national ms societyIf you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, help is out there. Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

My daily affirmation when I head to work each day is that I will positively impact at least one person by arming them with the resources they need, and reminding them of the value of their life.

I work at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as an MS Navigator to help people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), their friends, and their family members make sense of a disease whose symptoms — fatigue, dizziness, vision problems, cognitive and emotional changes, and even depression — vary in severity from person to person.

Currently, there are nearly 1 million people in the United States living with MS — an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system which presently has no cure.

As an MS Navigator, I’m part of a team of highly-skilled, compassionate professionals ready, equipped, and willing to respond to anyone facing this daunting disease that can potentially change the way they live.

Living with a chronic condition can be overwhelming, but you’re not alone
Before every phone call, I try to put myself in the shoes of the person on the line. Their new normal now includes oral or injectable medications to stabilize the disease progression, periodic MRIs to ensure there are no new lesions on their brain or spine, and often a lot of uncertainty.

I try to understand the caller who’s in constant pain and no longer has the energy they used to, even though everyone around them says, “But you look so good.”

In finding answers to their questions, I remind them of the research advancements in treating MS, and that each of those advancements provide hope that we will stop this disease.

We know that living with a chronic disease is overwhelming enough, but when coupled with the isolation of preventing potential exposure to COVID-19, anxiety can increase, as well as depression.

On any given day, I can receive up to 10 calls, chats, or emails ranging from the needs for emotional support resources to more critical interventions, such as suicidal thoughts.

One particular phone call comes to mind, from a woman who was both tearful and frightened. Our conversation quickly moved from referrals for support groups to discussing depression and suicidal ideation.

Subsequently, I learned that she had a plan, intent, and means to end her life. I expressed my deep concern for her safety and informed her that I needed to contact the appropriate authorities.

I requested additional assistance from our crisis team, who worked in unison to identify and contact the local police department to initiate a welfare check.


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