Looking back, Lori White could see the warning signs. But they weren’t big or bold enough.
So when White, a 49-year-old medical assistant for the Nisqually Tribe, got the news that her friend had taken his life in August 2014, it came with profound state of shock.
And then it turned her into an advocate for suicide prevention.
Her friend was so close to White that she refers to him as her “soul mate.” They had met four years before at a health clinic where they both worked.
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“He was fun, outgoing,” White said. “He would do anything for you.”
The Operation Desert Storm veteran and the father of two sons had post-traumatic stress disorder, according to White.
“He was quiet until he got to know you,” she said. “He would interact and joke around. Most people would not be aware he had severe depression.”
Not even White knew he was in mental anguish.
“I had no idea that this was even in the back of his mind,” she recalled. “It was shocking to me. I didn’t even think anything was wrong.
“He was depressed, but I didn’t know how depressed. He hid that very well.”
After her friend’s death, White played what she calls the “what if” game.
“What if I had gone over there? What if I had done something different?”
The first week after his death was the roughest for White.
“I was beating myself up,” she said.
White had gone through loss and grief previously. In a one-year period, she lost both parents and a grandmother. But her friend’s death was different.
“I had the sadness, I had the anger, the denial, the guilt,” she recalled. “You have to realize that whatever you are feeling is normal. What’s normal for me isn’t going to be normal for the next person.”
About a week after her friend’s death, White had an epiphany.
“I decided that I could either do something about this or I could continue beating myself up,” she said. “I decided to take a negative and turn in to a positive.”
Suicide prevention has become a passion for White. She walked in last year’s Out of the Darkness Walk in Olympia. And she’s let it be known that she’ll talk to anyone at anytime about anything.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s midnight or 3 o’clock in the morning,” she said. “I’ve made the decision that I’m going to be there to listen.”
People have taken her up on the offer, even strangers.
“I may not know them because they are a friend of a friend,” she said.
White doesn’t present herself as a professional.
“Sometimes,” she said, “you just need someone to talk to.”