Chaplain's Corner: Reflection on Mental Health and Tragedy

Dearest YMCA community,

Earlier this week, I was walking out of the Y with a member who has been struggling with depression. I asked how she was doing and she said, “Thank god I’m working out every day. That is the one thing that is helping.”

I know she is not alone.

As an interfaith chaplain, it has been my heartfelt privilege to serve as a witness to the depth of joy and pain, laughter and love, in many of your lives. I used to tell patients when I was a hospital chaplain: You are doing such a beautiful job of being human right now.

I want all of you in the Y community to know that too: You are doing such a beautiful job of being human right now.

One of the hardest parts of being human is depression, which at its most extreme, can include suicidal thoughts and actions. The recent deaths by suicide of public figures are so sad, and they may trigger more personal emotions for you. As my colleague Rev. Theresa Soto wrote this morning, “Hold on. You are good. You are loved.”

If you struggle with depression or suicidal ideations, you are not alone. You are in my prayers. And the YMCA is here for you. 

If you know someone who has withdrawn or struggling with depression, please reach out to them. Notice who is not around and find out why. Your caring can save a life. (That said, we also know we lose people to mental health crisis no matter how much their friends or family tried to help. If you have lost a loved one and are grieving, our hearts are with you. Please reach out to our counselors below.)

Here are some ways to seek support for yourself or someone else:

  • Call: Austin Integral Care at 512-472-HELP (x1 after choosing a language).
  • Text: CONNECT or HOME to 741741
  • Call the 24/7 suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Reach out to me to schedule a chaplaincy session. 512-542-9622 x 218 or

For ongoing support, please reach out to our YMCA counselors. Click here for their contact information.

The YMCA offers many ongoing ways to tend to your mind and spirit as well as your body. Click here for information on our meditation group, community events, and more. The next Joys and Concerns Circle is 10:30am this Tuesday at the TownLake branch, and all are welcome for this time of sharing and connection.

If you feel that someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, you may try these recommendations (adapted from Leah Quintanilla, Licensed Master’s level Social Worker, Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor, and certified instructor for Mental Health First Aid).

1 - Listen without judgment. Most of the time, when someone is struggling with a mental health crisis, what they need most is someone to listen.

2 - Use empathy. Try to put yourself in their shoes, even if their shoes seem unimaginable to you.

3 - Encourage healthy coping skills. Talk with the person about things they enjoy doing, things that have helped them through a mental health crisis in the past, and/or healthy ways they cope with stress.

4 - Safety first. If the individual is expressing thoughts of suicide and you do not feel comfortable leaving them alone, please don’t! Call a friend, family member, or the mental health crisis line at 512-472-HELP.

Whoever you are, whatever you’re feeling, please tend to your spirit today. Connect with a friend. Come work out at the Y. Get some fresh air. Do something kind for someone else, and spread some love today. The world is full of beauty and you are part of it.

You are loved,

Rev. Erin Walter,

Community Engagement Director

All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and/or contributors and not of their employer. Any questions or concerns regarding the content found here may be sent to

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