If you are in crisis, please call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741
You are not alone
Are you feeling depressed, anxious or alone? Do you feel your family or friends can’t understand what you are going through? Do you feel like you are a burden? Do you have a friend or a loved one experiencing these feelings?
Your feelings matter. We are here to listen and help you.
Real People. Real Voices.
Reaching out when you need help or when someone you know is struggling can be hard, but it can make all the difference. Browse these stories and see that you are not alone.
My Perfect Life
Moments in Time
Moments in Time
As a much younger man, I was a lost soul trying to find his place in the world. In that moment in time, I was going through a tumultuous period in a relationship I was in, disliking my job, disillusioned with my station in life. So, I did what someone who continually struggled with addiction does–I turned to old friends. I turned to drugs. Anything I could get my hands on that would alter my state of consciousness, I took. Mostly, it was cocaine. I loved my cocaine. However, it also was Percocet, Hydrocodone, LSD, Ecstasy…whatever…whenever. I wanted to numb myself from my harsh reality. See, I had this underlying issue going on that I wasn’t prepared to face. Every line of cocaine I did, every pill I popped, every hallucinogenic I took, I knew I had a problem. There was even a rock-star sense of pride that came along with it. Addiction was somehow, in my faulty-wired brain, cool. But, if you called me depressed? Well now…you and I were going to have a problem. My problem with you, back then, would’ve been that you were calling me “weak!” By calling me depressed, you were insulting me. I couldn’t stand for that. That’s the inherent flaw in so many men—this man.
We give it cool sounding names like machismo or bravado. However, what it is, when we rid it of its pomp and ceremony, is foolish pride. This underlying, willfully unrecognized, raging depression was the impetus for my addiction. I recall, when my addiction was at its most prominent, I would regularly do my standard amount of cocaine, which was enough to kill a small horse, and “pop” about ten 10mg pills of Percocet. I wasn’t afraid that my heart would explode; I was banking on it.
That was the first time I realized I wanted to die.
I tempted fate frequently with this same process…cocaine and pills. A constant barrage of my being with those two weapons. Sadly, that wasn’t the low point. If you’ll indulge me, let’s fast forward to another moment in time, where this son would bring his laundry to his mom to do. Except, this time was different. To give you a point of reference, I was doing so much cocaine, that I lost track of so much of it. This time, it was a large bag of it, in the pocket of a pair of pants that I had just dropped off to my mother’s to wash…
My mother is outstanding at being my mother. But, you should know that she would never, ever, pass up an opportunity to lecture me about anything. She loves her lectures to this day. In this moment in time, however, when she found that bag that I had forgotten about, in my pants’ pocket, there were no lectures. What I saw is seared into my mind’s eye forever; It was the look of heartbreak that was on my mother’s face. Time passed and we weren’t speaking. My relationship with my mom was broken. The relationship with my girlfriend at the time, gone. I was fully symptomatic of my depression, and it was at that time that I backed my car into the garage, ran the hose from the tailpipe into the slightly opened window, and began to suck the oxygen from my lungs. I set it up like I’d seen in movies a thousand times. I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up again.
The religious will call it the grace of God. Those without faith will call it happenstance or sheer luck. While the oxygen was being sucked out of my car, in that garage, and it was being replaced by carbon monoxide, in this moment in time my mother decided it was time to mend our relationship. That her son, somehow, needed her. My cell phone rang, and on the screen, on the caller ID, I saw “Mom.” I lunged for the phone. I lunged for the electronic garage door opener. I no longer wanted to die. I wanted to speak to my mother. I wanted to tell her I loved her. I wanted to hear her say everything was going to be okay. In her own unique way, she said all these things by actually saying the poetic, “I’m stopping at Chili’s. What do you want to eat?” I wish it was more dramatic or poetic than that, for the sake of a good story. But, it was what it was. Maybe it was the grace of God? It may have been sheer luck. I prefer to think it’s that unbreakable connection between parent and child. That’s why I’m still here. Because of her. Because of my mom.
