By Tahlina Nofire Blakestad
I lost my mom, Annette Nofire, to suicide eight years ago. She was a compassionate, loving and encouraging mother. Her husband, children, and grandchildren were her No. 1 priority in life. She had a successful career, was a first-grade teacher for years and loved people. Outwardly, she appeared full of life and was a light to others around her. Behind closed doors, though, she suffered from depression for nearly all her life, stemming from childhood trauma.
Although we did everything as a family to support our mom and to ensure she got the services she needed, it wasn’t enough. There was a stigma for her and our family that kept us silent about what we were all dealing with. Losing my mom to suicide forced me to confront that stigma head-on. I did not want others to suffer silently as my mom did and as my family did initially after the suicide.
In the past eight years, what has helped me the most is sharing my story of suicide loss, surrounding myself with supportive friends and family, and getting involved with organizations that support suicide prevention, like Mental Health Association Oklahoma. I have learned the more I share my story, the more others share their stories. Those connections, although painful, have helped break down the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness within my circle of friends and those I work with.
I want others to know that they are not alone in their suicide loss and that there is hope. I also want others to know that education on warning signs and simple steps the public can take is key to preventing suicide. Although my mom appeared better on the day she died, she displayed warning signs that if recognized by the people she encountered, could have prevented her death. I believe community engagement is where suicide prevention starts. Letting people know that talking about suicide will not lead someone to suicide and to not be afraid to ask a question.
I hope you’ll join me at Tahlequah’s one-hour suicide prevention training set for 1-2 p.m. Saturday, September 22 at the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center, 100 N. Water Ave. The event is open to all members of the public 18 years or older. During this free suicide prevention training, you’ll learn warning signs of suicide and ways to walk alongside someone as they connect to services.
Like CPR, the more people who are trained, the more equipped we are as a community to help someone in need. Invite a friend or family member to come with you.
You can call Mental Health Association Oklahoma at 918.585.1213 if you have questions about the QPR training. The organization also has a website at www.mhaok.org and they are on Facebook as well if you wish to share the information about the training opportunity on September 22.