign, September 2018
When I was growing up, the word suicide was not spoken out loud. We thought that talking about suicide would give people ideas about killing themselves. Six decades later, I’ve learned to say “suicide” without skipping a beat. And oddly enough, it has opened up productive conversations and opportunities I never dreamed I would have.
I have volunteered for a national crisis text line for the past two and a half years and couldn’t imagine my future without it. “Thank you for helping me not kill myself.” “Because of you, I’m alive.” How would you respond if similar texts came to you? Friends will often ask me why I want to volunteer with the text line. And my response is always, “Why wouldn’t I want to do something that helps someone else—and that also helps me become a better person?”
And that is why I choose to help strangers struggling with suicidal ideation, self-harm, sexual assault, depression, anxiety, and other difficult challenges. Often I try to imagine myself being at the same low point as the person I’m texting. I sometimes wonder if I would have the strength and courage to reach out for help as they do. They are at the lowest of lows in their life, yet they are brave enough to reach out—looking for human contact and help. And that’s why I choose to help.
Throughout this volunteer work, I’ve learned what to say to a suicidal person and what not to say. When a texter says, “I just want this pain to go away and want to disappear,” they are being completely honest. And yes, my heart aches for them. And yes, I do cry. And yes, it is hard. But yes, it is worth it. That’s why I choose to help.
I’ve had people as young as 11 and as old as 68 text me about their suicidal thoughts. I will never have any future contact with the people I text, but maybe that is why they open up so quickly and share their very personal struggles with me. I listen and don’t judge. Knowing they can end our chat at any time makes me realize how important my time with them is. Having someone listen to them and validate their struggles is sometimes what they need more than anything else—knowing that someone truly cares about them during their darkest moments. My goal is to help them choose to stay. I know that loneliness and despair can cause people to do things they normally won’t do if someone is there for them. And that’s why I choose to help.
When someone I’m texting is able to say, “I’m okay now—my friend/mom/dad/sister/brother is here with me and I’m going to be okay,” that is the sweetest kind of text I can receive. I wish all my texting conversations ended on that positive note! I know that suicide is preventable. I know that life is worth living. And that is why I’m doing what I can to help others know that too. If we don’t help, who will?
There are so many different and valuable ways to help our families, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and strangers. We are all God’s children, and we are here to serve others—whether it be by joining organizations or being brave enough to ask someone we care about if they are thinking about suicide. We can all choose to help. Your love can make a difference in helping others choose to stay. And it just might be more life-changing for you than you’d ever thought possible. It has been for me. And that is why I choose to help.