#WorldSuicidePreventionDay: What Kelechi Ubozoh, a suicide survivor, wants you to know
Article By Lady Charles // EEW Magazine // Suicide Prevention
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, created by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), to help bring awareness to the ways we can all help prevent suicide.
In honor of this day, EEW Magazine Online is highlighting a woman named Kelechi Ubozoh, a suicide survivor turned prevention advocate, who personally knows the internal struggles of the estimated 1.4 million people that attempt suicide every year.
This is her story.
Kelechi’s parents divorced at a young age, so she was raised by her mother, a doctor. Juggling the role of single motherhood while building a medical practice was not easy for Kelechi’s mom or her for that matter.
“From an early age, I almost felt like there was a black cloud over my head,” said Kelechi in a conversation with Live Through This, an organization dedicated to the memories of family, friends and loved ones lost to suicide.
“I was just always kind of sad, and I also had ADHD, so I was seeing a psychiatrist early on for medication,” she explained.
Growing up in Georgia was “was really tough” for Kelechi because she “didn’t fit in anywhere.” As a student at majority white schools, she felt like a total outcast.
“There was a lot of racism happening. I just didn’t understand who I was supposed to be. I wanted to be closer to the kids in my neighborhood who were black, but they didn’t really accept me because they thought that I wasn’t like them,” she remembered.
Eventually, Kelechi’s grandmother came to live with them to help her mother out, which made the youngster quite happy. “I can’t even explain her. She was like the sun. I couldn’t do anything wrong, even when I was doing everything wrong,” she said, speaking fondly of her grandmother.
Sadly, the family matriarch was diagnosed with cancer and died when Kelechi was in around 8th or 9th grade. Just like that, her whole world fell apart.
“When we lose people who seemingly have everything, it can be very scary,” she told ABC Network’s Good Morning America.
Afraid and devastated, Kelechi confided in a teacher and confessed she was going to end it all by suicide. In her naiveté, she expected her teacher to keep her secret, but the worried instructor “ended up telling my mom,” she said.
After Kelechi’s suicidal thoughts became public knowledge, she said, “I ended up going to the hospital, and the hospital was very scary. What I learned from being in the hospital was how never to be in a hospital again, which wasn’t a good thing to learn, because the main thing I learned was to never tell anyone the truth. From that experience, I decided if I ever felt this way again, I wouldn’t tell anyone. I would just hold it inside.”
Kelechi suffered in silence and bottled up her feelings. As time went on, she tried unsuccessfully to take her life a few times, but others were not aware of how tormented she was behind the façade.
“I’m still pretending to be happy, but I’m suicidal, but I’m squishing it down, and I’m doing all of this stuff, and then I get raped,” she said.
That’s when everything “exploded,” and Kelechi tried killing herself again.
“Why didn’t I reach out to anyone?” she asked, then answered, “Well, the truth is that I had [reached out]. I quietly tried to share that I was struggling, but instead of help, I was told that I was selfish, being dramatic and needed to pray. None of these messages were helpful. I felt like a burden and learned to hide my pain and pretend.”
Though it took many years, Kelechi said she eventually found her path to healing, which came through “connecting with the feelings I had avoided, developing boundaries, trauma-informed therapy, mental health advocacy, and removing toxic people from my life.”
Today, she is happy to say, “I’ve built a safety net of family and friends to catch me when I fall.”
Kelechi now advocates for others whose silent pain pushes them to resort to desperate measures. She is also using the power of media to amplify those silent voices and educate the public, so loved ones, and friends will know how to help someone groping with sadness and having suicidal thoughts.
“Please be good to each other,” she said and recommended that you “check on your strong friends who have it together, and your friends who are ‘too busy’ and have disappeared.”
Kelechi added, “If we can create a world where the stigma of suicide is decreased so people speak out when they are in pain, maybe we can prevent anyone else from dying.”
If you are in crisis or know someone in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.