My Story; My Connection
Pamela McKie, LISW-S
Chief Operating Officer of The Children’s Home
AAS Crisis Services Division Chair
The most difficult thing for me to write about is my story. If I don’t tell it though, who will? It’s particularly important to share now to provide a glimpse into who I am and my connection to the mission of the American Association of Suicidology. I will endeavor to keep it brief, brilliant and for suicide to begone!
A journey not guaranteed
I have had many blessings and opportunities in my life. When I was presented with an opportunity to excel or make a difference, I made the most of it and worked hard. I feel beyond privileged to be in a leadership role of an agency that serves 15,000 of Greater Cincinnati’s most vulnerable each year.
If you were looking at a roadmap of my life’s path, the highway most traveled could have been named Interstate Pivot 101. The terrain was bumpy, rocky, twisted, curvy, and watch out for those potholes!
When my son was only 10 months old, I was operating as a single mother and eventually I was divorced. During that same time, I lost both parents, two close grandparents, and had a career change. I worked two jobs and had help from family and friends to make it through.
Only you get to define “You”
When I first answered what I truly feel is my calling – to be a social worker – I failed. I made the mistake of letting conventional thinking and paradigms define my options. I allowed others to define who I am and to determine how far I could go, and I went along with it. I was limiting my future and professional options by my degree and field of study rather than on my abilities, my talents, and skill set. I let the little square piece of paper hanging on the wall, and the roles that had been most traditionally held by those with “other pieces of paper,” keep me in a box…and actually shrink me.
I learned the thrill of risk taking
During a National Alliance on Mental Illness event where I received an Award of Excellence for Leadership, I met the Assurex Health start-up company. I took a risk and left my role of 15 years to join their pharmacogenomics team. As employee number 53, I was instrumental in helping grow the company into a billion-dollar genetics company with over 600 employees. Their technology and advances in the field are changing the lives of those with mental health and pain conditions. Today they have helped over 2 million patients. By doing this, I learned I can step outside the lines, really do almost anything, and show others they can do anything too. I learned that it is okay to “free myself” and empower others to do the same thing; that we are not limited, in fact we are expansive.
My Connection to the Mission
Almost 13 years ago to the day, as I pour myself into this blog post, is when I lost my dear nephew to suicide. This tragedy nearly shattered me. I hope words can paint the right picture of this loss. Most who know me would regard me as a strong woman – someone who stands up again and again despite the roadblocks, barriers and detours presented. I have been super fortunate to be recognized by my peers and our industry as a leader and honoree for various awards.
But losing my dear nephew to suicide hit me hard. I am a social worker for goodness sakes! And I have spent my career working in crisis services and in treating youth who have a myriad of mental and behavioral health conditions. Every accolade, every accomplishment, every promotion … I’d give it all back to have an opportunity to tell him he is loved, he is strong, his family is behind him and taking his young life is not an answer.
It’s my hope you will leverage your passion for the mission of AAS and to support our cause of saving lives. Our youth are killing themselves to the degree that suicide is an epidemic inside of a pandemic. We lose somewhere between 17 and 22 veterans a day to suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of death among people ages 10 – 34. And there are 1.4 million suicide attempts each year. I firmly believe the American Association of Suicidology is but one ally in this fight. You are another.
Editor’s note: This blog is part of the Meet Your AAS Board of Directors series. We’ll be continuing to release more blogs and hosting additional Facebook Lives over the course of the coming weeks. You can see our previous Facebook Live interviews with Board Members at facebook.com/aasuicidology.