The State Bar of Texas has lost another lawyer to suicide. I and many others have lost a friend. His family has lost a loving husband and father. Andy Krasfur was a great lawyer and visionary entrepreneur in the running shoe industry. He also battled bipolar disorder and related mental health issues, particularly, depression.
I first met Andy, years ago through a mutual friend, who knew I was an avid runner. He wanted me to check out Andy’s innovative “Spira” running shoes. The shoe had springs in the sole. This made it easier on the knees and pardon the pun, put a little more spring in each stride. Dealing with hip and knee issues, I was eager to lace them up. Andy sent me a complimentary pair. It was the start of our friendship. At that time, I was unaware of Andy’s mental health struggles. A phone call close to a year ago changed that.
Andy wanted my advice on dealing with bipolar disorder. He also wanted to be an awareness advocate. To break through the shame and stigma so many struggle with.
One of my mantras is that when someone is struggling, we need to not to mind our own business. We should step out of our comfort zone. I have little personal experience with bipolar, but I know about empathy and support. That’s what I had to offer.
We discussed Andy’s struggles, personal and professional. We discussed the danger of self-medicating, instead of proper diagnosis and treatment.
It was clear that something was off in that first conversation. I did not want to assume or stereotype based on my ignorance and bias, so I listened. We agreed to speak again in a few days, at which time I would provide mutual aid resources for peer support and a few places he could go for treatment. We did speak, and again, it was clear from his manner of conversing that he was still struggling.
We spoke one more time about a new start-up he was putting together. He assured me he was on appropriate medication and getting the help he needed. He promised to get into a support group. It was a much calmer discussion, which gave me hope. What I did not know, was that things were not better. They had gotten progressively worse.
On April 25th, My friend Andy lost his battle with mental illness. Andy was part of a profession that has the fourth highest suicide rate.
Many did not mind their own business. Sometimes, tragically that won’t be enough. It does not mean people did not do everything they could. It does not mean people did not step outside their comfort zone; many did.
As long as there is mental illness and human beings can feel, there will be a tragedy. There will be collateral pain and damage. That does not mean I will give up, nor should you. Keep reaching out. Keep not minding your own business. Keep stepping outside your comfort zone. Ask a simple question, “How are you doing” Ask it again, before the conversation breaks.
I asked. Andy said, “I’m great” He was not. We are not mind-readers, but every time we ask, it could be that one moment that changes the course of someone’s life. It also could be one of a series of touch points that eventually gets that person to seek help. I will keep not minding my own business.
*May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Resolve to step outside your comfort zone and ask one person a week who you think may be struggling, how they are doing