ST. LOUIS – While everyone knows the names Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, statistics tell us 123 people in the United States, people whose names you've never heard, die by suicide every day.
Joyce Johnston knows that all too well. She sat in her office at the National Alliance on Mental Illness St. Louis Friday answering phone calls every few minutes. She said after a high-profile suicide, people start asking for help.
“We're getting quite a few calls today. They're reaching out about their family member for the most part. We have had a couple people call for themselves,” she said.
Thirty years ago, Johnston was the one needing help.
“I was so depressed, I was crying all the time. I really didn't want to die, but I didn't want to live anymore,” she said.
Johnston realized she had reasons to live. So, she got into treatment.
“I didn't want to leave my kids. I wanted to live for them. Since I've been on medications and treatment, I have a wonderful life. My children are all doing well,” she said.
Now, she's using her experience to help others. She joined NAMI St. Louis in 1994 as a volunteer and became a staff member in 2005. Her job includes working with support groups and organizing classes.
“That class helps family members work with their ill family member and help them get better,” she said.
Johnston says one of the biggest challenges is reaching people who are struggling, but decide to grin and bear it rather than ask for help.
“If you're putting on that happy face and not telling someone you’re having a hard time, you're going it alone. And going it alone with mental health issues is a problem,” she said.
Johnston isn't going it alone. And it's her life mission to make sure nobody else does.
“If I saved one life, it would make a difference,” she said.
If you or someone you love is in crisis, you do not have to suffer alone. There is help available around the clock from the Behavioral Health Response. Just call 314-691-3814 any time, day or night.