Suicide: “There is Help Out There”

Senior Alyssa Guzman on technology.

Senior Alyssa Guzman on technology.

By Alyssa Guzman

Junior Alyssa Guzman on Valentine's Day.
Junior Alyssa Guzman on suicide.

In honor of the unfortunate and recent suicides that have taken place in our community, specifically affecting the schools of Glenbrook North and Stevenson High School, it seems necessary to say something about the fact that these days, suicide seems to be occurring more and more frequently.

Although it does seem to be widespread, suicide isn’t a sickness or a disease, but more often that not, depression, a mental illness, is what leads teens — or anyone for that matter — to take their own lives.

When I first heard about the deaths of the students from Stevenson and GBN, I was briefly saddened, but due to the fact that I had no idea who either one of those people were, it didn’t affect me until a few Wednesdays ago when I was at a church event called Ignite that students from all around the Northshore attend.

The mood in the room was very somber, and the most of the students around me had hunched shoulders and were looking down at the ground. Those who actually knew the victims and were brave enough to speak spoke with shaking voices that expressed their disbelief. One of the most common phrases was “you just wouldn’t expect it from that person.”

The thing is that we never expect it from anyone. We throw around words like “gay,” “faggot,” “retarded,” “slut,” and “whore,” and expect them not to affect anyone because of course, we’re just kidding, and everyone should just learn to take a joke.

Last year, I wrote a column raising awareness about using the phrase “that’s so gay,” but it seems that these days, teenagers throw around all kinds of  hurtful words and phrases without a second thought.

Think about how many times a day you say that you’d rather shoot yourself than go to school, or that you’d rather die than do something, or that you tell someone to go and kill him/herself.

Some people may take that to heart, like 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, who received an anonymous message on a website called Formspring a few years ago that suggested that she go and kill herself.

Phoebe responded with, “I don’t know who you are, but I will take your advice. I will kill myself because I am worthless like you said. But I hope you will carry this burden on your shoulders for the rest of your life, knowing that you, YOU, killed somebody.”

Words and actions have the potential to really impact someone’s life.

At Ignite, one of the leaders by the name of Mike Johnson brought to our attention that everyone has a story. Everyone has their own struggles and battles, and we will never fully know what the quiet kid who sits next to us in class is going through or how they’re dealing with it.

An article written by Tad Friend about the suicides via the Golden Gate Bridge told the story of one man’s suicide note. It said, ” I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.”

No one smiled at the man, and he ended his own life. Simple acts of kindness to random strangers can sometimes make all the difference in the world, because like Mike said, we don’t really know anyone’s story, and everyone needs someone.

We need to open our eyes up to what is going around not only around us, but to our peers, to our friends, to our families, and to the world.

The students from GBN and Stevenson are probably wishing that they still had the opportunity to smile at their fellow classmates, or just say hello to them to brighten their days one last time, and they’re never going to get that chance again.

We’ve all used the phrases “YOLO” or “seize the day,” but more often than not, we use those phrases as excuses to party or do something stupid, but what if we used those phrases for good? What if instead of saying “YOLO” right before you decide to drive home drunk, you say “YOLO” right before you go and offer the kid who sits alone at lunch a seat next to you?

I’m not going to pretend that I’m perfect, act like I make a difference in everyone’s life, and try my hardest to brighten everyone’s day, but the point is that I’m aware of the fact that I can make a difference, I’m aware of the problems within our generation, and I’m aware of how hard and awkward it can be to make someone feel compassion or understanding, but let’s just all vow to “YOLO” it and reach out to the next person we think is having a hard day to avoid situations like Kevin Hines, another suicide attempt off the Golden Gate Bridge.

He was eighteen and walking back and forth along the bridge, sobbing and looking visibly upset when a tourist approached him and asked him to take her picture instead of asking him what was wrong and offering him help. According to the article, Kevin’s reaction was “f*** this, nobody cares.”

So Kevin jumped.

One of the few survivors of the fall, Kevin immediately regretted his decision.

Ken Baldwin was another survivor who shared something in common with Kevin: his regret right after he jumped. Baldwin stated that he “instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.”

What suicidal people may not realize is that things can get better.

School psychologist Jennifer Hahne admits that to some people, things don’t always get better, “but it’s about learning how to cope with the stressors because they might not go away.”

Learning how to deal with stress and depression is half the battle, the other half is pulling through to see the possible light at the end of the tunnel.

Many of you may be thinking that I don’t know what it’s like, and that I’m speaking from an outside perspective, but I’ve gone through severe depression, and I know what it’s like to think that anything can be better than living, but the important thing is that I got through it.

Hahne also encourages students who are struggling to get help, because it’s not an easy battle, and every day of your life seems longer than the previous one, but once you get through it, those feelings of depression and hopelessness will feel like a distant memory. The only way to win that battle is to get help if you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts.

“There is help out there,” Hahne said. “Many people go through hard times, and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed. It’s unfortunate that there’s a stigma surrounding [depression] but it’s your life, and you should take care of yourself.”

Since suicide among teenagers seems to be a rising trend, what I have to say is that when you’re young, everything seems like the end of the world.

We have so much stress on us right now and so many questions running through our heads. Some of them — as important as they may seem right now — are shallow, and won’t matter at all in 10 years.

Am I popular enough? Do I have enough friends? Will I have a date to the dance?

Others affect our future and send us into a perpetual state of worry and not feeling good enough.

Will I get into college? Will I be successful? Will I be happy? Will it ever get better?

And yes, I promise you that it will, because right now, we’re not truly living.

Many of us may hate high school and can’t wait to get out and really start our lives, but remind yourself of two things: first, we’re all in this together. We’re all stuck in high school doing the same thing day after day for just a few more years before it gets better. And second, before we can experience the good, we have to go through the bad.

The thing is, though, is that if you decide to end your life, or are even thinking about it, you’re robbing yourself of the opportunity to ever find out what life has to offer you or to see what you’ll make of yourself or to prove everyone wrong and show them just how successful and happy you will one day be.

Another thing to consider is what you’re leaving behind. Going back to Friend’s article, 14-year-old Marissa Imrie was another victim of the Golden Gate Bridge. She was a petite, straight-A student with a very close relationship with her mother.

After her death, her mother went through her belongings and found a note that read, “Please forgive me. Don’t shut yourselves off from the world. Everyone is better off without this fat, disgusting, boring girl. Move on.”

Marissa saw herself as “fat,” “disgusting,” and “boring,” when in reality she meant the world to someone.

Suicidal people may think that they’re doing the world a favor by ridding it of someone as horrible as they make themselves out to be, when in fact they’re completely changing someone’s life. Someone who cares about them, loves them, and will miss them dearly has now been forever impacted by this horrible tragedy, and it’s not as simple as just moving on, as Marissa suggested to her mother.

Your family and friends will be grieving for weeks, months, maybe even years, wondering what they could have done better, or what they could have done to help, or where they went wrong, and no suicide note — no matter how reassuring and kind it may be — will ever ease the pain and guilt that will hang over them forever.

If this is stirring certain emotions within you right now, then I’ve done my job.

For those of us who want to help, let’s start to help. For those of you who want to disappear, if you’re looking for a sign not to kill yourself tonight, this is it.

Listed below are a number of suicide hotlines. If you are having suicidal thoughts or know someone who is, you must tell a trusted adult immediately. Things won’t get better until you make an active decision to try and start making them better.

If in school, please go to the guidance office or student services in 1130 to speak with a psychologist or social worker.

1-800-SUICIDE

1-800-784-2433
National Hopeline Network

1-800-273-TALK
1-800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
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