Discussing trauma openly, candidly can help save lives

Have you ever had to convince a friend not to end their life?

For some, this scenario may seem impos­sible to fathom, but don’t be fooled. Friends among us on this campus are struggling with that seemingly impossible question: whether to even exist.

In fact, according to the College’s statistics, 13.6 percent of students have seriously consid­ered suicide.

During House Team training, one is taught how to handle a student who may be consider­ing taking their own life.

These statistics are a jarring reality check for many.

To put that in perspective, that means more than 300 friends, roommates, teammates and classmates have seriously considered ending their life.

I am one of them.

I was in my first year, fresh from the Midwest, full of internalized homophobia and excitement for the prospect of protecting myself with Vas­sar’s liberal bubble and a few close friends, like many others. I went into my college experience with rose-colored glasses.

I was called a faggot multiple times within a week of stepping foot on campus. And the stress of a new place combined with the feel­ing I wasn’t welcome here lead to some dark thoughts that returned me to a place I remem­ber grimly, burning and cutting myself on occa­sion, but more often wondering whether my life was even worth living or if anyone would care when I was gone.

It was a group of kind-minded individuals with a passion for helping others that saved my life, albeit inadvertently. Critical work like this is often done inadvertently.

A group of people that I now call friends talked openly about mental illness and wellbe­ing, and were supportive of the struggles people like me face.

Mental illness is deadly because it is stigma­tized, both on Vassar’s campus and beyond the confines of our community.

Many will say I am weak, that I should have been able to get over the transition like every­body else, and be mostly okay like everybody else. I know this because I said those things to myself.

Believe it or not a group of people talking about what I was experiencing was enough for me.

I didn’t share my own personal experience, but some did, and their stories saved my life. That’s why I’m sharing this right now. I’m pleading with you to make mental hygiene a part of your daily conversation.

Say what you will about the Counseling Cen­ter and the other resources available on and off campus.

They are important, but I’d argue that equal­ly important is the community Vassar students have built together.

It is precisely because we talk, because we are aware and engaged, because we are willing to be vulnerable and discuss the uncomfortable issues, that the rate of suicidal ideation contin­ues to climb, but also we continue to save one another everyday.

These crucial conversations that must con­tinue. Carving out spaces for sharing one’s nar­rative can be incredibly transformative, revela­tory, and powerful.

There are heroes out there who have legiti­mately saved lives, some who don’t even know what they did. And there are the brave ones who struggle everyday with that terrifying question, and still manage to live another 24 hours. I know both. And I know I continue to exist but for the kindness of people that were mostly strangers.

Keep talking to save a life.

You have saved mine.

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