Bri Hursey, Facing Suicide

In Their Words | Digital Short
Sep 12, 2022 | 6 min

Bri Hursey considered taking her own life as a teenager. Now in her twenties, Bri travels to schools and shares her story to convince young people it’s ok to not be ok. By speaking out Bri believes we can end the silence together.


I'm Bri Hursey, and we're here to talk about a difficult subject, suicide. It affects you, it affects your loved ones, and it's affected me.

My story really begins with my family. I was born into a single parent household with just my single mom, and I never had a close relationship with my dad. My mom and I, we were always in survival mode. I was also raised in a predominantly Caucasian community, and I'm obviously a minority, I'm Native American and my dad is multiracial. And when I went to school, I looked different than everyone else.

In middle school I was getting bullied for being a minority. I felt like I didn't belong. I started to engage in a lot of negative coping behaviors. I started to party. I started to drink alcohol. And I just did things that were out of my personality to feel like I belonged with other people. My relationship with my mom had become increasingly dysfunctional.

I didn't want to tell anyone what was going on at school because I felt ashamed of my experience. I wanted to stay quiet and I just wanted to paint this perfect image that I was just like everyone else and I didn't have any problems.

Senior year of high school. All of my friends and my classmates were applying to college. I had no motivation for the future, and I didn't see myself living past 18. My relationship with my mom had gotten so bad that I was questioning why I was here.

I made a plan to end my life and I took some steps to fulfill this plan. I didn't tell anyone except for one of my friends in a Snapchat message, and I just told her that I didn't feel like I had a reason to live anymore. She went to my high school dean the very next day and he pulled me out of class and he was really the first person to sit me down and ask me if I'm okay. He validated what I was going through and he knew that I needed help.

I was assessed by a provider and I was deemed a risk to my life. And because of that, I had to be admitted to the hospital. I didn't want to go to the hospital because I thought it was going to be a dangerous environment. And I thought, I'm not one of them. I can get better on my own. I don't need this help. But I did.

In the hospital, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. This helped me really understand all of the negative thoughts and emotions and lack of motivation that I was experiencing at the time. When I got out of the hospital, I was still in this dysfunctional relationship with my mom. It came to a pivotal moment where my mom kicked me out of the house.

I chose my own path. My dean was instrumental in sitting me down and helping me apply to college. He helped me understand that there's resources for people who don't have the funds to go to school. I used college as my outlet to escape my home. I found therapy through the counseling services. And I was paired with a great therapist who had therapy dogs. Animals have been a major part of my recovery to help me address some of the physical symptoms that I experience on a daily basis of muscle tension, migraines, sweaty palms, the shaking, and all these symptoms of anxiety.

Trauma doesn't have to be something that we always see visually. Trauma is anything that overwhelms our stress response where we don't have the ability to cope. And I learned that was a lot of what I experienced in my childhood.

However, I've used my negative experience to fuel my passion for helping people. I obtained a psychology degree to help understand what I was going through when my family was going through and how to help other people. I was a first generation college graduate, and I'm now in a Master's of social work program.

When we do these presentations to students across Iowa, we have a Q&A where students can write questions on Post-it notes. I like to talk with students to relate to them, to let them know that this is just a moment in their life that will pass. They do have a purpose and that there is a potential for their future, even if they don't see it right now.

But recovery isn't always linear. I had to make strict boundaries with my mom because my relationship with her was interfering with my daily functioning. I ended up not speaking with my mom for five years, but this past year I learned that she died by suicide. I didn't know how that was going to affect me, but it affected me a lot. 

And I've learned through this experience that the more that we stay silent and hide what we're really going through the more we suffer in silence. Stigma is the biggest reason that people don't seek help. We don't want to talk about our problems. We want to feel like we belong in that we're normal, just like everyone else.

I wouldn't be here today if I didn't tell my friend that I was questioning my reason to be alive. It's okay to speak up. It's okay to tell that one trusted person that you're struggling. Change happens when we realize it's okay to not be okay by speaking out, we can end the silence.