A little over a year ago, I was traveling in Brazil with a great group of sophomores. While debriefing about the day’s events, I received a text from a student in the States who asked if I’d spoken to another student to whom I was and still am quite close. At that point I hadn’t, and was unsure of the nature of that forthcoming conversation, though it seemed serious. To my surprise and horror, it was much more serious and unnerving than I’d imagined: one of my students committed suicide.
I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know how to share this devastating news with my students. I didn’t know how to tell them that their friend was no longer in the land of the living. I didn’t know how to engage and go on with my life in Brazil as if nothing happened. I was torn. I was broken. And most of all, I felt helpless. How could I be of service to my students at home and abroad during such a pivotal and heartbreaking time in their lives? What could I say that hadn’t already been said? What could I do that hadn’t already been done? I quickly learned that in these moments, it is less about doing something, and more about being someone. Being there, listening, supporting, encouraging. These may sound small and inconsequential, but they matter, and for some, they matter most.
The reality is, 1 in 10 young people experience mental health problems each year, but so many of them don’t come forward and seek help because they fear being stigmatized. Psychology Today compiled findings by several researchers and found that stigma directed at adolescents with mental health problems came from family members, peers, and teachers. Support each other, care for yourself, and realize that mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of. His story and legacy is one of the reasons I believe so deeply in Kermit Says… It’s one of the reasons I focus so much on your well-being. Depression, excessive anxiety, suicidal thoughts, constant fatigue, and an inability to perform duties or control your behavior are just a few examples of possible onset mental illness. If you find yourself experiencing any of these emotions or behaviors, please don’t hesitate to seek help.