Q&A with the co-star of “Jessi & Andi,” Jessi Burns
Q: Whom do you hope to reach through your Mutual Rescue film?
Jessi: My hope is that anyone who has experienced loss due to suicide or any type of mental illness will see this film. There is still such a stigma surrounding depression and other mental illnesses in our society, and we rarely talk about suicide.
After my boyfriend passed away, I was shocked to learn how many people I knew had also been touched by suicide. When I shared what had happened to me, it seemed like everyone else also had a story: “I had a friend…” or “My uncle…”
I think so many people have experienced this type of pain, but we never talk about it, which I think perpetuates the cycle. I feel as though many people turn to suicide because they feel so alone. I want to be a part of changing that. I want people who are struggling to know they are not alone and to feel comfortable asking for help.
Q: What would you say to people who’ve experienced the loss of a loved one from suicide?
Jessi: There’s a unique sort of pain and grief that comes when you lose a loved one to suicide. The guilt, constant questioning of “why?”, and wondering if you could have stopped it is maddening and it’s easy to get locked up in your own head, like I did. If anyone is experiencing this, I would encourage them to continue to reach out to their family and friends. The people around you likely won’t know how to help you, but they desperately want to help you. Let them. Take it one day at a time, and if you need to, just take it one minute at a time. Self-care is crucial to recovery, so make sure to take the time to do things that light you up. Simple things like going for walks, reading your favorite book, or watching a favorite movie can make things seem just a little bit easier.
In addition, I became involved in local support groups for people who had lost a loved one to suicide. These groups were especially helpful because I was surrounded by people who knew exactly the type of pain I was experiencing. The American Association of Suicidology has a listing of groups around the country on their website. And finally, if you are able to open your heart up to an animal, they truly can save your life, like Andi saved mine. It might seem impossible right now, but you will survive this.
Q: What connected you so strongly to your co-star, Andi?
Jessi: My immediate connection to Andi was through the photo I saw of her on the animal shelter’s website. She looked so incredibly sad and somewhat scared, which was exactly how I was feeling inside. I identified with her. After we brought her home, she was the one thing that kept me going. I had the support of my family and friends, but Andi depended on me. She kept me moving forward in my life because I had to take care of her. She gave me a reason to live.
Q: What can we learn from Andi?
Jessi: One of the biggest things I learned from Andi is how to live in the moment and take joy in the littlest of things. Seeing how happy she is when we do something simple like going for a walk is inspiring. She was instrumental in my learning to take life one day at a time; to not dwell in the past or worry about the future, but just to be here now. I think that’s something we could all be better at.
Q: What were your impressions when you first watched this film?
Jessi: I was overwhelmed, but also overjoyed. It was hard to know how everything would come together, especially about a topic so deeply personal and traumatic. The first time I saw “Jessi & Andi,” I was blown away by how well it captured my story. I have to admit I was apprehensive about telling my story, but seeing how the film came together, I couldn’t be happier or prouder to be part of Mutual Rescue.
Q: Mutual Rescue & PetSmart Charities are awarding $10,000 to a rescue group of your choice. Whom did you select and why?
Jessi: I selected two groups: the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, where I adopted Andi, and Foothills Animal Shelter, where I work. Both of these organizations have had a significant impact on my life and I wanted to honor them both.
Q: Tell us about your work at the shelter.
Jessi: I’m currently the marketing & communications manager for Foothills Animal Shelter in Golden, Colorado. Essentially, I’m in charge of the shelter’s communications, including email newsletters, media appearances, our website, and more. Perhaps my favorite thing about my job is that I get to write all of our success stories, following animals from when they first arrive at the shelter to when they find a forever home. Interviewing people who have just adopted their newest family member is incredibly rewarding. After I adopted Andi and I realized how she saved me, I knew deep down that I wanted to work for some sort of animal organization. I feel so lucky to have found a position at an animal shelter where I hopefully help others find their saviors, like I found Andi.
Q: Since being filmed, what changes have happened in your life?
Jessi: I’m happy to say that my boyfriend, Matt, and I just celebrated our two-year anniversary of being together. He’s been incredibly supportive throughout this entire experience and I feel so lucky to have him by my side. In other exciting news, we adopted another dog! He’s a one-year-old Border Collie mix that we adopted from the animal shelter where I work. His name is Winston and he and Andi have become best friends. They play all the time and it’s almost like she’s a puppy again! It’s been wonderful.
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