August 10, 2020 / Personal
Weekly Hero Megan and The "I Will" Project
Megan Gooden is the founder of The “I Will” Project, their mission is to prevent suicide through community education. She has worked in the mental health industry for 15 years and she has experienced suicide on a professional level but it was not until 2017 that she experienced it on a personal level; when she lost her very close friend Jason William “Chill Will” Abbott to suicide.
Megan felt that there was a gap and she wanted to do something about it. She wanted to bring awareness to the symptoms of depression and possible suicidal tendencies and that is when she had the idea for The “I Will” Project, named after her friend.
This is a very difficult subject but it is one that needs to be talked about more often and not swept under the rug.
There are several members in my family who have been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and I myself have dealt with depression for over 20 years and I take anti-depressants. Mental health issues have taken over a large part of my life and it’s something I think about and deal with on a daily basis, so I’m very happy to share Megan’s story and her Non-Profit that she and Jason’s sisters, Jen and Janelle, began in 2017.
The “I Will” Project has several different ways that they use to help educate people. They have community listening sessions where people can come to share their stories, whether they have been suicidal themselves or if they know of someone who has died from suicide. They also do assemblies at schools, libraries and boys and girls clubs to inform people of the signs to look for. Another approach they have is actually working with teachers who have chosen to be a “safe person”, someone who has gone through training to better understand mental illness, how depression looks when it dips and how to get that person to the right resources. These teachers are designated by a special “I Will” Project pin that they wear to let people know that they are there to help and they want to help.
Since the Covid19 pandemic began there has been a 15% increase in depression and suicide. At The “I Will” Project they are trying new ways of working with people via the internet. One of those ways is that they will ask people who have dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts to show a picture of themselves when they felt at their lowest. Often times these people might look very happy and “normal” in their photos, but the stories they tell of what was really going on in their heads is very different.
Megan says: “So many people believe that happiness is a choice. To me, if happiness were a choice we would simply all choose it. It’s not, it can be both lost and found. But love, love is a choice. We can choose love, consistently, despite tragedy and circumstance, we can always choose love.”
If you are concerned about a loved one or a friend, don’t be afraid to check in on them and have honest conversations with them. The National Suicide Prevention hotline can be called at 1-800-273-TALK or texted at 741-741.
Megan still has another full time job, but she hopes to someday be able to focus all of her time on The “I Will” Project. They are currently connected with 3 schools, YMCA’s, libraries and Boys and Girls clubs. They’ve also been contracted by a local film producer to do a bio on the project in 2021!
I really appreciate all of the hard work Megan has done and I plan to follow her progress and hope that her dream of having this be her full time work will be fulfilled.