A Letter From Our President
This year has been the worst year of my life. In February I lost my close friend Nathan Bruno to suicide, and nothing has been the same since then. The pain and overflow of emotions that I have felt from this loss has been difficult to cope with. Through the aftermath of this tragedy I found that there simply isn’t enough support out there for students.
Immediately after the loss of my friend I felt as if there was no one I could turn to, and when I finally opened myself up enough to ask for help I didn’t know where to turn. It was through my struggles that I began to look deeper into the emotional and mental health support that is there for teens.
After losing my best friend, I felt a sense of questioning about why this happened, how it could have been stopped, and how big of a problem teen suicide is. My friends and I had no idea where to turn and receive the emotional support that we so desperately needed. I pondered how we could have approached Nathan differently to encourage him to open up about what he was feeling and thinking. I wondered why is it that teen boys feel as if they can’t talk about their struggles and feelings without coming across as “weak” or “girly”. What would I have done if Nathan had told me how he was feeling? Who would I have turned to? Would I have told anyone? These are questions I struggled with then and still struggle with today.
Before the loss of Nathan, another friend from our group had essentially disappeared. He did not come to school, he would never come and spend time with us and he fell off our radars. In the sorrow of my pain and grief, I realized that this friend was someone I needed to be worried about, but I still had no idea where to turn. Our group brought him back in and encouraged him to spend time with us rather than alone. I became hypersensitive to the actions and emotions of the people around me. I was afraid of losing someone else I am close to, and I still am. The fact that I have to be worried about these things is not a burden any sixteen year old should have to carry. It is imperative that kids need to know where they can turn, and it should be done through education in the schools.
In the months after February, I began to look bigger picture, because Portsmouth is not the only town and community that is affected by emotional and mental health issues and suicide. In Newport County twenty percent of teenage boys report feeling depressed or hopeless in the last year, and twenty percent of those reported attempting to take their own life. Twenty percent of teens suffer from a high level of anxiety and ten percent of teens have an anxiety disorder of some kind. Being a teenager is not easy. There are a lot stresses and conflict that we feel in our lives such as dealing with divorce, social media pressures, academic workload, crowded schedules, money issues, relationships, parent incarceration, and depression. These are just some of the issues that my friends and I have faced. Every student deals with their own issues, though it doesn't always lead to suicide, these are issues that kids should not have to, and do not have to take on alone.
That is why I brought my friends together to create the Every Student Initiative. The aim of this group is to ensure that students are properly supported socially and emotionally within their schools and communities. Our hope is to break down stigmas, to ensure that the youth of the community have more knowledge about emotional and mental health, to create a culture where all students feel as if they can talk about their feelings and they know where to turn in a time of need for themselves or someone else. Ultimately our goal is that our community never endures another loss to suicide.
The first step to coping with the issues you experience through life is by talking to someone. Your friends’ support is very important and helpful but they can not always give you all the answers you need. Sometimes you need a professional who can help you better understand your emotions and yourself. I can attest to this as true from my first hand experiences. I have my own counselor and this has helped me deal with the issues I face very well. I wish that others understood how beneficial this could be to them and that this does not mean I am mentally weak. Counseling is not what many people view this as, it is not just some weird guy asking you questions as you lay on a couch. A counselor acts as someone that can help you find a path towards learning coping skills and strategies to work through their issues.
Nathan had a life full of potential in front of him. There were many more memories to be made with him and laughs to be shared. On February 7th, 2018 Nathan was lost, and I lost someone who would have been my friend for life. It pains me that Nathan will not be with me as I graduate high school, buy a house, get married and have kids. I struggle with the fact that Nathan will never get to experience any of these things either. That is why for the rest of my life I will make it a priority to fight for these goals that the Every Student Initiative has created. My friends and I have lost Nathan, but we have gained a new life purpose and passion. We must end suicide, and we must be the generation that finally breaks down these walls and makes the changes necessary to put an end to this epidemic.