I know that I am one of the lucky ones. That’s not lost on me. That so many of our brothers and sisters are gone—gone because of suicide. Gone because of overdose. That realization impacts every minute of my life. Because the stars somehow aligned, I’m still here. It was that moment in time, where I faced the reality that I was severely depressed. It began the long and arduous road of recovery. My addiction came and went, and come back again since then. But for now, I’m keeping it away—one day at a time. My depression still lurks. Like a demon waiting for its opening, it stalks me. I’m more prepared now. I’m more aware. I’m more honest with who I am, and what my struggles and shortcomings are. This self-realization and the knowledge that asking for help doesn’t make a man weak; It makes him strong. This wisdom that we all fall down and we all need a hand to get back up, is what makes us resilient. I have, since that moment in time where I wanted to fall asleep and never awake again, have repurposed my life. Putting the needs of others ahead of my own has mended me. It’s made me as whole as I’ll ever be. The monsters that are depression and addiction still want me dead and are still part of me, as much as my arms and legs are. But, I no longer fear them. They do not have that power over me any longer. They are now, simply, my old and depraved friends.
If you take nothing else away from my story, just remember, as corny as it sounds, and played out as it is, the saying that “you are not alone!” is still so potent and powerful. Asking for help is the opposite of weak. In different moments in time, we all fall down. Asking for help to get back up, is the strongest thing we can do.
You are not alone.
Hi, my name is Alexis, and I am the president of a small non-profit called Ricky’s Compass. Our goal is to shatter the stigma surrounding mental illness. The reason I co-founded this organization stems back to a couple of years ago.
On September 21, 2017, a very dear friend of mine, Ricky Godoy, died by suicide after struggling with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type 1. Although this was not the first time I knew of someone dying by suicide, it certainly seemed like one of the most impactful moments of my life. Ricky was a mentor to me. He was like a big brother, and he constantly did all he could to help others.
Whenever Ricky was around, I felt like he was always imparting words of wisdom and knowledge into my life. The summer before he died, I could tell he was struggling, but I didn’t realize just how bad it was. When I got the phone call explaining what happened, I screamed. I sobbed. I felt completely shattered. Many times, we are quick to blame ourselves for not doing more. My grieving process was long, and it was often riddled with guilt.
Over time, I had to teach myself that no matter how hard I wanted to, I could not change the past. I could only focus on the future. Rick’s life inspired me to do more to help those who are hurting. He put others first even in his darkest times. However, that does not mean we should not take care of ourselves as well. Empty kettles cannot fill empty cups.
I needed to allow myself time to grieve, but I could not allow my guilt to overcome me. I had to express my feelings. Sometimes, it came out as rude. Sometimes, it was expressed through my frustration, and sometimes, it flowed out through my tears. By allowing myself to grieve and giving a voice to my emotions, I realized there were other people, more of Ricky’s friends, who felt the same way. I also realized that Ricky’s suicide was a result of the illness that plagued his mind. It was nobody’s fault.
Now, my overall goal is to just be there for people. It sounds simple, but it is certainly something I am constantly working on. If someone’s on my mind, I try to reach out as often as possible. If something seems different, I do my best to check in. If I don’t have the answers, or if I don’t know what to do, I reach out to someone else who does. We aren’t required to know everything. We just need to do our best to be there for the ones we love.
I started wrestling when I was 4 years old and continued through college. Most of my upbringing was centered around my wrestling career. I skipped out on doing a lot of the things most kids in high school do, such as partying and drinking. Putting myself in compromising situations never seemed like a good idea considering my goal. I also have the most supportive parents a son could ask for. My dad took me to every tournament and my mom was my biggest fan. After I graduated high school, I attended East Stroudsburg University after being recruited to wrestle there. They had a good wrestling program and it was only an hour drive from my house. My parents could get to see me wrestle which was very important to me. I was proud of myself for having accomplished getting there and being a part of the team. I was doing my schoolwork and staying focused on wrestling. Things were going as I had planned my Freshman year.
The beginning of my Sophomore year started off quite differently. I was in a serious relationship. My grades were slipping because I was barely spending time studying. I soon came to find that balancing school, athletics, and a social life was difficult. I was focusing more of my time on my relationship than on my schoolwork. On top of it all, I started partying and that made my situation worse. My girlfriend and I started to fight all the time. Neither one of us were right for each other. During finals week, I was made aware I needed to pass all my exams to remain eligible for the upcoming season. However, on the night of a final I decided it would be a good idea to study and sleep at my girlfriend’s house. I woke up the next morning and was late for the final. I was given an incomplete for the class. My irresponsibility had caused me to become ineligible for the next season. I was devastated and I had no idea how I would tell my parents and teammates. I was ashamed and embarrassed. My parents worked hard to make sure they could send me to college, and I wasn’t working hard enough to show I deserved it. They deserved more from me for their sacrifices.
