About briannadalej

In the American society, many subjects are considered taboo and we are taught at a young age not to talk about them. Two of these topics are depression and suicide. I wanted to give people a place to talk openly about this subject and delve into why this topic is not talked about and what can be done to help raise awareness.

Speak Up.

I’m at a loss for words tonight. I received a phone call notifying me that someone from the community I grew up in committed suicide this weekend during his first semester at college. I didn’t know him personally, but my heart is heavy for his friends and family. It’s in these moments that we need to remember that suicide & mental health need to be talked about.

So hug your loved ones a little tighter tonight and be willing to open up and
listen to those around you. The more awareness there is the more we can work toward helping those in need.

We matter as much as the oxygen we breathe.

World Suicide Prevention Day.

Many people have no idea this day exists, while others, can’t get it off their mind. I fall into the latter category. My heart is so heavy today.

Three years ago I knew very little about this day, if I was even aware at all that it existed. I knew about depression and suicide, I’ve had my very own struggles with both, but I never stopped to think about a day or a week dedicated to this subject.

What I also didn’t realize was how much of a stigma is tied to mental illness. Sure, I wasn’t willing to open up about my own past or share my own story, but I never stopped to think that others were feeling the same. I thought that I had made the subject taboo in my own life, but I’ve come to understand in the past couple of years that it wasn’t just me, it’s the society that we live in that makes this subject so unmentionable.

Depression. Suicide. Anxiety. PTSD. Why can’t we talk about these?

I’ve heard these called the “invisible disease” because at first glance, you have no idea that the other person is enduring a daily battle inside. But the same can be said for cancer, right? When my mom was first diagnosed with melanoma, you couldn’t tell by looking at her. We talk about cancer, why can’t we talk about mental health? We have telethons and months designated to bring awareness to cancer and other diseases that are widely known and shared, so why isn’t a day like today shared just as openly? Because it makes people uncomfortable? That’s not an answer I’m okay with.

Battling with a mental illness doesn’t make you less of a person. As I was reading through stories of survivors and those who have lost their battle I came across a post that read, “we matter as much as the oxygen we breathe.”

I don’t know if reading that has much power for you as it did for me, but it was enough to make me stop and really take in that statement.

We matter.

You are here for a reason. And so is the person sitting next to you. We’re alive and that’s something we should be proud of. Unfortunately, many people battling with mental illness aren’t able to see that. I was once one of those people. I was convinced that my scars told my story, but the truth I’ve come to realize is, that I have the opportunity to change that story. I had to come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to change my past. There are things I would have done differently, or not at all, but I can’t go back. What I can do, though, is change my future.

Maybe no one needed to hear my story. Or maybe just one person did. It’s worth it, though, because if I could have an impact on that one person, then my job is done.

I’ve loved someone who lost their battle. And that is a weight that I carry around with my every day. The what ifs, the what-could-have-beens, those are questions that, if I give them the power, will easily crush me. But I know there is a purpose to this life and to his. Maybe his story isn’t mine to share, but I’m willing to share mine.


Tonight, at 8pm, light a candle next to a window for all the people who couldn’t fight any longer and for those who continue to battle their illness every single day.


Character Flaw or Disease?

addictionAddiction, like mental illness, is a topic that is highly stigmatized. Is it because we’re scared of it? Or because we think addicts are all bad people? Maybe some of them are, but to generalize that all addicts are bad people, would be a mistake. Many people see an addict and blame their actions and decisions on a character flaw, but if we really looked closely, we would see a disease.

I’ll be the first to admit that I know little about addiction. It is such a huge topic to fully wrap my head around that I’ll never know the half of it. But that won’t stop me from trying. I fell in love with a person who was an addict and that was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Instead of blaming him for his addiction, I blamed myself and other medical issues. But now that years have passed, I can take a step back and understand that his addiction was a disease. And it needed to be treated.

