Finding hope in the K-State family: A suicide prevention success story

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(Courtesy Photo by Kate Schieferecke)

By Kate Schieferecke

The death of Kansas State radiology resident Christina Chesvick on March 14 is a tragedy for the entirety of the K-State family. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among persons aged 15-34 years, according to National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment. I too struggle with depression and consequently have been suicidal on multiple occasions and often daydream about what the world would be like if I were to kill myself.

Despite my tendency toward despair, I have found hope in the K-State family. K-State has an abundance of resources for students struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. I consider myself to be a suicide prevention success story, and the K-State family has been an integral component of my story.

My depression causes me to feel that I live in two worlds. In one world, I am a successful young leader of K-State, the president of a growing campus organization, a 4.0 GPA student, on good terms with most every acquaintance and loved dearly by my friends and family.

In stark contrast, the second world is one of thick and heavy darkness in which I am never an adequate leader, student, family member or friend. Relentless demons push my head down, drowning me in murky waters of despair. In this dark world, I am scum, a barnacle of society that is hated by most, a burden to all and have no place being loved.

I find myself floundering below that murky water far more often than I find myself walking in the world full of light. This floundering manifests itself in a variety of ways: waking up to my blaring iPhone alarm and barely mustering the strength to climb out of bed, putting on an insincere smile and making it to class on time. Staring at my blank laptop screen for hours, knowing there are assignments to do, meetings to plan and emails to send, but feeling so worthless I am paralyzed and unable to begin.

Oftentimes, I grow weary of floundering, wanting it all to stop, heavily tempted to use self-harm as a release for my sadness and convincing myself no one would miss me if I were suddenly gone.

Despite living with this darkness, I have found hope. Last August, I experienced one of the darkest episodes I had ever gone through. I had not previously seen a mental health professional or discussed my recurring sadness with friends or family. I shied away from confiding in loved ones for fear I would be a burden.

Syllabus week left me with crumbling confidence and a shattered will to go on. I confided in a few friends who provided the support they could, but yet I could not pull myself from the grip of the inexplicable sadness I was experiencing. Finally, on a sunny August day during the second week of classes, at the referral of a friend, I called the K-State Family Center and began therapy a few days later.

In my seven months of therapy at the K-State Family Center, I have received extremely high-quality and affordable mental health care from a student in K-State’s marriage and family therapy master’s program. After beginning therapy, I gained the courage to confide in my friends and family, and my circle of support within the K-State family only grew.

My immediate K-State family, including my parents — both are alumni of K-State — my brother — a current K-State senior — and my closest college friends have stepped into this dark world with me, pulled me above the surface of the murky waters of despair and cheered me on as I fight to shake the demons of my depression.

My family doctor, a graduate of K-State, compassionately held my hand as she walked me through the tricky waters of choosing an effective antidepressant medication.

Additionally, I have found hope in my interactions with students and professors in the K-State community who have no idea of the darkness that lies behind my often-forced chipper smile and inquisitive green eyes. My professors’ daily encouragement to pursue knowledge with reckless abandon has in turn encouraged me to pursue finding the continued will to live.

The smiles of strangers walking past me in the quad, the cheerfulness of a Chick-fil-A employee in the K-State Student Union and the challenging dialogue with my leadership studies seminar classmates give me reasons to believe there is hope on my darkest days.

The K-State family affirms my intrinsic worth and value day in and day out. My struggle with depression is far from over, but I am fortunate to consider myself a suicide prevention success story.

My success is the shared success of the K-State family. Thank you for your support and for the sincere family atmosphere we have built on our campus and beyond.

To the strangers in the quad, keep smiling. To the Chick-fil-A employee, valiantly keep up your cheerfulness.

As a student body and a larger K-State family, it is within our power to save lives. We have certainly preserved mine. As we invest in our futures during our time at K-State, let us also invest in the immeasurable and intrinsic value within each other.

Kate is a sophomore in economics. Send comments to [email protected]

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