Courtney Schilly was just a senior in high school when two of her close friends and teammates on the varsity soccer team died by suicide in the same weekend, devastating Schilly, family and other friends.
Now a sophomore at Kansas State in civil engineering, Schilly said although she felt sadness and grief at the time, she felt the need to step up as a leader on the soccer team, hiding her emotions in the attempt to be strong for others on the team.
In putting on this emotionless front, Schilly said she only hurt herself.
“I spent my senior year suffering from depression, and looking back on it, I wouldn’t want anyone to ever have to go through the same things that I did, and I want to do everything I can to help those who are suffering,” Schilly said.
After experiencing depression and getting through it, Schilly said she made a commitment to help others and raise awareness for suicide prevention. On April 8, Schilly made good on that commitment and raised $825 — the most of any student — for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention as part of its Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk.
“I was overjoyed,” Schilly said. “I set a goal of $100 and didn’t think I would raise that much, so I planned to donate however much was needed to get there at the end of it, but after I passed $100 I seriously cried every time I got a donation because I was so happy.”
Schilly received donations from 18 donors, including family, friends and anonymous donors.
“I don’t think people realize how the choice to end their life will affect the people they leave behind, and that breaks my heart,” Schilly said, “I know how incredibly hard it can be to talk about these things, but the silence needs to be broken because it will save lives.”
The Out of the Darkness walk ended K-State’s first-ever Mental Wellness Week. With a goal of only $3,000, the walk beat that goal by more than $10,000 and raised $13,214.
Student body vice president Olivia Baalman organized the week’s events.
“It was so impactful to see this event empower individuals to share their story,” Baalman, junior in computer science, said. “Courtney is one of my close friends, and it was amazing to see her honesty and vulnerability regarding her experience and then the support that stemmed from it with her friends and family.”
After sharing her story, Schilly said a lot of friends and family reached out to share their support and let her know that they are there for her.
“Courtney has a big heart,” Hunter Harlow, senior in mechanical engineering, said. “She will do anything to help her friends out; it really doesn’t matter what time or how busy she is. She’s really one of the most caring people I know.”