My journey to raising awareness for mental health issues and suicide began when I published the memoir (Slipped Away) of my soulmate and best friend, Steve Tarpinian. Steve took his own life on March 15, 2015 and I published Slipped Away in October of that year.
Since then, I have started a blog, created a website and Facebook page and penned several essays about Steve, including articles in Newsday, Lava Magazine and trihistory.com; all done to inspire conversation about mental health. Only until we as a society can freely talk about suicide and mental illness without shame or embarrassment, will we be able to make greater strides in helping those who are afflicted. Many of you who are old enough may remember that there was a time no one would talk about cancer or HIV/AIDS. Since so much has been done to raise awareness for those diseases, there are now more treatment options and people that suffer need not feel shamed or embarrassed if they have one of these illnesses.
Removing the stigma associated with suicide was talked about over 70 years ago. Norman Farberow is acknowledged to be one of the founding fathers of suicide prevention. In the 1940’s, while pursuing his doctoral studies, Farberow started to recognize an urgent need to look more deeply into the causes of suicide, and to think about better ways to prevent it. In 2017, many still refuse to talk about suicide as a cause of death and shy away from conversations about mental illness. Since many celebrities such as Carrie Fischer, Lady GaGa and Sarah Silverman have gone public with their struggles, we are starting to gain momentum, but much work still needs to be done and it is a slow, arduous process.
Today was a turning point for me in the telling of Steve’ story. I was humbled to be interviewed by Bob Salter of WFAN (a CBS radio station) to talk about Slipped Away and mental health issues. Patrick Donohue of Project9line.org (beneficiary of Slipped Away proceeds) joined me, and he was representing our veterans, a population that has even higher suicide rates than civilians. This interview gave me the opportunity to tell Steve’s story to an even larger audience.
It is no coincidence (Steve was a firm believer in this saying) that I was interviewed by Bob. Last year, Robert Cohen, who was the last finisher at the 2010 Mighty Hamptons Triathlon (produced by Steve’s event company) reached out to me when he had heard Steve had passed away. He never forgot how good Steve made him feel after he crossed that finish line in 2010. Steve would always try to personally cheer in the final finishers at his events and also gathered event staff and remaining spectators to do so as well. Robert offered to do a review of Slipped Away in his column. Robert had also been interviewed by Bob Salter on other subjects and he was the one who suggested I contact Bob. The rest is history and now having been on Bob’s show, I believe it gave me a great platform to spread such a desperately needed message.
I don’t know where my next stop will be on my awareness raising path , however, I am on a mission and like a former client of mine would always say, I am like “gum in the hair” . And so, my journey to inspire conversations about mental health issues will continue….