Don’t give in to struggles beneath the surface

Benjamin Pierce, Assistant News Editor

Last week was an exciting, yet stressful time for students here at UW-Whitewater. With the 2017 academic year starting, students forged around campus and in various workplaces in the surrounding communities. It was an important week for all of us, but the one ahead might be even more important.

It’s National Suicide Prevention Week – A week that needs to be thrown into the fold of conversations that are occurring around us. If you are in search for help, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255, the Walworth County Crisis Hotline can be reached at 1-800-365-1587 and in case of any emergency, call 911. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Just over 120 people across the United States will take his/her life today.

When I was attending Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wisconsin last year, I had a science professor deliver a short spiel on mental health. Following class I emailed her about how I thought it was impressive that she was using her platform to speak on the topic.

Then I shared with her my struggles. The ones of me locking myself away in a dark room, pushing away friends and loved ones, and finally I shared my most painful admission of all – I tried to end my life less than a year ago with a bottle of pills, but my mother found me and knocked them from my hand.

She responded with a long email and I would like to share parts of it with you in case it may help you or someone you know. Suicide does not pick the weak, easy targets. Mental illness will pour its wrath upon any person at all and it’s not always easy to see that a loved one is struggling.

“Today I ate lunch in the school dining hall,” the letter began. “There was a brilliant patch of sunshine. I put on my sunglasses and basked in the light and warmth while eating hot soup and drinking an ice cold, caffeinated soda. It was so simple but for me it’s a recharge of the mental batteries.”

Our minds truly are like batteries as we expect them to work on and on without a rest. When your batteries in the tv remote die and you need to finish your Netflix series, you change the batteries. When life becomes too much and you’re overwhelmed, you need to take time for yourself and let your ‘mental batteries’ reset.

She finished the letter with some of the most powerful words I’ve ever read.

“Be gentle with yourself and your words to yourself, be them written or just in your head. You are worth it.”

And isn’t that the truth. YOU are worth it, whether you see it or not. The old man in the bakery every Saturday morning that has your order memorized and that cute girl in class that you trade smiles with each day, they will miss you.

If you are feeling down, reach out and get help. I can promise you that the moment that bottle of pills was falling from my hand, I immediately felt a regret and sadness much worse than I felt before. Suicide is not the answer to your problem. Perhaps recharging your mental batteries could be. Robin Williams was a fascinating human and he lost his battle with depression in 2014. In “A Dead Poet’s Society”, Williams says to his class: “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman,’O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”You have the ability to change your verse at any time. Don’t let it come to an end before it has to. Reach out and get help, because I swear to you from the bottom of my heart my life is ongoing and my verse runs to this day for all the right reasons.  Yours does too.