Back in February, I met the extremely talented Malee Ojua, an MIT graduate who has left her engineering career to create her own business. Malee and I are in the same coaching program with Maria Andros Buckley to learn how to grow our businesses and we were sharing with each what we do when she told me that MIT students could benefit so much from my coaching. She shared that there were many attempted suicides when she was a student there. As there are at all colleges, big and small. And in all communities big and small.
The first step in the West Michigan Mental Foundation’s Suicide Prevention program Be NICE is to notice. Click here to see a video on NOTICE from them.
Many students often don’t really feel they have a mental health issue: It’s supposed to be hard, right? I chose this pressure. I should be able to handle it. I had all A’s in high school. These are some thoughts that go through their heads, along with: I’m just not good enough. I don’t have what it takes. I’m disgracing my family. I know, because these were some of the thoughts that went through my head my sophomore year at the University of Michigan in the Music School. There were so many violinists better than me. I came close to the edge. For three days, I only left my room to go to the bathroom down the hall. I was completely paralyzed by fear. I never once thought that I had a mental health issue. I never thought to ask for help. No one noticed that I wasn’t going to the dining hall. No one noticed anything amiss, except for my violin professor, Paul Makanowitzky. When I missed our scheduled lesson, and didn’t show up in orchestra rehearsal, he called me. HE CALLED ME. Little me. His least-talented student. He noticed me. And between his talk with me, and a conversation with my boyfriend over the phone, I ventured out again from my tiny single dorm room. I started playing my violin. I asked for help form Boro Martinec. (Boro, you never knew how much I needed you to hear me play my Bach that one day in the practice rooms.)
That same year, I helped a girl who got very close to the edge, and had even slit her wrists. I noticed her. I gave her hope. I gave her love and support as she navigated her fears and anxieties and I helped her get the help she needed.
I am dedicating my posts this week to high-achieving students no longer with us because of suicide. Today, I honor Phoebe Wang. Phoebe was a sophomore at MIT, a flutist in the symphony there, and she worked in the music library. She was incredibly gifted, talented. Click here to see a remembrance of her life published by MIT. I hope that this post and the resources I am sharing can help you notice if someone needs some help, some hope, some love, some Pressure-Free tools to help them navigate feelings of anxiety and depression.