After the loss of her husband, Rob, in 2003, Vonnie Woodrick’s life was forever changed, as she was forced to live a life without her loving partner and the father of their three children. Feeling as if no one understood suicide, the effects mental illness can have, and the judgment attached, Vonnie set out to change attitudes and the conversation. These efforts led to the formation of i understand in 2014. One of Vonnie’s first initiatives was to create a petition to change the definition of suicide – updating the stigmatizing definition about intentionally taking one’s life to one about suicide’s role as a terminal side effect of mental illness. Under Vonnie’s leadership, i understand continues to advocate for open conversations, better resources for loss after suicide and a stigma free society.
A smile can turn a frown upside down when shared. We are all guilty of hiding pain to avoid hard conversations. Let’s open up and talk about what’s really going on behind the smile. Most often, the brightest smiles come from those who have been hurt the most.
Join me to gain insight into how/why we put on masks to get through dark or difficult times. My podcast is a safe place where people can share their pain and discuss how opening up, rather than hiding behind a smile, allows for growth and happiness.
Her book titled i understand: love, pain and healing after suicide, has been number three on Amazon on the subject. The book currently is being used as a resource for the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association Victim Service Unit Advocates. These advocates go into the homes of families who have just experienced the devastation of losing a loved one to suicide.
Vonnie is honored to include Mariel Hemingway as the writer for the foreword of her book. “Vonnie and Mariel’s passion for mental health/brain health awareness runs deep, due to the many parallels in their lives
Social Change Agent
Vonnie founded the non-profit organization i understand, which exemplifies her determination to reduce stigma and judgment surrounding mental health/brain health illnesses.
- i understand suicide is an effect of illness or pain
- i understand mental/brain health illnesses are treatable and preventable
- i understand stigma is the #1 reason why someone would not seek treatment for mental/brain illness; education and awareness are vital to saving and changing lives
- i understand reaching out to those who are suffering could save a life; let someone know you are available and treat them with respect and compassion
- i understand most people who are suicidal do not want to die; they want their pain to end
- i understand speaking out about suicide may empower others to share their stories
- i understand feelings of guilt are part of the grieving process on the way to finding peace and acceptance
- i understand those who die by suicide do make it to heaven
I wanted to thank you for bringing light and hope to others through your personal story. Our Niece died of depression December 22nd creating such sorrow and loss. It’s been such a challenging year for our family but through the pain and isolation we have become more honest, transparent, and supportive of one another. I have read your book with a highlighter and it has helped me tremendously. I was happy to hear that my Sister in law had already been given a copy to help her family through their grief. Rob’s life, your strength to share his truth is helping others heal. We feel understood and will continue to be brave and fight. The world is a better place with you in it.
You continue to be be amazing inspiration to all of for sharing your heart, soul and light with all of us in the journey called life. Peace and God bless.
Vonnie, you have done much good, I lost a very very good friend to depression, thank you for helping to change the rhetoric. Bless you.
Mending one heart at a time, saving one life at a time! Vonnie Woodrick, you are like no other, Thank YOU and all your volunteers for all you do!
Thank you for changing my views! I deal with my own depression and also my husband’s. He lives with chronic pain in his leg, due to a blood clot. I live in fear of him deciding that he is a “burden” to me. Your existence has helped me more than you know.
Thank you for not only saving my life but for saving my family the devastation of losing me. Through my depression, I always thought they would be better off without me. You made me see the difference.