Alive on Purpose

“Kids can be cruel. You just have to ignore them.”

That’s what my parents would say when I’d come home from school complaining about all the ways people were being mean to me. Back in the ’80s, bullying was not considered a big deal. It was looked at mostly as “kids being kids.” But what my parents and many others have learned since then is that the behavior known as bullying, “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance; is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time,” is exactly what I was experiencing.

The stopbullying.gov website further explains, “Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others.” Children squirted ketchup all over my clothes, wrote inappropriate things about me on the restroom wall and spit at me as I walked home from school. It was too much for me to handle. I told teachers and administrators, but it was basically my word against theirs and nothing was ever done. I prayed and prayed for it to stop, but it didn’t.

At one point, I decided the only way to make the bullying stop was if I wasn’t around anymore, and I contemplated and attempted suicide. I was so scared, but I took as many pills as I could stomach, which fortunately, wasn’t enough to do the trick. Thirty years later, I can appreciate the pain I was in and realize how that experience made me a better person. Had I succeeded, I wouldn’t have grown up to go to college, get married, have a rewarding career, birth three amazing babies and do important work to make the world a better place. But at the time, I couldn’t see my purpose.

LaToyia Jones had similar feelings. She attempted suicide twice. But instead of succeeding with this tragedy, she lived and founded a nonprofit called Alive On Purpose. The mission of the organization is the promotion of life by finding help for people struggling with depression, trauma and suicide. This program aims to positively affect the lives of the communities they serve, especially in the areas of suicide prevention, grief support and character development.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-24-year-olds. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, on average, there are 121 suicides every day. There is no single cause for suicides, but it often occurs when stressors exceed coping abilities. Through support groups, self-esteem development and character building, Alive On Purpose helps people find their reason for being and teaches them appropriate coping skills. Their tagline is “We believe in life over suicide!”

Siobhan Sudberry, founder of the Be Free Project, nominated Alive on Purpose to be featured on WISH Cleveland.

While you may not have struggled with thoughts of suicide, chances are you know someone who has. If you find yourself in a difficult situation and you feel like there is no way out, please reach out for help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.

September 10-17 is National Suicide Prevention Week. Share this blog post to increase awareness and shed light on a taboo and highly stigmatized subject.

Talk to children and teens about the danger of bullying, and connect them with useful resources. It may even save their lives.

Support suicide prevention organizations or volunteer your time and talents. Alive On Purpose needs volunteers to serve as group facilitators, outreach coordinators and special event support staff.

There is always a reason to live, be it for the people who love you or for the important things you have yet to do in this life. Sometimes it can be hard to see through the pain. But if you can help someone or yourself weather the storm, you will appreciate the warmth of the sun when it comes out again.

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