My time as a Send Silence Packing Road Staffer has been incredible. Never in my life did I think that I’d be able to travel the United States recently out of college spreading awareness about a topic I hold so dearly to my heart.
Each campus we stop at is so unique. The Active Minds chapter members and supporters of the event have been so thankful for our role in bringing SSP to them. We continue to hear how suicide has impacted these communities which will never get easier to hear. As I listen to these stories, I’ve started to reflect on how this topic shaped the course of my life over the past 6 years.
I was 18 when I flew home for winter break in 2010. I had just finished my first semester of college when I woke up to a phone call. My sister was crying; she couldn’t formulate a sentence. Finally, she said, “Shane killed himself last night.” My jaw dropped. “How could it be?” I asked myself. How did I not know that one of my closest friends was hurting so deeply?
(Pictured left to right: Shane, Corey, Me. 8th Grade basketball team photo: 2006)
Life became increasingly more difficult for me soon after. The passion I had for most of my hobbies and school seemingly disappeared that winter. Shane’s death left me with a list of unanswered questions. What could I have done to prevent this? Why was this not enough to keep you here? What am I to do now that you’re gone?
As I think back on those questions, I’ve realized that these are all common questions those grieving after the loss of someone to suicide will have. This realization didn’t fully come to fruition until 2013.
Spring 2013 was one of the most trying times of my life. It had been 3 years since Shane had passed and I was in a difficult place. I could barely focus on school, and wanted nothing more than to just get in my car to start driving north to my home in Pennsylvania. I knew I couldn’t do that, so I managed to work up the courage to call my school’s counseling services for help.
Counseling is a scary idea for most people who haven’t been before. I can tell you this much though: counseling saved my life. Once I started, the perception I had about counseling being a scary place was shattered. It helped me process my grief by talking through it with my counselor. I was constantly reminded that I needed to allow myself to grieve. Shane’s death was a topic I previously didn’t want to bring up to others because I was afraid of what others would think of me.
This moment in my life was a monumental path for my future. It helped pave the way to becoming a mental health advocate. At that point I decided to use my grief by turning it into a platform I could use to help others.
Shane now has a story apart of the SSP display. Every time I see his bag, I can’t help but tear up a little knowing that he’s no longer with us. I’ve received an overwhelmingly supportive response by those who read his story at each school. My hope is that his story will be a continuous reminder to others that there are brighter days ahead; everyone is worthy of redemption.