A year ago today, I was in Washington, DC for March For Our Lives. Today, I spent the day in my room.
Last weekend, a 2018 graduate committed suicide. Last night, a current student did the same. While I did not have either as a student, my heart aches for them. For their families. For their friends. For their teachers.
These two, and all who take their own lives, are gone too soon.
The system is failing. We have a Wellness Center on campus that the majority of the students do not feel comfortable going to, filled with well-meaning counselors who are not trained in trauma. We have an Employee Assistance Program that isn’t actually helping any of the faculty/staff at school. We were initially given 10 waived copays for therapy sessions; it has been increased to 15. There are 52 weeks in a year. Either the district doesn’t feel that we need to go weekly, or they expect us to then pay $25 per session. I don’t make nearly what they make… $25 a week really adds up.
We have district “leaders” who remove the actual leaders from our school, because they are too cowardly to take any responsibility for the events that lead up to the tragedy at my school. People want to place blame and have accountability. I’m all for accountability, but it needs to start at the top – far beyond our campus. Decisions were made and directives were handed down, many levels above MSD.
My husband came in to ask me if I was ok. I told him no. I’m not ok. I’m not ok with two lives being lost to suicide. I’m not ok with the fact that this retraumatizes us and puts us right back to the feelings of February 14, 2018. I’m not ok with the fact that my students have more funerals to go to, and they have to bury more friends. I’m not ok with parents having to bury their children. I’m not ok with a student being dropped from eight rosters, because he no longer attends our school.
I sent a text to my students that I’m here if they need me. It’s spring break. We should ALL be enjoying a week off of school. Not worrying about how the after effects of 2/14 will continue to impact the community. How many more lives will be lost before someone – anyone – in a real position of power does something about it?
I hate that there’s such a stigma about mental health. I go to therapy. I’ve gone since the age of five. It’s ok to not be ok. What isn’t ok is not seeking help, not reaching out to people who love you, not allowing yourself to feel everything you’re feeling. Feel it, and then get help if it doesn’t feel right.
From where I sit, the district is putting on a show. They provide us with mental health professionals, but they’re not what we need. They talk a big game and come to speak to us at school, but don’t want to hear our complaints or criticisms. They want it to appear that they’re doing right by us, but teachers want to leave and students are dying. That’s not leadership. That’s cowardice. They can sleep at night (how, I’m not really sure), feeling that they’ve “done something for us.” I can’t sleep at night because I have PTSD. I can’t sleep at night because I’m a survivor of gun violence.
I love what I do, and can’t see myself doing anything else anywhere else. What I don’t love is the lack of genuine support and mental health services that the students, faculty and staff of MSD truly need. What I don’t love is that I come to work with a pit in my stomach every day. I am suffering. My students are suffering. My friends and coworkers are suffering.
We, as a nation, have to do more to help those suffering from mental health issues. Suicide by a gun is gun violence. This is very difficult for a community already deeply impacted by gun violence. When will enough be enough?
If you or someone you know if suffering, you’re not alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.