Last Friday night, I attended a football game at Laney College. I was so excited and proud to see eight of my students (former and current) play in the game.
Last night, a week later, I found out one of them had taken his own life – Matt Butler.
Matt was only 18 – six days shy of his 19th birthday. Although he was quiet and shy, he was a great student! He was always prepared, good natured, gave great speeches, and had a good sense of humor – we even used to chat on MySpace. Matt told me about all the kids he helped mentor/coach in sports and I thought – here’s someone special – a kind kid with so much potential ahead of him…
I feel so sad and overwhelmed by this news. I am sure that like many of his friends and family, I wish there was something I could have done for him – I wish I would have known he was going through a difficult time. I’m angry that he didn’t seek out someone to talk to – someone that could have told him that he would get through ‘it’ – whatever ‘it’ was.
I lost one of my best friends over 10 years ago to a random car accident and it is still difficult to think about; but Matt’s death is even more difficult for me to handle. See, I’ve dealt with depression first hand and I know the overwhelming thoughts – have had the overwhelming thoughts of not wanting to be around to deal with life – to just take the easy way out and leave this ‘earthly’ world.
But let me tell you – if you get help, whether it’s talking to a friend, counselor, therapist, and/or taking medication, you can get through it. You just need to ask for help — and yes, that’s often the most difficult part – asking for help. But do it – really! There’s no shame in it; it doesn’t mean you’re incapable, unworthy, stupid, helpless – it doesn’t mean any of those. What it means is that at that particular point in your life, you need help. EVERYONE needs help at some point in their life — we are all interdependent — you just have to ask for help. I’m glad I did – because it means that I get to continue having friendships and acquaintance-ships with all of you.
As a teacher, and I can only speak for myself as a teacher, I love all my students – even the ones that drive me crazy at times – I love them all. Some people say it’s because I don’t have ‘kids’ of my own, but I don’t think that’s it. I love seeing all the good in the world and the people who are trying to improve their lives through education, whether it’s for a career, to make more money, or for personal growth. If I wasn’t a teacher, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet Matt — or some of you.
I guess the most important thing I want to say in this blog is that if you are going through a difficult time, a rough time, a tough time, a blue time, a sad time, an overwhelming time, an angry time – just talk to someone. I may be busy, but I’m never too busy to lend an ear or a shoulder or any other kind of support that someone may need. Don’t ever be embarrassed to admit to you need help – any kind of help. Just seek it out and things will get better – it may take some time, like in my situation almost a year – but things can get better.
Take care of yourselves and your friends and family.
With respect and affection,