In honor of this past Saturday being National Suicide Prevention Day, I thought this would be a good time to start a conversation on mental health.

During Friday's show, we got breaking news about a lock-down at Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids. KCRG reported that a student at the high school was found behind the auditorium with self-inflicted gunshot wounds. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Although rumors are swirling online, we don't know for sure the name, current state, or reasoning behind the actions of the 15-year-old student.

As soon as I read the news story, I got that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. You know, the kind that you get when you're re-living something that you really don't want to. Suicide is a topic that is, unfortunately, very familiar to me. I've spoken on my personal experience before, but in case you didn't know, my father committed suicide in our family's home when I was 8-years-old. He suffered from an alcohol addiction that was aided by a very severe case of depression. Addiction, depression, and various other forms of mental illness are all very prominent in my family tree, and I am no exception. I've suffered from anxiety disorder since I was very young, and the older I get, the worse it gets.

I've seen a lot of comments on the student from Jefferson in the past few days, and although there is a lot of support for him and for suicide prevention, I've also seen a few comments that have made me a little angry. Instead of using that anger to get into a Facebook war with a total stranger, I remind myself that the person's comments are due to a lack of understanding and experience with mental illness. Almost everybody in my life has either dealt with mental illness first-hand, or knows somebody close to them who has. They've lived it. They know. But some people, they don't know anything about it. They've never been through it. They've never suffered or watched someone they love suffer. And I consider them to be extremely lucky. For a long time, I was very angry with my dad. I thought that what he did was out of selfishness, and that he didn't love me or my younger brother or my mom enough. I now realize that that wasn't the case. Last year, I went through a very dark time, and in that period of time, I finally understood why my dad decided to take his own life. I felt it. It wasn't a feeling that I would ever decide to act on, but just finally REALLY understanding the feeling for the first time was terrifying. I wouldn't wish the experience on my worst enemy.

Some of you reading this may think that I'm sharing far too much information and that this isn't something that we should be talking about, but I'm going to respectfully disagree. I think it's INSANELY important to talk about serious things like this. The more we talk about it, the less uncomfortable the subject becomes. Keeping quiet about mental health issues makes people think that it's shameful or wrong in some way, when it's NOT. You would never bash someone for going to physical therapy for their health, why would you do it to somebody who is going to therapy for their mental health? Just because you can't see the problem with your eyes, doesn't make it less real.

I just wanted to take this time to let everyone suffering from anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, or any other sort of mental illness know that you are NOT ALONE. I know you probably hear that all the time and you're like "yeah, yeah, whatever," but it's so true. Even when you feel like you're completely isolated from the world and that nobody understands, it's totally false. There are always options. There is always someone. YOU ARE NOT A BURDEN. I know that feeling all too well. I like to keep things to myself because I don't want to burden anyone else with my problems, and I like to think that I'm strong enough to handle it on my own. What I finally realized is that asking for help doesn't mean you're not strong. Sometimes admitting that you need help is the strongest thing you can do.

I also want to take this time to say that you never know who is silently suffering. I know that I'm a master of pretending I'm fine and keeping things to myself, and lots of other people are, too. Just keep that in mind. Sometimes the smallest act of kindness can mean so much.

If you are ever feeling like you are out of options and might do something drastic, there are plenty of suicide prevention hotlines and websites that you can turn to:

More From 98.1 KHAK