The day of the SI Swimsuit runway show at Miami Swim Week this year, something important happened for people who have ever struggled with their mental health: The National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline became a 3-digit number -- 988.
As someone who has used the lifeline dozens of times during moments of crisis, I recognize how important this change is for suicide survivors and for anyone who is just struggling with depression. My psychiatrist once told me that there is a 20-to-30-minute window in which it is imperative that someone else intervenes when a person is in crisis. This may be because the median time from suicidal ideation to action has been found to be about 30 minutes. The lifeline can provide that critical intervention and saves lives.
As someone who has called the existing lifeline and been hospitalized for depression and suicide attempts, I also know that the lifeline isn’t the only thing that that will prevent suicide.
The lifeline is just one piece of a complex solution. While it has personally felt helpful some of the times I’ve called, other times it has not. It’s often a scripted conversation where the person on the other end has no context about who you are or why you’re in the state you’re in. And 20% of the time, they call the police on you, which for many Black, brown and disabled people can actually escalate the situation.
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So what does help? What could help? I don’t know that there is just one solution. The 988 lifeline is a positive step, but we have a lot more work to continue doing to address the pressures, judgment and trauma people experience who are in crisis.
Housing is suicide prevention. Food security is suicide prevention. Sexual assault prevention is suicide prevention. Healthcare access is suicide prevention. Community is suicide prevention.
I also believe it’s imperative to share our stories and remind people that they are never alone. I’ve been told to stay quiet several times when I’ve tried to share the story of my suicide attempts. I’ve been told it makes me look unstable or that it makes me look crazy, as if other people’s perceptions of us are more important than our actual lives.
In 2019, there were over 1.3 million suicide attempts in the U.S. alone. We have to create spaces for people to share what they are going through before they get to the point of suicidal ideations and attempts.
I am so thankful for the SI Swimsuit family for countless reasons—but the No. 1 reason is how safe and cared for I have felt since joining this community, especially since I’ve shared my story.
I remember how dark everything felt at my lowest moments, and how impossible “it gets better” seemed -- but I promise you there is light in your future.
You are wanted. You are worthy. You are loved. And you deserve to be happy.
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Manju, a 2022 Swim Search finalist, is also Miss World California 2019, a physicist, actor, writer and founder of two nonprofits: Operation Period and Painting With Parkinson’s. Learn more about Manju.