Local woman shares personal story for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 10:25 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - It’s been less than four months since 23-year-old Linda Clavijo Fajardo checked herself into Research Psychiatric Center.

“I realized that I needed the help at that moment,” she said. “Otherwise, something bad was going to happen and I would not be speaking with you today.”

She chose to speak publicly to put a face to the struggle during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, hoping it will help others know they’re not alone.

Clavijo Fajardo said she enlisted in the Air National Guard and started her training in 2020. It was then that she first noticed something was wrong. She found herself crying.

“I felt alone even though there were 30 different girls in the room with me,” she recounted. “I felt like I was having an anxiety attack. I felt like there was someone sitting on my chest. I felt very shaky. And I just thought, ‘Oh, it’s because I’m nervous. A lot of stressors far away from home.’”

It persisted, but it was an environment where speaking up could impact her training. Her role was security forces. A mental health diagnosis could mean she’d be unable to carry a firearm.

It persisted after she graduated tech school.

She went to Bogota, Colombia, with her boyfriend and family this spring. She’s smiling in the photos. But inside, she was dying and feeling guilty about it. She was supposed to be happy to see her family.

“On the inside, I was just a ticking bomb actually,” she said.

Some days, she slept nearly all day. Yet, she continued to work and go to school. She tried to soothe herself by spending more money than she had shopping.

“When that box showed up, it made me happy,” she described. “Then, once I would open up whatever it was and then I would use it, that happiness was gone. So, it was a cycle that would repeat itself. Shop for something else to fulfill that happiness that I don’t have.”

In June of this year, she hit a breaking point.

“I would normally wake up angry and that’s how just my day started,” she recalled. “But that day, for some reason, I woke up angry and I started throwing things. I just wanted to break something and I was just done with the world. I was done with everything.”

That’s when she decided to check herself in to Research Psychiatric Center. She remembers sitting on benches with other patients, feeling not so alone, and connecting with counselors like Justina Weber.

“I think a lot of people can relate to feeling out of control, feeling like they’re not themselves, feeling like they don’t like the person that they are,” Weber said.

She noted that loved ones often want to help, but don’t know how to seek it out. A professional counselor can provide guidance. She said it’s important to remember that what you think is best might not work for the person you’re trying to help.

“Meet the person where they’re at,” Weber said. “So, for somebody, that might mean encouraging them to get up out of bed and take a shower. And, that’s okay if that’s what you do today. Just asking the person, ‘How can I help you?’ Is it a daily call to check in? Do we need to download some apps on your phone for meditation, or yoga, or mindfulness? Do I need to call your work and see if you have FMLA benefits or EAP to get an individual therapist? Whatever that person needs; just meet them where they’re at.”

She also raised the need to flip the concept of a person asking for help as being weak.

That was especially hard for Fajardo. She said that, in her culture, the oldest child is supposed to be glue of her family. She referred to the oldest sister character in the Disney animated film Encanto.

“If she shows that she’s weak, the whole family breaks down,” Fajardo said. “That’s how I felt.”

“In fact,” Weber countered, “the people who love them and care about them and support them will actually say, ‘You’re really strong. Thank you for coming to me. I’m glad you came to me.’ What strength does that take to admit that these things are happening? And then, to do the work to feel better?”

Fajardo still struggles. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which still feels weird for her to say because she doesn’t want to feel labeled.

Weber hopes that people start to see mental illness differently than they have for so many years.

“I think we should normalize talking about mental health and wellness,” she said. “Just like somebody seeks treatment for their diabetes and they take their insulin, somebody - so many - should seek treatment for their mental health and wellness and take their antidepressant.”

Fajardo speaks with authority and clarity when she discusses her feelings and her path to recovery. She hopes her words will help others.

“If I was brave enough to drive here, someone else can also be brave,” she said. “Someone else can also get the help they need. Because, I know I’m not alone.”

Weber urges people to watch for warning signs of mental health crisis, like the following:

  • Mood swings
  • Aggression
  • Impulsivity
  • Tearfulness.
  • Increase in drug or alcohol use
  • Withdrawing from hobbies or activities
  • Giving away belongings
  • Expressing thoughts such as, “I’m a burden”

If you need to talk with someone, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. This year, they replaced their 1-800 number with something easy to remember: 9-8-8. You’ll get professional counselors and can call at any time.