ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Julie Rocco begins every day with a cup of coffee — she says she likes the comfort of wrapping her hands around a warm mug.
Each morning, Rocco picks from an impressive collection of mugs from every corner of the country. But, they also serve as a reminder of places she never would have seen, had she ended her life.
After losing her partner to suicide, Rocco attempted to take her own life in 2009. Now, every day she lives is filled with gratitude for all of the moments — big and small — she would have missed.
“I didn’t think I’d be on the other side of my pain, let alone so far on the other side that I personally could be healed and now serve as a healer,” Rocco said.
Since 2000, suicide has increased by 30% and become one of the leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Rocco said she wanted to transform her pain into hope and help others to not feel alone in their struggles. She now runs What I Would Have Missed, a podcast and online support group that invites people to share their experiences with suicide, have raw conversations and lean on each other.
“I believe connection is one of the most important aspects of living a life of hope, healing and happiness,” Rocco said. “If I could just be one aspect of creating that connection for someone, then I believe I’m fulfilling a meaningful purpose.”
At first, Rocco said she wasn’t sure how the platform would be received. Now, her audience spans the globe with more than 7,000 followers from Tampa Bay to Singapore and Ireland.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2020, there were more than 1 million suicide attempts in the United States. Experts say there are a variety of factors that can cause someone to have thoughts of suicide, including:
- Mental health conditions such as depression, substance use and anxiety
- Environmental triggers such as prolonged stress and stressful life events
- A family history of suicide or childhood abuse
“When I see that it’s resonating with individuals and they’re listening or they’re sending me emails, that just helps me,” Rocco said. “It motivates me to continue to propel the mission forward and it validates what I thought when my own voice was isolated.”
Everything Rocco is doing is paid for out of her own pocket, and she said she would do anything she can to help save a life and give someone a chance to see all of the moments they would have missed.
Rocco is currently working on curating an art show that will open on Sept. 8 at the ArtsXchange in St. Petersburg. It will run for the entire month and feature artists who are survivors of suicide.