At a May 22 forum on suicide prevention at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, speaker Haley Lynch urged attendees to “seize the awkward.”
“Ask ‘How are you doing? I’m worried about you,” Lynch said. “Just be kind.”
Lynch, an Iowa City native, serves on the board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
She told her own harrowing story of surviving suicide attempts and coping with the suicide of her fiancé in 2011.
“Losing someone to suicide can be isolating,” she said. “I want to help people and educate people and let them know they’re not alone.”
Lynch said she suffered from sexual abuse at a daycare when she was a preschooler, and recalled that she was 9 years old the first time she thought about wanting to die.
Her family did not think someone so young could be suffering from depression, so they sought medical solutions for her increased heart rate and other symptoms.
“My anxiety and depression manifested as physical symptoms,” she said. “My heart rate skyrocketed, and it was hard to breathe.”
Doctors put her on a heart monitor because they thought she had tachycardia.
Her troubles continued, being raped at age 14, being homeless as a teen, suffering domestic violence and the subsequent loss of a pregnancy as a result of that domestic violence.
She eventually met Bill, the love of her life, and they began to build a family and a life together.
Lynch said that Bill seemed outwardly happy, proposing to her on July 4, 2011.
“When you have depression, you sort of put a mask on it,” she said.
On Oct. 15 of that same year, Bill took his own life.
Her loss prompted her to take part in the Out of the Darkness Walk to meet other people who have experienced similar losses.
That ignited a passion in her to become more involved in suicide prevention programs.
She has spoken to groups locally and around the country.
It has not been a smooth ride for Lynch, however.
In January this year, she hit a low point and attempted suicide for the first time in 10 years.
“You’re not necessarily thinking about dying,” she said. “You just want the pain to stop.”
She continues to advocate for suicide prevention programs.
She has spoken to a number of student groups as part of her work.
“I’ve been told by health experts to be honest with kids,” she said. “They often know more than we think they know.”
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