I came across a really great article this morning from a woman who grew up with parents who were addicts. The article goes into detail about the healthcare system and the lack of treatment for addiction. If you’ve got a minute, I recommend giving it a read and maybe next time you come across someone who struggles with this disease, you’ll think a bit differently.

“But, their addiction wasn’t their fault — not just because addiction is a disease, which it is, but because we’ve never treated addiction like a disease, either culturally or in our health care system.”

I’m Here

I have a very heavy heart this week. The flood of emotions raging inside of me is almost as bad as the literal streets flooding outside from this week’s endless rain.

Thursday marked the beginning of Mental Health Awareness month and I’ve never felt the need to spread awareness as much as I do right now.

I was approached yesterday for advice to give a young person who is cutting. Twelve years old and this person is already trying to escape the pain they are feeling inside. It makes so sad to hear these stories, but I can relate. It takes me back to my younger years when I turned toward physical pain as an outlet to escape the torment of emotions I couldn’t deal with at the time.

I didn’t have advice. I wish there was a magic wand I could wave and this person would no longer want to harm themselves. But no such thing exists. All I have to offer is this:

There’s no perfect phrase to say to make this situation better. People cut becuase they’re unhappy with themselves or what they’re going through. They cut because what they’re feeling is so much to bear that they’d rather feel physical pain than emotional pain. Sometimes it’s a cry for help. The only thing you can do is make sure they know how loved they are and that, whatever they’re going through, will eventually pass. Make sure they know that you can see what they’re doing to themself and give them resources. Be willing to be an outlet with open arms and listening ears. Sometimes, that’s all you really can do.

A person that is close to my heart, and is someone I grew up with, was recently affected by suicide. All of a sudden I had a flood of messages coming in asking what could, or should, be said in a situation like this for the grieving family members. I was at a loss along with everyone else.

I sat. I cried. I reflected on this family and on my own past situation. I could feel my heart breaking.

What do you say?

I love you. I’m here. We can talk; we can sit in silence. I’m here.

That was the best that I could do.

The Chemistry Behind Depression and Mental Illness

Last month I received a phone call from my sister out of the blue. We often catch up weekly, but on this particular week, I had already spoken to her. When I answered the phone, the voice on the other line was full of passion and frustration.

My sister is a chemist who has only a few short months until she receives her PhD. While doing her research, she came across data supporting and explaining the chemical imbalance that someone suffering from depression or a mental illness faces. Although my sister has been a major part of my support system, it wasn’t until last month that I realized just how supportive she really is. She went on to tell me of the frustration she feels when people believe that medications are a “crutch” for someone dealing with a mental illness and the stigma that surrounds this topic.

The comparison was brought about that if you had cancer or diabetes, that medication would be the first step in overcoming and working through those diseases.

“Why, then, wouldn’t someone with a mental illness want to get that same help and treatment?”

My point exactly.

It is in these out-of-the-blue moments and side conversations that I remember why I fight for this cause.

Below is a post from the (almost) Dr. Hoover:

As a scientist, I like to look at problems in a critical manner. When I think of depression or any mental illness, I think of these from a chemical imbalance perspective. If you can inhibit the production of a certain chemical (dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine) and induce depression, how can one argue there is not a need for medication to restore a better balance of these “feel good molecules”?
Major depression affects 5% of people globally. While we refer to it as a chemical imbalance, it’s truly not that simple. Many chemicals are involved in the process, working both inside and outside of nerve cells. Millions, even billions, of chemical reactions are responsible for controlling a person’s mood and how they experience life. Scientists understand the brain better than they ever have, but we have a long way to go to truly understand how depression works at the molecular level. For now, I will choose to focus on dropping the stigma of taking medication that may help a person live a happier, fuller life.

Giving Back

It still catches me off guard when I see someone wearing a TWLOHA (To Write Love On Her Arms) shirt or sporting a bumper sticker. It always takes me back to the first time I heard about this organization and realized how much of an impact speaking up about suicide, depression, and self-harm can actually make.

If you’re feeling generous this week and want to support a great cause, log on to the Sevenly website and support TWLOHA with your purchase.