I Came from the High School of Suicides

Trigger Warning: Depression and Suicide

On the second day of sophomore year, I was in math class when the principal trudged into the room, wearily signaling for our teacher to follow her out. The teacher, face drained of color, reentered and told us that a classmate had taken his own life. 

Over the years, depression had become rampant at Palo Alto’s Gunn High School, prompting students to commit suicide in echo clusters. After nine deaths and countless more attempts, our town implemented security at every railroad crossing, hoping to reduce the rates. 

Yet it was the second day of school, and another student was dead. 

For the next several days, I helplessly watched as peers broke down over the phone, in the bathroom, and in the middle of the hallway. Although I didn’t know this classmate, the weight of everything hit me after reading a Facebook post from his best friend that referenced my late peer’s sleep deprivation. I felt silly, but it was the fact that he, too, was sleep-deprived that finally got to me. He was one of us. We went to the same school, walked the same halls. And once the tears came, they didn’t stop. During this time, I realized that stress and depression weren’t limited to my school, but were far more pervasive. 

After my classmate’s death, the healing took time. My heart was so heavy that my family practically had to drag me out of bed to the back-to-school picnic. But once I arrived, I was surrounded by the people I love, laughing so hard I was clutching my stomach. I gradually learned to appreciate the now and find joy in the littlest things. Over the next few weeks, I allowed my heart to unclench. And for the first time in a while, my lungs weren’t crushed by an immense weight. 

Looking back, I realize I was terrified because I saw my classmate’s pain in myself. But I know now that I’m surrounded by love and filled with hope. I want to experience tomorrow, next week, next year, and fifty years from today. Now, when I look at myself, I see the people who have given me hope — my loved ones. I see the amiability and compassion of my friends. I see the wholehearted altruism of my parents, the simple optimism of my brother. 

And for the first time in a long time, I like what I see. I take a deep, cleansing breath — and cherish the feeling of it.

If you are struggling, know that you’re not alone. Reach out and seek help. You are loved, and there are countless people — friends, parents, siblings — who you could talk to. But if you’re uncomfortable talking to people you know, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to receive the help you need. You are worth it.