Shandy Longcore grew up in a quaint small town in northwest Lower Michigan, the daughter of two loving parents who never saw the day coming when she would retreat into the basement of their home and try to kill herself. She was only 10 at the time. The night before, Shandy had determined that she just wasn’t pretty enough, and maybe if she took a pair of scissors to her hair, she could change things up. At least people would notice her trying. It backfired, of course, sparking a comment from her dad, who then walked out to the door, expecting Shandy to join him a bit later at the hardware store he owned. Instead, she dusted off a hunting rifle, pointed it at her chest and fired. It missed her heart by inches. Against all odds, she survived. A story in the town paper reported it an accidental shooting. Shandy knew better, and as suicide became talked about more openly, began to share the truth, a little at a time.
Today, she walks a stage, looking to share her story with whomever it might help. She figured she’d educate a few people along the way. What she didn’t’ expect is that she’s learning just as much: About how many people are hurting. And that suicide is too often swept under the rug. And that together, we can prevent it. With self-deprecating humor (“I have only nine toes!”) and an infectious laugh that reveals a joyful heart, Shandy traded in her corporate job for a microphone and a place to make a stand.
A graduate of Kalkaska High School and Aquinas College, Shandy starred in track and basketball at both schools. She was soaring as director of a premier health club facility in West Michigan when she finally figured out that her true calling meant telling her story, and listening to those of others. “I want to be a catalyst for change, and for the stigmas attached to mental health,” she says. “Life is precious and too short as it is. We need to work together to find meaning in the everyday, and elevate living to the state of grace that it deserves.” Even today, Shandy carries shrapnel in her chest. It’s a reminder of what could have been. And a way of motivating her to seek out people in need. “I’ll go wherever and whenever to tell my story,” she says. “If it helps even one person talk themselves out of suicide, it will be worth it.”