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MY STORY

Mental health, suicide prevention 9/10/21


Yes, I know we are in the middle of a Pandemic. But, right now in the US, we have an epidemic going on. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Today, September 10th, is International Suicide Prevention Day why I am so passionate about this subject. It is a part of who I am. In 1988, I was eighteen years old. I can remember this like it was yesterday. I was standing in the kitchen, and my father was arguing with me about the SAT's and school. He repeatedly told me that I would account for nothing. I would be nothing. Basically, I was being told that I was a piece of shit. Later that night, after work, I did not drive home but to a local marina. I went there with the intent to end it.

I was going to show my father. I was going to put myself through hell to make sure I stuck it to him! I was going to drive my car into the intercoastal—death by drowning. As the car went down the ramp and the water began to enter the car, it happened. I had this image pop into my head. It was my grandfather. He was going through kidney cancer, and if I did this, I would kill him. I slammed my brakes just in time. The back end started to float a little. I began to panic a little. The car's rear wheels grabbed, and I was able to back up. I did not want my grandfather's death on my soul.

In 2018, I told an abbreviated version of that story, never the how I was going to do it. In fact, I have never told that story. I never told the therapist, not even my parents. I just told them I tried. There is a correlation with that year; Chef Anthony Bourdain completed suicide. 

I have been reflecting on why I haven't spoken about it. It is not like I haven't had some hard times since then. Back in 2003, my ex-father-in-law completed suicide. It was his third attempt. At that time, ironically enough, I found out some interesting stuff about my family. You see, one side of my family was asking in-depth questions. The other side was more silent. I found out that the quiet side had not one but two relatives complete suicide. We lost my Great Uncle and Great Grandmother to suicide. I was always told stories about my uncle and how he saved lives. He was a Dr. I did not learn the truth about his death until I was thirty-three.

I guess I feel more compelled to speak outwardly about mental health because of Chef Bourdain. Here is the absolute quintessential thing about Chef, he was the most extraordinary culinary storyteller of our time. He brought people from different backgrounds and used a common denominator to find something to start a conversation. Food was that denominator. Chef taught us, taught me the power food has. Think about this, whenever some great event happens in history, I bet it was over some great food. Chef had everything except peace from his demons. We, chefs, looked at Chef as someone who was one of us. We let him into our home to listen, to watch. He was like a buddy we would hang out with every week. To this day, his death affects me more than my father's death. I forgive my father for the way I let him treat me as a child. You read that right. Forgiving is power, and I forgive myself for beating myself up. In essence, Chef Bourdain lit a spark under my ass to tell my story. His death may be his most extraordinary story yet. His last story, his death, started a movement about mental health in one that has now spread to many. Think about this: his gift would be to save so many lives. We now have to start the conversation.

Today, September 10th marks International Suicide Prevention. Today at your family meals, tell a story. Hell, tell mine. Let your staff know it's okay not to be okay. Have this open conversation with your team. Mental health needs to be talked about like any other medical condition.

If real men can eat quiche, then real men can express their emotions. Sharing Our Stories will help chefs and others. It is just about starting the conversation.  

Hello, I am Jeffrey Schlissel, and I almost took my life at the age of eighteen. I am grateful that I am here to tell my story. I have and still am making a wonderful life not just for my family but for others. Those others need to know they are not alone. You are not the only ones to have ever thought this way. You are not a coward for feeling this way. No, you are not insane. You need to express yourself to someone that can help. The reason you think this way is because of how society dedicates MENTAL HEALTH. The perception that culture has currently is what we need to change. "It's okay not to be okay." should be the new norm.

Those of us that have attempted, we are like the Phoenix. We are alive once more from the ashes of our old life to the fire of this new one.

Life has several ups and downs. It is how we recover from the downs that are our wins. Funny thing, we never have to recover from a win!