Hi, my name is Alisa Walker. I am 18 years old and I am from Oceanside, California. In high school I participated in ASB as Vice President, water polo, cheer, and lacrosse. I graduated from El Camino High School in the June of 2018. In the Fall, I will be attending The University of Arizona with a major in political science and a minor in digital humanities. I am expected to graduate with a BS in the Spring of 2022.
Recovering from Grief and Loss from Suicide
One phone call shattered the innocence of my childhood. In the middle of the night I listened as the mother of Sergio, my best friend, tried through her tears to tell me that Sergio had committed suicide. It was incomprehensible to me how someone that was such a part of every thought, emotion and experience was no longer in this world. I struggled through the stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression.
I ended up struggling with my own mental health as a reaction to the grieving over the loss of my friend. I harmed myself for months because I didn’t know where to seek help from. I contemplated taking my life almost every night because of how much pain I was in. Until I was forced to do so when one of my friends told a grief counselor at school. I hated her for that for the longest time, but now looking back at it, I can’t thank her enough. I wouldn’t be here if she didn’t help me when I needed it the most. I finally received all the help I needed When I reached the final stage of grief, acceptance, I was moved to action. I decided to do all I could to prevent this type of tragedy from happening again. At my high school I started the Mental Health Awareness Club. The club started small as mental health has such a stigma attached to it, especially among teenagers. No one wants to be thought of as weird. But I didn’t let that dampen my enthusiasm. Our club held small fundraisers to donate to research.
Sadly, in my junior year a fellow classmate committed suicide. Digging up old emotions I struggled through this loss, but I knew we had to bring awareness to this issue that is seen in high schools all across the nation. This brought the Mental Health Awareness Club to the attention of the students. More people wanted to get involved. With the help of the administration we developed and administered a student survey. The results revealed a staggering 70% of the students had thought about hurting themselves or had had suicidal thoughts. That galvanized our group to hold more meetings and to look beyond our own school. We drafted a proposal to present at the District, outlining the need for social workers on campuses and campus centered wellness centers. Our proposal caught the attention of our District Superintendent. I worked alongside him to create a Student Forum. Students now have a central place they can go to get any resources they need or have any concerns addressed. This is what I propose every high school has, as well as a student wellness center which can be located in the counseling office. Often times, students don’t feel comfortable coming forward about their mental health problems to adults because they believe it will be seen as a negative thing and they feel as if they will be judged for it. If there is a more welcoming place on campus for students to get resources as they go through a tough time in their life, it will decrease the amount of mental health issues that are formed because of high school struggles. Peer counseling would help as well as an addition to the wellness, this is the stuff I would have liked to have available to me as I was going through my internal struggles. I felt way more comfortable seeking help from a peer than n adult I’ve only spoken to about my class schedule. It sounds so cheesy but seriously it does get better. I went from not wanting to get up every day and wanting to end it all because I hated my life. After receiving the help I most definitely needed I have become the person I am upmost happy about being. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my adversity and struggles which is why this stigma needs to end. If students aren’t provided the resources they need to express themselves we will keep on having these recurring tragedies in high schools in this generation. Maybe finding a way to pass a law nationwide or at least statewide, to use some of taxpayer dollars to fund these types of programs for students battling this life struggle would be a possible answer to this problem. But this is where this needs to end, it’s gone on all way too long.
I will always miss Sergio and our friendship. His death signaled the end of my childhood innocence, but eventually I was able to channel my loss in a way that honored that friendship. This is where adversity really did proved to shape me into the person and leader I am today and I wouldn’t change my journey at all.