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The world needs more like Aunt Teri

Progressive Dairy Editor Jenna Hurty-Person Published on 23 August 2019

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 45,000 Americans died from suicide in 2016 – one person every 12 minutes. Another 1.3 million people attempted suicide that year. Given these numbers, mental health has been a topic of increasing concern.

I’ve heard far too many stories of farmers or veterinarians who thought suicide was their best option. It pains me to think someone could believe that, and my heart goes out to their families.

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For me, the topic of suicide hits close to home. My mom almost became one of those statistics. If it weren’t for her fighting spirit and some dear friends who became family, I don’t know where or if she would be here today.

My mom grew up in a highly dysfunctional household. Her mother passed away when she was born. The youngest of four, my mom took the brunt of her father and stepmother’s physical and emotional abuse. She grew up believing her mother’s death was her fault and no one would ever love her.

When I was little, my mom did her best to hide her past. When she finally opened up, I was surprised to learn she had contemplated suicide. The only thing that stopped her: She was terrified of the beating she’d receive should her suicide attempt fail.

Enter my now-Aunt Teri. She met my mom in junior high, saw her pain and latched on. She became the friend my mom desperately needed. She had my mom over to her house and invited her on a family vacation with their church. She did everything in her power to keep my mom’s spirits up and keep her fighting for a better tomorrow. Shortly after her 18th birthday, my mom showed up at school covered in bruises, again. That afternoon, my Aunt Teri marched into my mom’s house, helped her pack up her things and drove her to her own home, where my grandparents welcomed her with open arms. Within a few months, my mom officially became a member of the Wunsch clan.

Knowing my mom now, it’s hard to imagine she once believed suicide was her best and only option for escaping the earthly hell she was in. Today, she has been happily married to my father for 32 years and has three children who adore her. We may never fully understand what all my grandparents and Aunt Teri did for her so many years ago, but we are forever grateful that they threw her a lifeline. And that my Aunt Teri had the tenacity to jump in with my mom, tie the lifeline securely around her and help her back to shore.

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For those of you in the dairy industry, we have been in a long economic winter. Many of you have had to make some difficult decisions or may be contemplating a tough decision now. For those of you who have gone to a dark place mentally, I hope my mother’s story helps you and inspires you to reach out for help.

For those of you who are worried about your neighbor, friend, uncle, aunt or parent, I encourage you to be more like my Aunt Teri and call that person up, invite them over for dinner or stop by their farm and just say hi. I know I’ve been guilty of putting off calling or getting together with friends until I’m “less busy,” but the reality is: Everyone is busy, and you find time for the people you really care about.

You might get scared or worried about saying the wrong thing. I do. I also know there were probably plenty of times when my Aunt Teri didn’t say the exact right thing to my mom. But whatever her word choice, there was always one thing that was extremely apparent: She showed how much she cared.  end mark

Jenna Hurty-Person
  • Jenna Hurty-Person

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