The school year ended, and I was heading home with this secret of mine eating away at my conscience. I was paying for the mistakes I made during the school year. To make matters worse, I was still stuck in my toxic relationship with my girlfriend. As the summer was coming to an end, I had a constant feeling of anxiety come over me. I wasn’t sleeping regularly and was sometimes awake for more than 20 hours a day. I was starting to feel lost and alone. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone what was going on because I was so embarrassed. Fall semester had started and I still hadn’t figured out how I was going to broach the subject of my eligibility with my parents and I was still spending all my time in a dysfunctional relationship. The first weekend I was back at school I helped my girlfriend move. Right after we finished, we started fighting again. From that weekend, things got much worse. The choice I made over the next 24 hours changed my life forever. It changed my family member’s lives forever.
Sunday, September 03, 2006 is a day I’ll never forget. It’s the day I chose myself over everyone I love and everyone that loves me. I woke up after a night of fighting, which continued throughout the entire day and ultimately led to my girlfriend and I breaking up that night. The relationship that I sacrificed my wrestling career for, was now gone. All I could think about was having lost everything that was important to me at that time. I was completely distraught.
Hurting more than ever, I found myself looking for a way to stop the pain. In my eyes I had lost so much and didn’t know how to deal with it. My ability to rationalize was gone. I had no one to talk to about it. My roommates were not around so I couldn’t turn to them for help. I was alone with just my thoughts. At the time, the pain I was experiencing made me believe the only thing I could do to make it go away was to commit suicide. I grabbed a large bottle of Tylenol from my dresser and began to consume the bottle. I didn’t really want to die but I was convinced this was the only way to make the pain stop.
After I took the pills, I decided I was going to get in my car and start driving. By the time I got myself down from my apartment I was already starting to feel drowsy. When I got in the car, I called my parents and brothers to say goodbye and that I love them, and that I was sorry for what I was doing. After speaking to my parents, my mom reached out to my ex-girlfriend to get her to find me. She found me unresponsive, locked in my car. Her and her roommate broke my car window, pulled me out and called 911. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, in a panic, she stuck her fingers down my throat while I was laying on my back to get me to throw up the pills. When she did that, I aspirated vomit into my lungs.
Shortly after that the rescue squad arrived on scene and brought me to the local hospital. Upon being brought in, the doctors were never made aware that I aspirated vomit into my lungs because nobody knew. The Drs main concern was my liver and kidneys because of all the Tylenol I took. They immediately induced me into a coma. While in a coma I developed pneumonia from the aspiration, which led to a staph infection. The staph entered my blood stream, leading to sepsis. My entire body started to shut down as I fell into septic shock. I was only being kept alive by a ventilator. My body retained fluids and I quickly went from a healthy 155lbs all the way up to 240lbs. I was cut open from my sternum to my pelvis to relieve pressure, left open for several weeks, and then closed with over 300 staples and stitches. I lost circulation to my hands and feet and ended up with necrosis. Unfortunately, they would have to be partially amputated a few months later. The day I was being discharged to transfer to a hospital in NJ, I was overdosed on potassium causing me to have grand mal seizures. I slipped right back into a coma and was labeled brain dead for 3 weeks. My parents were being told by doctors that they should take me off life support as there wasn’t any hope. This was now the third time my family was planning my funeral.
After nearly 3 months in the ICU and several surgeries, the worst was finally behind me. When I was finally released to go home, I was facing another big hurdle- amputations to the front half of each foot as well as the fingers on my right hand. After I had the amputations done, I started to become mobile again. It wasn’t just physical rehabilitation that I needed to do. Coming to terms with what I had done was no small task. In the beginning so much of what happened was still a blur. I had a lot of trouble accepting what I had done, because I couldn’t remember anything from the night, I tried to commit suicide. I had an incredibly bright future ahead of me and now I couldn’t walk to the bathroom on my own. How was I going to build a life for myself? The thing that helped me get through this, besides my family, was my wrestling background. What I learned from wrestling was hard work and being reliant on yourself. In wrestling you must be strong minded and strong willed. If not, you will not survive the sport. In my case, I would not have survived my ordeal if I never wrestled.
It’s been almost 15 years and I still wake up every morning with reminders of what happened, but I don’t harp on it. I’d like to say nothing good came out of what I did, but it would be a lie. I became a better person and I have a new appreciation for life. I met my amazing wife who I probably wouldn’t have met if this didn’t happen. I look at it as a very tough life lesson, but the biggest lesson I learned is to ask for help. There is nothing wrong or shameful with needing help. If I offer any piece of advice, it’s to say that if you are hurting or going through a hard time, reach out to someone. It doesn’t matter who it is. Everybody goes through difficult things and we have the ability to change a person’s life.
