The following post was submitted to us by Amanda*, a very brave teenage girl who wanted to write something to mark Mental Health Week and in turn honour the memory of her school friend Shane* …
“If you were an outsider looking in, my friendship group would seem to be like any other high-school group – a mix of seventeen year old boys and girls sitting under an old mango tree outside the library, chatting, laughing and complaining. But underneath this façade, there is an air of emptiness. The laughter is hollow and our eyes are tired and sunken. Most of us act like we’re keeping it together, for the sake of everyone else. But ultimately, reality hits, and underneath this happy exterior, the majority of us are not okay.
A year ago, the insidious hands of mental illness snatched away our dear friend Shane. At fifteen years old, he really did have everything to live for. Shane was one of those kind, gentle and caring boys who had a heart of gold. He was always ready to help or lend a listening ear to those who needed it. You could always count on him to brighten your day with his smile and keep you warm with his giant bear- hugs during winter. But Shane suffered, and lost his battle with depression.
Before Shane’s death, I myself was heading into a black hole. I was depressed and anxious, vomiting before school and self-harming afterschool. If suicide was to ever happen, I was convinced that it would be me. It never crossed my mind that someone so outwardly playful and happy like Shane would ever take his own life. But he even fooled me, while I was trying so hard to fool everyone around me.
Every graduating class leaves a legacy. One teacher told me that the Class of 2011 would be remembered as the, “…group that struggled” and I can understand why. Grade Twelve is difficult enough with the pressures to do well, maintain those good marks, prepare for QCS, come to terms with life after school, and striving to achieve the best OP possible to ensure our future. And that’s without raw grief. Everyday there are reminders of the young life lost. There’s an empty desk and chair in the Legal Studies classroom. There’s Shane’s unclaimed locker in the locker-room, where the padlock has been overturned. There’s a bedroom that has been lived in by a teenage boy, left untouched. Everywhere we go there is always a little piece of Shane. I know he would be looking down wanting us to be happy and taking comfort in the fact that he is now at peace. But as much as we try to do so, there are so many memories that cannot be erased. I will never forget the hysterical crying of my friends when we were briefed at school. I will never forget the guard of honour we made at Shane’s funeral. I will never forget the pain I saw when six sixteen-year-old boys carried their friend out of the church for his final journey. I will never forget placing a flower next to his coffin and seeing the red tail lights of the hearse driving off into the distance, while we were all left behind.
The impact of Shane’s suicide has definitely changed us all. I’ve seen outgoing, bubbly and genuinely happy people turn to self-harm. Other friends have become so depressed that they themselves were thinking of suicide. One girl has developed an eating disorder. A number of us are still seeing counsellors and psychologists, and a few of us are on medication. For some, grief is still raw. It seems as if mental illness has just manifested and spread throughout our grade. There is no doubt in my mind that this week will be hard to deal with. But I know from the tremendous amount of support that everyone in my grade has given each other, we will get through it. Shane would want us to be strong.
Through sharing my experience, I hope that I have managed to raise some awareness about mental health, particularly in adolescents. If someone reads this and thinks twice about suicide, or decides to get help, Shane’s death has not been in vain.
*Not their real names.
About the author: Amanda is seventeen-years-old and is from Brisbane, Queensland. Next year she hopes to study Psychology at the University of Queensland and one day hopes to work with children and adolescents in the field of music therapy.
IF YOU OR A FRIEND NEEDS HELP …
Remember that you’re not alone. If you need immediate assistance with mental health issues, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. Alternatively, you can reach a Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
Young people may also want to visit the following websites:
Head Space www.headspace.org.au
Reach Out! www.reachout.com
Beyond Blue (for depression and anxiety and how to help a friend) www.youthbeyondblue.com Or call 1300 22 4636.