It was just around a year ago. I’ll never forget it. I got the message on Facebook through a mutual friend. I was told my friend passed away unexpectedly. No details were given. I was asked not to tell anyone else about it. I wondered what happened but decided it was best to respect the privacy of those more closely involved. After a month or so I pieced things together and figured out my friend had taken his own life. I don’t actually know the specifics and I wouldn’t really wish to share them here anyway.
This post is not about my detective skills. It’s not actually about me at all even if I thought it was or in some ways wanted it to be at certain times. When I heard the news I jumped to thoughts like, “What could I have done?” and “Is it somehow my fault?” “Was it my sins of omission or commission that caused this?” Intellectually I knew it was not about me but I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if I’d emailed him in August just to check in as I’d planned?” and “What if I’d never encouraged him to change jobs?” and “What if I’d made more time for the coffee and chats we’d scheduled and rescheduled and put off till a better time?” Again, when I step back I can see that these thoughts are somewhere between pointless and silly and that they don’t really help me or anyone at all.
Pushing myself out of the equation, I still found myself wondering about various other “what ifs.” For example, “What if he’d been more aware of how much he was loved and respected?” And, “What if he knew more about the resources (I presume) are out there?” To be honest, I have no idea how aware he was or wasn’t about the resources, help, and organizations out there. Below I share some links on the chance that someone reading this is unaware of what is out there. I’d invite comments with additional links and resources.
To my mind and experience, mental health is stigmatized and not talked about much in professional circles. There are some notable examples were this trend is not followed. Here are a few examples that jumped out to me:
- Sandy Millin shared (very) Useful Links on Mental Health for ELT and there is a lot there that might be of use and interest for others.
- Mental Health in ELT by Lizzie Pinard gave me a nudge to write about this here.
- The Teachers as Workers SIG interviewed Phil Longwell about mental health in ELT.
- Laura Patsko’s post on Mental Health in ELT has some important links and ideas about raising awareness about mental health.
I truly hope that sharing these might be helpful.
In some brief research and checking my memory I found Innovate ELT, and Gangwon KOTESOL included topics related to mental health in their conferences. I think that is a positive step. I wonder if this is something that is generally not seen as part of professional development and thus not featured at conferences?
I hoped to include some links and suggestions for people in Korea who might not speak Korean well enough to talk about such things in Korean. Here are a few:
- There is a Suicide prevention hotline at 1588-9191.
- Adaptable Human Solutions provides bilingual counseling.
- Here is a list of doctors, hospitals and international clinics from Korea4expats.com.
- The International Suicide & Crisis Hotline seems to be available in South Korea as well.
This is, I think, an incomplete list but I thought it could be a start. If anyone has any additional suggestions I will gratefully add them to the post.
I hesitated about writing this for ages as I worried it would be something like fishing for sympathy or something like that. I worried that I couldn’t capture the nuance I wanted. I feared I wouldn’t share my thoughts in an appropriate way. Today I finally decided to write it in the hope it might be helpful for someone. The fact today is World Suicide Prevention Day gave me the final push I needed to post it.