We need to talk, and it can’t be anonymous

By The Beacon | April 27, 2015 2:14pm

Guest Commentary by Rachel Macklin |

With recent events on our campus, I am so proud of the way my fellow students are opening up the conversation about mental illness. I feel that it is crucially important that those of us with mental illness open up and share our experiences, and show people who are struggling silently that they are not alone. However, there is one disturbing trend that I’ve been noticing.

Check Yik Yak - a social media platform that allows you to anonymously post to others in your area - on any given day, and you’ll see someone saying that they need help with mental illness or that they’ve been thinking about killing themselves.

Although Mike Eberitzsch’s cause of death is officially listed as a car crash, you can still see his suicide note on his Facebook. Mike and I hadn’t really spoken since freshman year. But since his death, when my anxiety acts up I always wonder what would have happened if I’d stayed up just a few hours later that night. If I could have called the cops. If I could have done something.

I have the same worries about people who post that they want to kill themselves on Yik Yak. I don’t want to disparage social media, because I think as a whole, it’s awesome, but if you are thinking about hurting yourself - tell someone in person. Posting anonymously on a social media platform can be a first step, but you need to tell a living, breathing, human being.

Go to a friend’s house or dorm room. Go to your hall director. Pick up the phone. I’m serious. If you think that in any way you might hurt yourself, have a frank, open and honest conversation with someone you can trust. If you feel like you can’t trust anyone in your life, call a counselor or a hotline. If you are in immediate and acute danger, call 911.

I know these are big scary things to do. I still (quite literally) carry the scars from when I was suicidal. But despite my best efforts at the time, I lived through it.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t depressed or anxious anymore, because I still am. The important thing is that now I have learned to live with these emotions and that they no longer control my life. I don’t feel them every second of every day. No two illnesses are the same, but the key to my recovery is that I found a support system.

I firmly believe that the most important thing you can do if you are feeling suicidal is to form a support system of your own. If your family is unsupportive, create a new one out of friends who love you. If your friends are unsupportive, make new ones. If you have no one else, I’ll be your friend. Go to the Health Center here on campus. Go to church if that’s your thing. The important thing is that you find a community and that you cling tight to life.

I made it through, and so can you.

Rachel Macklin is a junior English major and can be reached at macklin16@up.edu.