Updated: Aug 9
My name is Deana Mitchell. This is the story of why I started the Realize Foundation and
why I believe we can make a difference.
In May of 1997 I survived a suicide attempt. And then I spent 23 years hiding it from the world, and from myself.
During that time instead of taking care of myself, I threw myself into work 24/7.
I had a successful career in the hospitality industry and climbed the ladder to the top of my field. In the last ten years, I built a seven-figure company and won numerous awards for our creativity and service to clients.
All came to a screeching halt in March of 2020 due to COVID. I found myself with no work to keep my mind occupied and no travel to keep me moving. I was learning that work was my coping mechanism. I had to focus on something, or I was not OK.
Back in 2018 while working on a book project, I wrote out a timeline of my life. I skipped over 1997, but it made me start thinking about it constantly. In August of 2018 I lost a friend to suicide, someone I had known for 20 years. I started asking myself if I could have made a difference in his life with my story. I think it was a possibility, and I could not go on without speaking up. I could not take the chance of that happening again.
Enter January 2020. I turned fifty and got a tattoo on my forearm that made clear my purpose in life and my commitment to save others from a similar path. I believe that God saved me that night in Arizona, there is no other explanation of why I am still here. These lyrics made me realize that…
“My brokenness brought me to you, and these wounds are a story you’ll use.
So I’m thankful for the scars, cause without them I wouldn’t know who you are.”
The words on my arm “Thankful for the Scars” remind me of this commitment every time I look down.
Last year – 50,000 Americans made the desperate choice to end their life.
Imagine that... Every 9 minutes – someone, somewhere, is mourning the loss of a loved one and asking; Why? What did I miss? What could I have done to prevent it?
Since making the decision to end my silence, I have spent countless hours researching and talking to mental health experts.
I submit that we can change the trajectory of this devastating trend by changing the approach. Not only targeting the people struggling, but also the friends & family around them to create more awareness. The only way to do that is to TALK about it!
Through my non-profit, The Realize Foundation we aim to end the stigma of suicide by normalizing the conversation, making it open and honest. We will be hosting virtual events, a podcast, a blog and will be launching community support groups in 2020; all to create safe spaces to share stories of struggle and triumph.
We have found that awareness, conversation and connection are the strongest tools we have in eradicating the stigma that keeps people silent and at risk. We need a global movement to make a difference in the statistics. The numbers have been rising for decades and we need a new approach. Together we can put an end to Suicide, every conversation lessons the stigma.
Who will YOU talk to today?
*Photo courtesy of Camara Photography