Below you’ll find common warning signs of suicide to look out for:
Changes in appearance, neglect of hygiene
Changes in mood, behavioral problems
Changes in eating habits
Frequent visits to school nurse
Isolated on school bus, in cafeteria
Loss of interest in favorite activities and/or schoolwork, complaints of boredom
Does not respond to praise as before
Unusual pattern of absences, tardiness, cutting class
Bullying behavior or social media aggression
Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
Withdrawal from friends
Concerns expressed by other friends/peers
Using drugs and alcohol
Giving away possessions, getting affairs in order
Preoccupation with violence, dying/death, drawings, poems related to death/violence
Talking about being a BURDEN to others; emotional distress, complaining
Talking about wanting to die, feeling hopeless, being trapped
Actual threats or suicide notes
Start the Conversation
If you think someone might be suicidal, don’t be afraid to ask the question. It doesn’t hurt to ask! You would rather get "no" as an answer than risk missing a chance to help.
A simple guide to a difficult conversation
1. Ask, “Are you ok?”
2. Listen with a calm, receptive, open mind
3. Tell someone
4. Follow up
What to Say
I have been feeling concerned about you lately.
Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
I wanted to check in with you because you haven't seemed yourself lately.
It seems like you are going through a difficult time. How can I help you to find help?
I've been worried about you. Can we talk about what you are experiencing? If not, who are you comfortable talking to?
Additional questions you can ask
Do you want to talk about it?
When did you begin feeling like this?
Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
What can I do to help?
Have you thought about getting help?
I care about you and want to listen. What do you want me to know about how you are feeling?
Who or what has helped you deal with similar issues in the past?
Ask the direct question
Are you thinking about suicide?
Do you have a plan to take your own life?
Have you ever been so unhappy lately that you’ve thought about ending your life?
When people are as upset as you seem to be, they sometimes wish they were dead. I’m wondering if you’re feeling that way?
I'm concerned about your safety. Have you thought about harming yourself?
What you can say to help
You are not alone in this. I am here for you.
I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
I’m sorry you’re feeling so bad.
We’ll get through this together.
Let’s keep you safe.
And, don’t forget
You are NOT giving them the idea by asking about suicide.
People don’t wake up one day and decide to take their lives. By asking the question, you give them the opportunity to talk about some scary thoughts.
NEVER promise to keep a secret when there is a danger to someone’s life.
And be prepared to break it if you do. Keeping a promise is not as important as saving a life.
You’re not solely responsible for making them feel better.
You’ve opened the door to this important and perhaps life-saving conversation. This is a shared responsibility that belongs to more than one person.
What NOT to say
Sometimes the things we say in normal conversation can sound to a person who is thinking about suicide like we are insensitive or simply don’t understand their pain.
Don’t worry, everything will be alright.
By next week, you’ll forget all about it.
This is nothing!
You have so much to be thankful for.
Think about how your family would feel if you killed yourself.
Don't be so dramatic.
You've seen the warning signs and started the conversation.
What to do when:
You need help now. You have a plan and access to means.
Tell someone what you are thinking. Ask an adult for help.
Call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: 988 or 2NDFLOOR: 1-888-222-2228. If you need immediate help, call 9-1-1.
What to do when:
You're experiencing sadness, hopelessness, withdrawing from friends & suicidal thoughts.
Tell a trusted adult - a parent, teacher, guidance counselor, or coach.
Call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: 988
What to do when:
Your friend is expressing suicidal thoughts.
Don’t wait. Tell a trusted adult immediately. Never keep it a secret if a friend tells you about a plan to hurt themselves.
What to do when:
You’re with a friend who appears to be struggling with mental health symptoms/stress.
Encourage them to talk to a trusted adult - a parent, teacher, guidance counselor, coach, etc.
What to do when:
You're a parent with a child who has suicidal thoughts.
Always take what they are saying seriously. Don’t minimize their feelings. Start a conversation by asking them how long they have been feeling this way and if they have a plan. If they have a plan, take them to your nearest emergency room. Let them know that together, you will get through this. If there are pills, guns, or bullets in the house, lock them up in a secure location.
What to do when:
You're a parent with a child who is exhibiting warning signs of suicide.
Let your child know what signs you’re seeing. Let them know that you are concerned, and are here for them. If they don’t want to talk to you, provide them with this number to call: 2NDFLOOR 1-888-222-2228. If there are pills, guns, or bullets in the house, lock them up in a secure location. Find them a counselor.
What to do when:
Your friend is experiencing mental health symptoms but is NOT suicidal.
