I would like to commend the Kirkwood High School seniors for sharing their thoughts and experience through participation on the Kirkwood High School Mental Health Awareness Committee for their community service project (Mailbag, Dec. 13).

The Webster-Kirkwood Times starting the conversation around mental illness is incredibly important and Kirkwood High School should be commended as well for addressing the problem and lack of awareness through programs such as the one Eva Gianino and Luke Redick participated in. Awareness and education at the high school level could help in preventing the tragedies we hear about all too often in our community. I’ve often wondered how someone could feel so hopeless to feel their only option is to end their life.

Whenever I hear of a young person’s untimely death due to suicide, I immediately think of the agony those left behind have to endure. As Eva mentioned, those suffering with mental illness many times suffer in silence because of the lack of understanding and awareness of the disorder.

Until you actually go through it yourself, it’s hard to understand and have empathy. I believe that I’m a positive and generally optimistic person but I had feelings of fear, anxiety and worry when our family had to deal with a number of health crises, tragic incidents, and personal setbacks that left us wondering when things would get better.

You may wonder how anyone would look back at this time as beneficial, but I do. I do, because now I understand and can share it with other people so they know they are not alone. This can make a world of difference to someone in the throes of depression.

This is also an example of gratitude that Luke mentioned. It is a wonderful feeling when you do something for the common good or choose to look at something you’ve been through as a positive, rather than a negative, learning experience.

Thank you Kirkwood High School, Eva and Luke for opening the dialogue and let’s keep it going so those suffering know they are not alone, and that they have resources and friends who care and can help!

“You cannot defeat darkness by running from it, nor can you conquer your inner demons by hiding them from the world. In order to defeat the darkness, you must bring it into the light.”

— Seth Adam Smith, Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern

Joan Miller Winkelhoch