Speak Up

I would like to introduce myself by talking about something that happened last week in my hometown. A teacher committed suicide in her classroom by hanging herself.  After reading the news article, I noticed a trend in the comments section. A lot of people were bullying the teacher. People were calling her selfish for hanging herself somewhere her students could find her. Before I get into all the politics of the situation, I want to send my condolences to my hometown and I want to especially send a message to the students who are suffering from this. I want to tell you all that you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to speak up about what happened. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Knowledge is a powerful tool. Do whatever you can to get that knowledge. If other people’s words are making you feel bad, tell them. Stand up for what is right and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even though I don’t know most of you, I’m very proud of your efforts following this tragedy. While her death is very sad, it’s something that needs to be talked about. 

I grew up in Orange County, CA. I was bullied from 3rd grade on. I don’t know how bullies are in the rest of the world but bullies in Southern California are cruel. In 3rd grade, I wanted to be the dog when everyone played house. I got bullied for being “weird”. In 5th grade, I cut my hair off. I got bullied for being “gay.” They figured it out before I did!) The first manic episode I remember, I was 8. People were very uncomfortable around me and I noticed. In 7th grade, it got worse. That’s when the bullying really took off. That’s when I was diagnosed. That’s when I came out of the closet. That’s when the most depressing and difficult 10 years of my life started. I was told to get over it and if I just had a more positive outlook on life, I would get better. Everyone discredited me: my friends, teachers, faculty, psychiatrists, and psychologists. Sometimes, even my family questioned my logic. No one understood me. High school was the worst. I acquired the nickname “psycho.” People would greet me as “psycho.” It spread quickly, too because gossip in Orange County is real.  Even people I’ve never met called my “psycho.” I spent the last two years and graduated from the home-hospital program because I no longer felt safe or welcome on campus. I didn’t go to prom. I didn’t go to graduation. I hated my class. Well, now I’m 23, and most people still don’t understand me. So, I’ve come to realize that I’m tired of hiding. I’ve managed to stay alive and I’ve found my purpose. This is it. People really don’t understand mental illness and I think it’s time to talk about it in a way that they will understand. At the same time, though, it’s time to make people uncomfortable and face the facts. Fear is blind and knowledge is power. 

While I didn’t know the teacher who killed herself, I can relate to her on an emotional and mental level. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve experienced those feelings too. I’ve attempted suicide 4 times in my life. Every time I tried, I thought of the people I love. I thought of my younger sisters and how they look up to me. I thought about my family and how devastated they would be. I wanted them to be the ones to find me. Suicide is such a deep, personal subject that you can only really trust a few people with it. So, instead of the bullies finding me, I wanted the people I love to find me. I wanted them to find the letters of hope I wrote them. I wanted them to know I loved them. I still have those letters. I’ve told most of my loved ones about the things I wrote in those letters. I realized whether I was dead or not, they needed to know.  Those kids probably meant the world to her and she wanted them to be the ones to understand. They were the ones she trusted. I don’t advocate what she did but I get it. Now, instead of suicide, let’s skip the middleman and just tell people! 

While there were many negative comments, there were a few positive ones. They were from her students and they were sticking up for her!  They were commenting on this article from their Facebook accounts and telling people to stop calling their teacher selfish. They said she was the teacher that impacted them. These kids are in high school. They have the capacity to understand. In another article, a few students were mentioned after being interviewed by the media. They told the news anchor they wanted answers. Even kids who didn’t know her were offering their peers support. They were crying together on each other’s shoulders. They’re wondering how they could’ve helped. They spoke about how happy she was, how much everyone loved her, and how much of a positive influence she was.  They mentioned she spoke of suicide in class. She told them it wasn’t the answer, yet she did it.  She started teaching about suicide before she killed herself because she wanted to plant the seed. She wanted her high school students to transfer into adulthood knowing about this stuff because it’s important. Well, her students are doing exactly what she intended. They’re asking questions! Now, it’s up to us. So, let’s give them answers. Instead of hiding the truth from these kids as to not hurt their feelings, let’s give them the knowledge they’re asking for! They’re the future.  Let’s give them the tools.

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