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She honors her husband's legacy by fighting mental health stigma

Posted at 1:50 AM, Sep 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-27 09:15:42-04

If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, call 1-800-273-8255 any time to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center also has a list of local phone numbers and other resources for help here.

CINCINNATI -- In the last weeks of his life, plagued by restless sleep and shedding weight at an alarming pace, Jim Miller wrote hundreds of thank-you notes to his friends and family. His wife, Nancy Eigel-Miller, didn't realize until after his suicide that they were also farewells. 

"It feels like yesterday and it feels like forever," she said of his 2008 death. 

Miller ran the Gallagher Center at Xavier University, where his wife said students and faculty knew him for a goofy, extroverted, "larger-than-life" personality. The signs of his inner decline -- the weight loss, the thank-you notes, the withdrawal from his circle of longtime friends -- were subtle. Easy to excuse or sidestep out of discomfort and easy to overlook out of ignorance. 

And then he was gone. The loss stings and aches, sharp as a cut and dull as an old scar, for those who loved him.

Eiger-Miller wants to save others from that pain. She set aside the shame and silence that so often surround suicide and founded 1N5, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing mental health programs to schools.

The organization's annual Warrior Run, scheduled this year for Oct. 6, helps fund its mission and raise awareness of the warning signs that often precede suicide.

Simply knowing what suicidal behavior looks like and being willing to talk directly with the people you love can be the difference between life and death, Eiger-Miller said.

"If you are concerned about someone, ask them the question," she said. "Don't be afraid."