CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The month of September was nationally recognized as Suicide Awareness Prevention Month. Although that month has passed, the conversations surrounding it do not. It's a conversation that doesn't stop.
For many, it's a recovery process that is an everyday venture.
In this month's, On Your Mind segment, 3NEWS met with Angela Horner and Heather Loeb of NAMI Greater Corpus Christi to learn more about the resources and support that our local NAMI chapter offers, as well as Angela and Heather's personal stories as to why this work is especially important for them.
For Angela, the affiliate leader and program director of NAMI Greater Corpus Christi, her mission to help and potentially save others comes by way of her nephew, Chris.
She recalls the morning of Dec. 9, 2011, when she received a phone call from her brother that her nephew had died by suicide. A morning she said she will never forget.
"He was one month from graduating college. He had a job lined up. He had two younger sisters who thought he walked on water," Angela said. "I tell his story because I don't want him to be forgotten. If my story can help save someone else's life, if my story can encourage parents to learn the warning signs..."
The warning signs can look different on everyone, but NAMI has identified the following as some of those:
Displaying extreme mood swings or feeling hopeless
Talking about wanting to die
Impulsive, aggressive, or reckless behavior
Increased alcohol/drug use
Collecting or saving pills or buying a weapon
Unbearable emotional or physical pain
Withdrawal from friends, family, community
Tying up loose ends, like paying off debts, making a will or giving away important possessions
Saying goodbye to family or friends
Earlier this year, the suicide and crisis lifeline updated to 9-8-8. A shorter number that's already making a big difference.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, in August, the first full month 9-8-8 became operational, the lifeline saw a 45-percent increase in calls, texts, and chats as compared to August of last year: meaning more people are getting connected to the helpers.
Prior to that, people just waited.
A struggle that Heather Loeb, the communications manager for NAMI Greater Corpus Christi, shared she knows well.
"76 people were in front of me, in the queue, and when you're in crisis and you're thinking about killing yourself, and you know you want to do it, that's unacceptable," Loeb said.
Loeb shared with 3News part of her story when she struggled with postpartum depression:
"I can remember I would lie to my husband about being sick so he could take the kids to school and I could just be in the bed. I would abuse my anxiety pills because I didn’t want to feel anything. I would overeat. I would compulsively shop. I would do anything for just a hit of dopamine… Just to feel something else," Loeb said. "Finally I broke down and told him, I've been doing this, this and this. I've been lying to you. I need help...and he was there for me."
She provided some advice to other mothers or parents who may be going through something similar:
"You always hear ‘don't pour from an empty cup,' but you have to take care of yourself. You think, 'oh if you take care of your babies you’re going to be a good mom and it doesn’t matter about you', but that’s just not right, you have to take care of yourself."
Loeb says to not underestimate the need for good sleep, to take whatever medication your doctor has prescribed to help you and to ask for help when you need it.
She also learned to lean on her support system, and still does:
"Everyday is a recovery, and it probably will be until...ever, but I take my recovery seriously, I take my mental health seriously. I have a great support group," Loeb said.
About the local chapter:
The NAMI Corpus Christi affiliate began in December of 2015. The affiliate covers 10 counties and is volunteer-led with currently 15 active volunteers.
Heather and Angela explained that typically, people will reach out to them to learn more about their support groups: there is one that is centered around family-support groups; those are currently virtual. The other is focused around recovery for those who are in recovery from mental health conditions; these are both in-person and virtual.
"People call because they don't know who to talk to, they don't talk to their friends or neighbors because then they get the judgment or the stigma, but they know when they call our NAMI phone there’s a non-judgmental person who will listen and often times they’ll feel better just having us hear their story," Angela said. "We just want people to know that it’s OK to talk about it and they’re not any different than you or I or anyone else."
The chapter focuses a lot on outreach: by being on social media, out at local health fairs and attending community events. The two shared they realize there may be a lot of people in the community who need to be heard, but who may not know who it is they can turn to.
“About a year ago, we kept hearing that ‘Oh NAMI is the best kept secret in Corpus Christi'", said Heather. "And we were like, we don't want to be the best kept secret. We want to be at the forefront! And I think that we’re making that journey there."
To contact NAMI Greater Corpus Christi, you can call or text 361-510-6939. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about volunteer opportunties through NAMI Greater Corpus Christi, click here.
To learn more about the various programs, support groups and classes offered through NAMI Greater Corpus Christi, click here.
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