Friday, December 23, 2011

Four years ago I should have died

I want you to carefully read the following words. They were not written by me, and they do not pertain to me.

Rather, they were written by a freshman at Point Park University. His name is Joe Buckel. He's one of my students. And he gave me the approval to re-post something he wrote earlier tonight on his Facebook page.

Keep in mind that Joe is 18 years old. But I think you'll agree he has more maturity, confidence and humility than most people twice his age.

I've not changed any of his words; I merely inserted some breaks to allow for a paragraph structure that I think makes them easier to read. 
Four years ago I should have died. I was in a terrible battle with depression during the holidays and I came to the conclusion that the world would be a better place without me.
Over a few weeks I made plans to end my life. On the evening of January 2, 2008 I printed off three copies of goodbye notes that my family would find the next morning along with my lifeless body. That evening I opened up my email one final time and there was a new message from my brother that simply said, “It was great seeing you. I love you!” This email was nothing short of a miracle from a higher power. It gave me the strength to stay one more day.
On the morning of January 3, 2008 I went to school. I walked into my guidance counselor’s office with the notes in hand. With eyes full of tears and a heart full of shame I told her what I planned to do. By 9:00 a.m. I was in the local hospital crisis intervention office. By 3:00 p.m. I was in Philhaven Inpatient Adolescent Psychiatric Unit where I spent the next week. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by positive energy and encouragement to get better. I began to slowly love life.
When I left the hospital, I slowly began to share my experience and was surprised to learn that other people went through similar things. I began to take a public approach to raise awareness for depression and suicide while hoping to help release the shame that comes along with these mental illnesses.
The numbers are horrifying. Every 17 minutes someone in this country ends their life. My message is simple: If you are suffering from depression or want to end your life…there is hope. Please, I beg you to get help.
I know the feelings of shame and helplessness that you are going through. I know how it seems like there is no hope for a better future. Please trust me, there are people who will help you and there is no shame in getting help. You are worthy of being alive and happy. The world needs you to stay here.
On Facebook, I wrote the following response to him:  

Joe, you are going to inspire many people. It is not easy in our society to admit we are weak/ill/frail/broken/different, etc., but you are proudly telling society to shove off (so to speak). Good for you. Merry Christmas, young man. See you in a few weeks.

Joe's a talented young man who already has found roles at our campus radio and television stations. I have every confidence he's going to be a great journalist. But whatever term is superior to "great" should be applied when it comes to describing what he's going to be as a person. 

To borrow a line from former North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano: "Don't give up. Don't ever give up."

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