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Why We Run

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Forty-one years ago, our 20-year-old sister, Julie Berman, died. She had been hospitalized several times for anorexia and once tried to take her own life. But our father wanted to believe she died of a weakened heart, caused by her eating disorder. It was never made totally clear to us how she died—even after a suicide hotline counselor called our parents’ house wanting to know if Julie was okay. We suspected she took her own life but didn’t talk openly as a family about her loss.

In those times, there was a huge stigma around mental illness and suicide and a tremendous amount of shame. People viewed mental illness as a character defect, something they caused for themselves. After Julie died, we felt a lot of anger and guilt and wondered what we could have done differently. It was hard to know what to tell friends and extended family. It was easier to say nothing at all.

Julie’s suicide changed our family forever and we suffered a lot in silence. But we both believe things would have been a lot different if only we had been able to talk about her suicide openly, without fear or shame. We started Team L’Chaim, which means Team For Life in Hebrew, to raise awareness about suicide and the fact that there are resources out there to help people struggling with suicidal thoughts and the people who love and care for them. We want to spread the word that being mentally ill is just like any other disease and you take care of it in the same way you take care of other illnesses, with medication and treatment.

Team L’Chaim is our way of honoring our sister’s memory. It’s a way of saying ‘we’re sorry we were unable to find the right resources to take care of your pain, but we’re going to do our best to make sure it doesn’t happen to other families.’