I have been called courageous, strong, insightful, a storyteller. I have also been asked why I share so much of our story. I’ve had well-intentioned people ask me if it is depressing or overwhelming to constantly being thinking about suicide prevention and mental health issues. I’ve been hurt when people choose to stop talking to me or choose to ignore my reality because it makes them uncomfortable.

The reality is that I don’t do this because I chose this. I do this because my reality has been altered in one of the most profound ways a life can be. When Ashley died by suicide, I realized how over the last three years, we didn’t speak up about the issues that had been weighing us down as a family. I realized that we kept quiet because of the stigma attached to the words suicidal, depression, anxiety, sexual assault. If these words make you feel uncomfortable, you need to shift your thinking. I don’t.

Ashley is the reason I speak about it and share it across multiple platforms. Why is it when someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, diabetes, leukemia, and other diseases we as a society -rally. We set up social media sites to show our support. We get out and run/walk every race. We follow the families affected and reach out to them- even when we don’t know who they are. Their stories touch us. Why don’t we show the same support to those who are struggling with very real, and sometimes more deadly, mental health issues?

The stigma attached to mental health needs to stop. I WILL CONTINUE to talk about it, advocate, fight, and promote until suicide stops, and the stigma is gone. This may take my whole life. I will not apologize for making anyone uncomfortable by bringing up difficult topics. I OWE THIS TO MY DAUGHTER. She no longer has a voice. Her voice is heard through those left behind. If this makes me courageous, brave, strong- so be it. I just want it to make me a MOM who LOVES her child so much that she will not let her story be forgotten.