Content Warning: The following story contains descriptions and information about depression and suicidal ideation, which may be triggering to survivors or to the family and/or friends of people who have died by suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please seek help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24-hours a day at 1-800-273-8255 for assistance.
I was 12 when I tried to take my own life.
At the time, I felt like I was falling down a rabbit hole and unlike Alice, would never find my way out. I was mad at the world for making me feel this way and took those feelings out on the people around me. I became unrecognizable to my friends and family. To me, it seemed like only a matter of time before death became my reality. 800,000 people die by suicide every year and if it hadn’t been for activism, I would have been a part of that statistic.
My name is Sarah Goody, I am a 16-year-old climate activist, and today I will share my story of how activism helped me cope with depression.
1. Activism Gave Me a Purpose
In 6th grade, my science teacher presented a week-long unit on climate change and the impact rising carbon emissions were having on my community, society, and future. For the first time, I felt passionate about a social justice issue and began researching climate change by watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, and reading articles. I began to feel a force within me propelling me into the world of climate justice. The newfound knowledge I gained and the desire to let others know about the challenges our planet faced gave me a purpose. I decided to give living a shot, because – what did I have to lose?
2. Activism Gave Me a Community
After spending a year taking action in my own community, I felt it was time to share my knowledge with even more people. At this point, I was graduating 7th grade and feeling a newfound sense of purpose in my life. Although things were far from perfect, they were on a MUCH better track.
In the summer of 2018, I attended Youth Empowered Action Camp (YEA Camp), a summer camp geared towards providing young people with the skills and knowledge to create social change.
To call YEA Camp life-changing is an understatement. At YEA Camp I finally found a community. I met other young people who, just like me, cared about our planet and changing the world. At school, I could never discuss my mental health or the challenges I had overcome, but at YEA Camp it was socially acceptable and totally normal to talk about taboo topics like mental health. I was able to connect with others who had similarly struggled with depression and realized I wasn’t going through it alone. I no longer felt afraid of my depression, instead, I felt motivated to prove to myself I was so much more than my battle with mental health. I realized that just because I wasn’t ‘normal’ didn’t mean I was strange or bad.
I later discovered that almost every other activist space I entered would be met with the same standards of acceptance, approval, empathy, and kindness.
3. Activism Taught Me to Appreciate the Little Things
Oftentimes, we get caught up in the big picture of things, but activism reminds us not to take everything for granted. Once I started learning more about climate change, I grasped a bigger picture of the issues so many people are facing. I was able to immerse myself in the lives of others instead of hyper-focusing on my own self-perceived problems. I began noticing the things that were ok or good in my life and started to really appreciate them.
Although my sadness and frustration will never disappear completely, I am proud to say with the help of activism, I have defeated depression. Today I share my story with the hopes that it will inspire you to reach out to the people in your life and remind them that they matter. After all, if activism helped me conquer depression, maybe it can help someone else?