Call us for information and a referral to assist with finding support in the community. Give them the Crisis Text Line number: 741741. Follow-up and continue checking in.
If you’re feeling suicidal, please text or call 2NDFLOOR at 1-888-222-2228.
The information you provide in the form below will be completely confidential, and you will be contacted by a trained professional.
Schools & Communities
MHA offers FREE suicide prevention programs to schools and community organizations throughout northern New Jersey.
For 3rd & 4th Graders
Gizmo 4 Mental Health
For Middle & High Schools
Signs of Suicide (SOS)
For School Staff
Suicide Prevention in Schools
Suicide Prevention at Home
Stress Management and Anxiety in Youth
For Youth and Adults
Overview of Mental Illness in Youth
Gizmo 4 Mental Health
The Gizmo 4 Mental Health program is a fun, flexible curriculum for elementary youth in 3rd and 4th grade that encourages students to pay special attention to their emotions, actively plan for dealing with distress, and reach out for help when appropriate. These skills help students be better prepared to face emotional challenges that may occur during their pre-teen and teen years.
The goal of this program is to promote mental health awareness and education at age-appropriate levels. Through an interactive approach, students are taught to prioritize their mental health and develop coping strategies that fit their own interests and preferences. The program encourages help-seeking, rather than negative stigma reinforcing messages which can serve as barriers to the treatment of mental health conditions.
Students are introduced to the term “trusted adults” and are encouraged to think about the trusted adults in their lives who they can turn to when they are feeling overwhelmed by feelings of distress or anxiety. Materials are provided for them to develop their own “mental health plans” to refer to when they find themselves in need of support.
This program was developed through funding by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) and funding received by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS). It has been recognized and promoted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The Gizmo program satisfies several recommended NJ Department of Education Learning Standards.
Signs of Suicide (SOS)
The Signs of Suicide program (SOS) is an evidence-based youth suicide prevention program designed for middle and high school students that provides education about mental health awareness, depression, and suicide. The program has demonstrated an improvement in students’ knowledge and adaptive attitudes about suicide risk and depression.
Through videos and in-class discussion, students learn how to recognize serious mental health struggles in themselves and their friends, and it provides them with options for reaching out for help from trusted adults in their lives. Students are also provided with contact information from multiple mental health organizations to use in times of crisis. Materials are also available that train school professionals, parents, and communities to recognize at-risk students and take appropriate action.
This program can be offered within the time frame of a single classroom period. The effectiveness of this program has been demonstrated in several high-quality studies which found an increase in students’ understanding of issues regarding suicide and depression, and a decrease in suicide attempts.
The SOS program satisfies educational goals set forth by the NJ Department of Education Learning Standards in several important areas.
Suicide Prevention in Schools
This workshop is geared toward members of the school district. Individuals will learn the warning signs and risk factors for suicide. Participants will learn how to initiate a conversation, encourage help and ask the right questions.
Suicide Prevention at Home
One of the more difficult challenges of parenting is realizing that you don’t always know what your children are thinking and feeling. You may be aware that suicide is the second leading cause of death in adolescence, but you can’t imagine your child might become one of those statistics.
When do the normal ups and downs of adolescence become something to worry about? How can you know if suicide is a risk for your family? What are the warning signs? And if you are worried about it, what can you do?
Stress Management and Anxiety in Youth
Participants will come to understand what stressors youth are under in today’s world. Beneficial coping strategies, techniques and therapies will also be discussed to assist in minimizing the stress that youth face and helping them live a life with ease.
Overview of Mental Illness in Youth
Participants will learn to decipher typical adolescent behavior and potential signs and symptoms of a mental illness. Participants will also learn about the importance of positive mental health and how to assist their child to achieve it.
This presentation is offered for both youth and adults, assisting adults with what they can look out for in young people, and what youth can spot in their peers.
The Mental Health Association can provide presentations about mental health related topics that can be customized to the needs of a particular organization or population.
For example, presentations have been developed for bullying, self-care, and the effects of Covid-19 on youth mental health. To discuss a presentation that might fit your needs, contact us using the form below.
Contact us today to learn more about how you can bring these free, evidence-based suicide prevention programs to your school or community.
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in young people ages 10-24. (CDC)
Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: 988
NJ Suicide Prevention Hopeline: 1-855-654-6735
2NDFLOOR: Call/Text 1-888-222-2228
TrevorLifeline: 1-866-488-7386, Text TALK to 678678
Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741741
Teen Line: 800-852-8336, Text TEEN to 839863, Open 9pm – 1am EST, every night